Trending December 2023 # Review: Incipio’s Offgrid Express Is The Most Affordable Apple # Suggested January 2024 # Top 18 Popular

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If I had to choose one word to describe how Incipio’s past iPhone offGRID battery cases felt, it would probably be “svelte,” as they were all impressively thin and gently curved. Starting today, Incipio is shipping its first offGRID case for the iPhone 6, and it notably trades “svelte” for “edgy” design. Offered only in matte black, it’s called offGRID Express ($80), and Incipio claims it’s the first Apple-certified iPhone 6 battery case that’s actually available for consumers to purchase. This time, the back is somewhat angular, due in part to a larger battery pack than prior models, and the sides are equipped with the fancy metallic button protectors rival Mophie has only offered in its most expensive Juice Packs.

Incipio’s message is clear: by offering 3000mAh of power at an $80 price point, offGRID Express is practically daring Mophie – and any other Apple MFi-licensed manufacturer – to step up and take a swing at its value proposition. Yes, comparatively unknown vendors are selling cheaper options, and Tylt offers a 3200mAh, Apple-licensed alternative called Energi for $100, but offGRID Express actually matches it in recharging performance for a lower price. It’s positioned directly at consumers who care about both quality and cost, not just one or the other.

offGRID Express follows the same general pattern as Incipio’s prior $80 offGRID for iPhone 5/5s, arriving in a package with a micro-USB recharging cable, a headphone extension cable, a rear and bottom frame with a battery inside, and a wraparound bumper that covers all of the iPhone’s sides. Unlike prior offGRIDs, Incipio doesn’t include screen film or a cleaning cloth with this version, perhaps because the iPhone 6’s curved screen edges don’t look particularly good with film. No one else we’ve seen is including film with new iPhone battery cases, either, and offGRID Express partially compensates for the omission with better-looking and more tactile button covers than its predecessors.

The bumper also provides around a half-millimeter of anti-drop protection for the screen. You attach the iPhone 6 to the Lightning connector, then place the bumper atop the rear frame, snugly sealing them together with little clips on offGRID Express’s edges. Incipio has upped the number of front power indicator LEDs from 4 to 5, changed their color to white, and moved the power button from the glossy front plate to a raised dot on the right side.

Although it’s not the highest-capacity battery case Incipio has ever offered — there were dual-battery kits with 4000mAh of power for $100 — the 3000mAh offGRID Express has the largest single battery of any offGRID I’ve tested. It promises to deliver exactly one full extra recharge for the iPhone 6, but outperformed that claim, enabling our test iPhone 6 to go from dead to 100% in two hours, then after a partial discharge, up an additional 21% in a quick 20 minutes. That’s 1% higher overall than Tylt’s Energi, which would be a meaningless difference except that offGRID Express has a $20 lower MSRP. That said, offGRID Express takes its time recharging using a micro-USB cable, though notably staying cool to the touch throughout.

I’ve genuinely loved using Incipio’s past offGRID battery cases, particularly the offGRID Pro models, which for $100 have historically included dual batteries that together delivered far more than a single recharge for past iPhones. The $80 offGRID Express doesn’t offer that sort of power, and it’s not as slender as competing lower-capacity iPhone 6 batteries will likely be, but it narrowly beats Tylt’s Energi in performance at a markedly lower price. There will be a lot of new iPhone 6 battery case announcements in the near future, so it’s worth considering all of your options, but I’ve had great experiences with almost every offGRID I’ve tested for prior iPhones. Given its 121% recharging abilities, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one.

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Pc Hardware Trends: Amd’s Most Affordable R700S

After all, AMD’s ATI division has been on a serious roll lately, and its high-end Radeon HD 4800 line has been taking Nvidia to town. The Radeon HD 4870 X2 is the fastest single-card solution on the market, and the Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 are the price/performance leaders of their class. Now AMD is moving to seize the low-end segment by launching the Radeon HD 4600 series.

While Nvidia seems content to introduce redesigned GeForce 8 Series cards as re-branded GeForce 9 models, AMD has built every member of its Radeon HD 4000 series on the new R700 core architecture. This has brought impressive performance gains in each market segment — the single-GPU Radeon HD 4870 challenges the previous-generation, dual-GPU HD 3870 X2 — along with a consistent feature set.

Clock speeds are also high, with the HD 4650 set at 600MHz and the HD 4670 at 750MHz. On paper, the Radeon HD 4650 and 4670 look like enhanced versions of the HD 3850 and 3870, the last of which was AMD’s last-generation mainstream performance model.

Of course, you won’t really be buying a Radeon HD 3870 equivalent for $79; AMD has ensured some separation by implementing that old favorite of the economy segment, a 128-bit memory interface instead of the 256- or 512-bit memory link of a mainstream or high-end card. The restriction cuts the same-clock memory bandwidth of a Radeon HD 4650/4670 to half that of an HD 3850 or 3870. The Radeon HD 4850 carries a modest 512MB of DDR2 at 1GHz as well, though the HD 4670 is available with 512MB or 1GB of GDDR3 clocked at up to 2GHz.

Moving from one bottom line (price) to the other (performance), the ATI Radeon HD 4650 and 4670 are stunning achievements. Even with the smaller 128-bit memory interface, the $69 and $79 cards compete well against last-generation mainstream performance cards. The lower memory bandwidth does hamper the cards a bit at higher resolutions, but the GPU makes up for it. Frankly, this level of performance is unheard-of in a card with an under-$80 price tag.

Multi-GPU technology is another area in which AMD has taken a leadership role, and the company’s current CrossFireX implementation is supported throughout the new 4600 series. This is not only important from a scalability point of view, but also helps AMD’s marketing effort by promising a quick-fix graphics upgrade if required: The overall cost benefit is intriguing, as you can spend $79 now and then double up for another $79 (or less) later on.

And, thanks to Intel adopting the CrossFire architecture, odds are better that you own a supported motherboard. By cultivating an uneasy relationship with Intel, and incorporating CrossFire from top to bottom — even in the 780G and 790GX integrated-graphics chipsets– AMD has made CrossFire almost a household name. Except for those using Nvidia’s own nForce chipsets, virtually all high-end desktop motherboards support AMD’s multi-GPU technology, and many mainstream platforms do as well. Intel is a powerhouse in the performance desktop market, and AMD is happy to come along for the ride.

By contrast, Nvidia views its SLI technology as a major selling point of its nForce motherboard chipsets and, aside from the Intel Skulltrail bridge-chip experiment, has been loath to allow it outside these confines. That works fine for the company’s platform department, but maintaining a proprietary hold on SLI has definitely hurt Nvidia’s graphics-card sales. It’s sort of a Catch-22: Nvidia would gain more of the graphics pie if SLI was opened up to Intel platforms, but then the nForce line would be extremely vulnerable.

The release of the Radeon HD 4600 is an impressive one, but with only one problem — the previous-generation ATI and Nvidia performance cards are no longer priced at $150 to $200. As faster GPU architectures emerge and new card lines are added, last year’s models trickle down the price list, usually settling in the sub-$100 range. Radeon HD 3850 512MB cards can now be found for around $90, while the more powerful HD 3870 512MB costs not much more than $100.

It’s the same story with the GeForce family, as last-generation powerhouses like the GeForce 8800 GT and 9600 GT 512MB boards hover right around the $100 mark, while lower-clocked GS and GSO variants set up shop in the $80-to-$90 range. This creates additional competition, even at $69 to $79.

Even so, the new AMD Radeon HD 4650 and 4670 cards should do well simply based on their combination of mainstream performance and low power usage. One thing is for sure — buyers can get a lot more for a C-note than ever before.

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock Review

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock Review

After over a year of waiting, Belkin has finally released its Thunderbolt Express Dock. It was originally announced last year in January and was slated for a September 2012 release, but that obviously never happened. However, Belkin just launched the $299 dock yesterday, and we’ve taken the time to give it a good look-over and test it out for ourselves. Personally, as a MacBook Pro user who is constantly docking and undocking my laptop at my desk, I wanted to see if Belkin’s Thunderbolt Express Dock would make the whole process easier. Let’s find out how it fared.

Design-wise, the Express Dock is made to blend in perfectly with Apple’s line of Mac machines. It rocks an aluminum unibody shell with black plastic panels on the sides and back, and just like a good mullet, there’s not a lot going on in the front, but there’s a party in the back — all the ports are situated on the rear of the dock. You’ll find an ethernet port, a FireWire 800 port, three USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports (which support daisy-chaining), and separate 3.5mm audio-out and audio-in jacks.

One of the two Thunderbolt ports is used to plug the dock into your Mac, but that’s all it takes to get access to all the other ports. Instead of having to plug all of your peripherals in one after another every time you dock your MacBook at your desk, all you have to do is plug everything into the Express Dock when setting it up, and then just simply plug in the dock into your Thunderbolt port. At that point, you’ll be all set to go. This fact alone I found really convenient as I didn’t have all these cables that I had to keep plugging and unplugging every time I wanted to undock my MacBook. It’s just one single cable and you’re good to go.

While the Express Dock will work for desktop Macs like the iMac and Mac Pro, it’s essentially meant for those with MacBooks, which don’t have a lot of options when it comes to ports, especially MacBook Air users. If you use a MacBook as your main machine and want more port options, the Express Dock is about the only convenient option out there. Simply plug in the dock into your Thunderbolt port and you’ll instantly have eight more ports at your perusal, which is pretty fantastic.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the USB 3.0 ports on the Express Dock are limited to 2.5Gbps, which is almost half the speed of what it’s supposed to be at (4.8Gbps). We’re not exactly sure why this is, but it’s still much faster than USB 2.0, which Macs are still sadly stuck at (unless you have one of the newest models). I also noticed that the dock would get hot after a short while, including both ends of the Thunderbolt cable. Nothing exploded, thankfully, but it was always a bit of a concern after I had it plugged in for an hour or so and had tons of things plugged into it. It never got hot enough that I couldn’t touch it, but I was certainly surprised that it gets a bit warm.

Portability is another thing to consider, especially since the dock is catered towards MacBooks. The Express Dock is lightweight and can easily fit into a backpack to take with you. However, the power adapter that’s required to power the Express Dock makes the device not too portable-friendly. It’s about the same size as a typical laptop power adapter, which isn’t a bad thing, since they’re also made to be portable along with the laptop its charging, but if you were to take both your MacBook and the Express Dock with you on the road, you now have two bulky power adapters to deal with. The dock can certainly be portable, but it’s really up to the user whether or not lugging it along will be worth it.

In the end, Belkin’s Thunderbolt Express Dock is the perfect companion to a MacBook power user. However, you’ll have to think long and hard about whether or not you truly need it, since it costs a whopping $300, so it isn’t just something that you can buy impulsively. There is a cheaper option available for $250, but that’s still a hard pill to swallow. Then again, if you’re like me and constantly find yourself docking and undocking your MacBook, dealing with a tangle of numerous wires at the same time, the Express Dock could be one of the best convenience products that you ever buy. Plus, if you’re rocking a MacBook Air and wish you had more ports at your disposal, the Express Dock is a good choice for that too.

Will Apple Add Airplay 2 To Airport Express?

UPDATE: Apple released a firmware update on August 28 that added AirPlay 2 support!

AirPlay 2 has been out for a few months now and it has generally been well received, but there’s one mystery left for Apple’s upgraded audio streaming feature: will AirPlay 2 support come to the AirPort Express? There’s both reason to be hopeful and skeptical…

Surely it won’t happen

Apple’s AirPort Express router is unique in that it features an analog/optical audio jack that connects to standard speakers for adding AirPlay. But it’s classic peer-to-peer AirPlay and not the new and improved AirPlay 2 that works with multi-room playback from iOS and reduces streaming latency. You can stream audio from your iPhone to one AirPort Express-connected speaker, but expect latency and streaming to be limited to one speaker at a time.

The problem with expecting Apple to upgrade the AirPort Express with AirPlay 2 is that Apple discontinued the AirPort Express earlier this year, sold out of inventory recently, and totally delisted the product on its online store as of this week. Even Apple’s refurbished inventory for $49 units has been depleted, although you can still find refurbished stock from Best Buy for $75 if still you’re in the market.

Apple will still provide security updates as needed for the AirPort Express for a few years after exiting the router business, but should we really expect a compelling consumer feature like AirPlay 2 to be added now that the AirPort line has been discontinued?

Even the AirPort Utility app for iOS hasn’t been supported that well — its last app update was in 2014 for iOS 8 support and it’s not optimized for the iPhone X display size. As useful as adding AirPlay 2 to any stereo system would be with AirPort Express, it would be surprising to see AirPort Express actually updated with the feature.

The case for optimism

But the whole reason I bring this up is that there’s a non-zero chance that AirPort Express could be updated with AirPlay 2 support. When adding a new HomeKit device in the Home app on iOS 12 beta without a set up code, any nearby AirPort Express will show up and try to join.

The suggestion is that Apple is working on a firmware update for AirPort Express (perhaps planned for iOS 12’s release next month) that will make it work with AirPlay 2 just like select Sonos speakers and other options on the market.

There’s no such firmware update yet, but the message is clear in the dialog box on iOS 12 beta: AirPort Express Update Available: To use AirPort Express with Home and AirPlay, an update using AirPort Utility is required.

This behavior has been present through iOS 12 beta versions and is still included in this week’s developer beta 7 and beta 8 releases. During the iOS 11.4 beta cycle, it also made an appearance for a few releases, but the behavior ultimately didn’t ship in the release that actually introduced AirPlay 2.

Despite AirPort Express being a discontinued and now sold out product, the fact that this unreleased firmware update continues to be mentioned in current betas makes me more optimistic that we could see AirPlay 2 actually come to AirPort Express.

If that happens, speakers connected to AirPort Express can play audio alongside HomePod and other AirPlay 2 speakers in perfect harmony, and a lot of AirPort Express customers will have one last gift from Apple before support totally winds down.

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Apple Watch Se Vs 7: Differences Between The Affordable And Flagship Wearables

The two most recent Apple Watches in the current lineup share a lot of features in common but there are at least eight differences that account for the more expensive Apple Watch Series 7 price. Whether you’re looking for yourself or someone else, read on for Apple Watch SE vs 7 to help you figure out which one to pick.

Below we’ll focus specifically on Apple Watch SE vs 7 but in case you want to see a detailed comparison for Series 7, 6, and SE through Series 3, we’ve got that covered too:

While Apple Watch Series 8 is in the works, it likely won’t arrive until late 2023 alongside the iPhone 14.

Apple Watch SE vs 7 Case and display

Two of the first differences between Apple Watch SE and 7 you’ll notice is that Series 7 has a slightly larger case at 45 and 41mm paired with a noticeably larger display.

The Series 7 display is 17% bigger than the SE and over 50% larger than the Series 3 display.

SESeries 7Case size44/40mm45/41mmDisplay resolution368 x 448 (977 sq mm total)396 x 484 (1143 sq mm total)Display sizeOver 30% larger than Series 3Over 50% larger than Series 3 (17% bigger than SE/Series 6)Display typeRetina LTPO OLEDRetina LTPO OLEDBezel width3 mm1.7 mmBrightnessUp to 1000 nitsUp to 1000 nitsAlways-on display❌✅

Another difference, Apple Watch SE doesn’t have an always-on display while the Series 7 does (first arrived with Series 5).

All Apple Watch bands fit both the Apple Watch SE and Series 7.

Processor and storage

Interestingly, Apple uses the same 64-bit dual-core processor in the Series 7 that launched in the Series 6. It’s called the “S7” but the processor is the same as the S6.

That means Apple Watch SE only has a processor one year older than Series 7. While the SE will be plenty fast and responsive for most users, Apple says the Series 7 is “up to 20% faster” with the newest processor.

Both the Apple Watch SE and 7 feature 32GB of built-in storage.

SESeries 7SiP/ProcessorS5 SiP 64-bit dual-core processorS7 SiP 64-bit dual-core processorU1 (ultra wideband)❌✅Storage32GB32GB

Battery and charging

Battery life is rated the same for Apple Watch SE and 7 at 18 hours.

However, one small detail is that Apple Watch 7 has up to 33% faster charging. Practically speaking, that’s powering up 0-80% in 45 minutes instead of around 60 for the other models.

When using Apple Watch Series 7 for sleep tracking, you also get 8 hours worth of use from an 8-minute charge.

SESeries 7Battery lifeUp to 18 hoursUp to 18 hoursCharging0-80% in ~60 minutes0-80% in 45 minutes + 8 min charge = 8 hours sleep tracking

Key features

Here’s a look at the core features you’re getting with Apple Watch SE vs 7. The two main capabilities you’re not getting are the ECG and Blood Oxygen apps.

SESeries 7ECG app❌✅Blood Oxygen app❌✅High/low heart rate notifications✅✅Water resistant to 50m✅✅Sleep tracking✅✅Fall detection✅✅Emergency SOS✅✅Compass✅✅Always-on altimeter✅✅GPS and Cellular + GPS models✅✅Family Setup support (for cellular)✅✅


Apple Watch SE is only available in aluminum space gray, silver, and gold finishes. Apple Watch Series 7 comes in those plus stainless steel (graphite, silver, gold) and titanium (space black and silver).

That also means Apple Watch SE only comes with Ion-X glass for the display but for Series 7 with stainless steel or titanium models, you get sapphire crystal displays that are somewhat more scratch resistant.

Apple Watch SE vs 7 price

Apple Watch Series 7 comes with a starting price of $399 (often goes for less). Meanwhile, Apple Watch SE starts from $279 but is usually available for less.

Apple Watch SE vs 7 conclusion

Apple Watch SE offers most of the great features of Apple Watch Series 7 at around $120 less.

If you’re okay without the larger always-on display plus the ECG and Blood Pressure apps, and fine sticking with an aluminum finish, Apple Watch SE is probably the best choice.

However, if you want the biggest screen, all of the health features, faster charging, plus options for steel or titanium finishes, you’ll need to go for the Series 7.

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Apple Airpods Max Review – Is It Worth The High Price Tag?

The AirPods Max is the pinnacle of the AirPods range, offering an over-ear headphone experience that sets it apart from the AirPods and AirPods Pro earbuds that have become some of Apple’s most popular products. They also come with a price tag that dwarfs those other products, so is the AirPods Max worth the high price tag?

We took a Sky Blue AirPods Max delivery and spent a few weeks with it to see if the price is justified.

Table of Contents

Apple AirPods Max Controls

The AirPods Max doesn’t have many controls to speak off, not even a power button! All you get is one mode button and a digital crown. Compared to other common Bluetooth headphone designs, this is downright spartan. Yet it never poses an issue during use.

You can also depress the crown as an additional button. By default, a single button press will pause the music, while a double press will skip the track. Press and hold the crown, and you’ll summon Siri. We tried this with a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, but sadly holding the crown did not summon Google Assistant.

The AirPods Max controls may be minimal, but that was never an issue. Most importantly, you can find and operate them without any conscious thought.

Transparency Mode and Noise Cancellation

We don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the two best features that go a long way to justifying the price tag of the AirPods Max are the transparency mode and active noise cancellation.

Starting with transparency mode, the idea is to allow ambient sounds through the headphones, picked up by microphones on the exterior. Many Bluetooth headphones have this feature now, but none are close to the quality found here. 

Simply put, with transparency mode, you can easily forget you’re wearing headphones. It sounds completely natural, and it’s no issue to leave it on permanently if you like. 

It’s super helpful when you want to hear the audio from your device but still be available to talk to other people in the room. It’s like having a TV or sound system that only you can hear.

The Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is also verging on magic. Constant noises, such as an air conditioner, are entirely erased from existence. However, the most impressive feat here is how sounds with random patterns, such as conversations, are almost entirely suppressed. These are perhaps the best noise-canceling headphones you can buy at any price. Standing toe-to-toe with the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones.

In combination, these two features make AirPods Max a great daily-driver productivity headphone, where you can control how much of the outside world you let in.


One notable difference is that there’s no direct analog connection for these headphones. The adapter contains an analog-to-digital converter which supplies the AirPods with a digitized signal. 

The Lightning Issue

Although the Max has acceptable connectivity, the use of Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector remains a painful issue. Our MacBook Air and iPad Pro, along with all our non-Apple devices, use USB-C. Leaving only the iPhone, Magic Keyboard, and now AirPods Max using this connector. This means we’ll always need to pack at least one extra cable.

Apple might have mitigated this by including wireless or wireless MagSafe charging, and we hope to see this feature added in a future revision of the AirPods Max.

Bluetooth Performance and Compatibility

We were very impressed with the Bluetooth performance of the AirPods Max; walking around a two-story home with an iPad Air beaming music to the max, it was almost impossible to cause dropout. This is probably thanks to Apple’s AAC codec, which balances quality and performance.

We also used the Max with several non-Apple devices, including a Windows 11 laptop, an Android Galaxy S21 Ultra, and an OLED Nintendo Switch. Pairing and connecting with all of these devices worked with no issue. We never experienced the Max refusing a connection request from a paired device.

Latency on non-Apple devices was also good. On Apple devices, latency is almost non-existent thanks to the custom signal processing hardware at play in the dual H1 chips, one in each cup. Using it with the Switch, in particular, latency was noticeable less than the Samsung Galaxy Buds + or Sennheiser BT4.5 headphones we’ve also tried with the console. So even without the full benefit of the H1, latency was still impressive.

Battery Life

Apple claims that Airpods Max has around 20 hours of battery life, which seems to track with our daily use experience. After a full 8-hour day of wearing the headphones, there was still a little over 50% of battery life left.

We didn’t encounter any battery drain leaving the headphones running overnight, other than he expected 1-2%. This was a complaint when AirPods Max was first released, but if it were ever an issue, it seems that it’s now resolved.

Spatial Audio: Gimmick or Genius Feature?

When used with an Apple device that supports it and the right app and content, the AirPods Max offers virtualized spatial audio. 

This puts virtual audio sources in fixed positions relative to your head, and they appear to stay in place as you turn your head thanks to internal accelerometers used for head tracking. This allows virtual surround sound, which sounds quite convincingly like real speakers situated in the room around you.

While the virtual surround feature is quite impressive (you’ll have to boot up Apple TV to sample it or use the built-in demo), we think that the coolest implementation of the technology is stereo virtualization. This applies to the stereo audio of the whole Apple device, and it makes it sound as if stereo sound is coming from the device itself. In other words, it’s pretty much like watching something on your MacBook or iPad using their onboard speakers, just with much better audio quality.

Why is this a good thing? Sometimes you don’t necessarily want that “in my brain” audio experience that headphones offer. Instead, it now sounds like the audio is coming from the picture, and this quickly became our preferred way to watch streaming media. We suspect this will be especially effective with an Apple TV device, but we didn’t have the opportunity to test the Max with one.

Design and Build Quality

The AirPods are solidly constructed. Apple has mainly used metal for the Max, from the headband to the earcups; these are incredibly solid headphones. The headband frame, the sliding mechanism for size adjustment, and the hinge mechanism inspire confidence, especially with Max’s stainless steel frame.

These certainly seem to be headphones that will have a long lifespan. The only components that might be subject to wear are the batteries. There are two batteries in the right ear cup and, thanks to iFixit’s teardown of the Max, we know that screws, not glue, hold in them. So, in theory, it should be easy to replace them. Given Apple’s new commitment to user repairability, the money spent on a Max could go a long way. 

That said, the batteries in Apple’s other devices, such as the new MacBooks, are rated for around 1000 charge cycles before they start to lose capacity. Given that you’ll get 20 hours per full charge, it will take a while before hitting 20,000 hours of playback. This is about seven years if you use them for eight hours a day.

It’s also worth noting that iFixit compared the internal workmanship and materials to cheaper Sony and Bose headphones and found that they “look like toys by comparison.” So much of the money you spend on the Max goes into this over-engineering.

The Infamous Smart Case

There has been more than enough mockery of the included carry case for the AirPods Max, but this can’t be a complete review without some mention of it. Yes, this protective case doesn’t offer much protection or make it easier to transport your AirPods Max. We also don’t like how the case causes the bare metal ear cups to knock into each other when you remove them.

Despite what you may have heard, it’s also unnecessary to put your headphones in the case to switch them off. After taking off the headphones, they’ll go into a low power mode soon and into a deep sleep after that. We used our AirPods without using the case and didn’t have any battery drain problems.

However, if you want to travel with your AirPods Max, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a third-party case.


Comfort is a very subjective matter when it comes to headphones, not least of which because our bodies are so different. The main complaints we’ve seen before trying Max for ourselves relate to weight and clamp force.

Since the Max is mainly made from metal, it does weigh more than typical over-ear headphones. The fabric headband and plush ear cups are there to mitigate this, but some users will be more susceptible than others.

We wore the AirPods Max for up to eight hours per day while working in an air-conditioned office and had no comfort issues. It was very easy to forget you were wearing headphones at all. We think the AirPods Max are very comfortable headphones, but considering how much they cost, it’s worth trying a pair on your head first.

It must be said, the ear cushion memory foam is exquisite. And the ease with which you can remove and switch out these magnetically-attached cups is a touch of genius we’d like to see more headphone brands adopt.

Sound Quality

This is perhaps the most contentious aspect of the AirPods Pro when it comes to the price. It’s natural to expect an “audiophile” listening experience if you’re putting down more than $500 for a pair of headphones, but there are some problems with that angle.

Just because two pairs of headphones have a similar price doesn’t mean that they’ve been designed for the same purpose. The AirPods Max headphones lack the key features that you’d find in audiophile gear. They have no direct analog input, don’t support lossless audio even through a wired connection, and are close-backed. Not to mention that in the world of high-end headphones, the AirPods Max is priced in the mid-range.

Taking all of this into account, how good does the AirPod Max sound? The short answer is that they sound good and are remarkably unbiased, unlike Apple’s other Beats headphone brand. While these are not “flat” like studio monitors (which is a good thing), the audio reproduction is neutral no matter what genre of music we tried. We feel like changing EQ settings from the default adaptive EQ at no point.

Most importantly, all of the music exhibited significantly more detail and nuance than, for example, the typical $200 headphones. Is it more than twice as good? That’s a subjective question, of course, but the difference isn’t subtle. We can’t imagine anyone but the most demanding customer finding the audio reproduction unacceptable, and those customers are most likely spending more than Apple is asking for.

Services Tested

We tried listening to various genres of music across multiple music streaming services. This included Apple Music, YouTube Music, and Spotify, but not Amazon Music.

All three services were set to the highest streaming and download quality. The idea was to see whether the AirPods did significantly better on Apple Music than competing choices. This is important since although Apple Music is popular, that doesn’t mean every AirPods buyer will use it.

The good news is that, to our ears at least, there’s no appreciable difference in streaming quality regardless of which service you listen to. So if you’re worried that AirPods are only going to give you a good audio experience using Apple’s own service, put that concern to bed.

Audio Imaging and Soundstage

Audio reproduction quality is one thing, but that’s not all there is to the sound quality perceived by your ears. The soundstage and imaging of headphones also matter, and it’s something often lacking in cheaper headphones.

If you’re not familiar with these terms, which is not something mainstream headphone consumers often are, let’s define them briefly.

The soundstage is the virtual space in which you hear the audio. Headphones with a good soundstage shouldn’t sound like speakers an inch away from your ears. Instead, it should sound natural and spacious. Headphones with the best sound stages are usually open-backed. This means that they have zero sound isolation for either you or the other people in the room.

Imaging is the ability of the headphones to place sounds such as specific instruments within the soundstage. So it sounds like one musician is in front of you, and another is off to the side. Essentially you feel like you are on stage in the middle of the band.

Although open-backed audiophile headphones outdo it, the Max is nonetheless great at both imaging and setting a good soundstage. It’s not too wide or too cramped, but rich and comfortable.

Using AirPods Max Outside the Apple Ecosystem

Before we get to the conclusion of this review, it’s essential to talk about whether users who don’t have a foot in the Apple ecosystem should use AirPods Max. We had no trouble using the AirPods with any Bluetooth device as we mentioned above. However, if you don’t have an iOS or macOS device, you’ll be limited in how much you can do with your AirPods. Specifically, customizing the button or behavior of the crown requires it. You’ll also miss out on features such as spatial audio.

That’s perhaps not a dealbreaker, but much of the appeal AirPods have comes from how well it works with an all-Apple setup. We were listening to music on an iPad when our iPhone rang, and as soon as we answered, the audio seamlessly transferred to the call, pausing the content on the iPad in the process. When the call ended, the iPhone handed control back to the iPad, and the music resumed. This sort of automated convenience would be lost if you weren’t nestled in Apple’s walled garden. We really cannot recommend the AirPods Max unless you have at least one compatible Apple device to make the most of it.

Speaking of which, phone call quality is superb, and even with the air conditioning running, the other person could hear just fine.

Is the AirPods Max Worth the Money?

It’s difficult to give a universal answer when considering if what you get for the $550 asking price is worth it or not. There’s no doubt that the sum of the parts that make up these headphones is worth the money. However, what the AirPods Max offers is worth the money depending on what you need.

If you need all-purpose daily-driver headphones, then it’s hard to think of another set of headphones that tick all the boxes this well. The noise cancellation and transparency modes make this an incredibly practical set of phones. Controlling them is intuitive, and the audio reproduction is excellent by any measure, if not the best at all costs.

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