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Lectric XP 3.0 Review: Clunky but Comfy

Lectric XP 3.0 Review: Clunky but Comfy

I rode the original Lectric XP electric bike for six months during the pandemic in 2020. It was a salve, a way to feel the breeze on my face during quarantine and go farther than usual without hopping on public transportation. I have a bit of a soft spot for it. Lectric’s aim was to deliver a foldable, powerful fat-tire ebike for under $1,000, and this is still true with version 3.0 of the XP three years later.  

I’ve seen more Lectric ebikes here in New York City than I can count. I get it—the Lectric XP is one of the most affordable foldable ebikes, and it comes with a lot of extras. I’d still never buy it myself—I live in a walk-up and don’t want to deal with such a heavy, bulky thing. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate this chunky vehicle. In the third iteration, Lectric has made some small but nice tweaks to the formula, resulting in a more refined and functional fat-tire ebike that’s still fun to ride.

XP Gain

I tested the standard Lectric XP, but as usual there’s a Step-Thru model if you want an easier time clambering onto the seat. Much of what I said in my review of the Lectric XP 1.0 is the same for the XP 3.0. This thing comes completely assembled, so all you need to do is take it out of the box and unfold it. It’s still freakin’ heavy (in fact, it’s 1 pound heavier at 64 pounds), but I found it easier to unfold than the cheaper and lighter Lectric XP Lite—the hinge is a lot smoother. 

It’s still annoying to maneuver and carry. I wish there was a way to affix the tires to each other when the Lectric is folded up, à la the Montague ME-1, which has tires that can be hooked together so that the whole ebike can roll around like a trolley. The XP 3.0 is bulky, so carrying it is a pain even with the metal handle near the seat post. There’s almost always something jabbing my legs as I walk down my steps.  

Make sure you choose the Elite Bundle when you buy, as it comes with a larger seat, suspension seat post, bike lock, and Elite headlight. These are all really handy accessories. As a 6’4″ man, I much prefer the giant seat over the original saddle; it’s more comfortable. This is my first time trying a suspension seat post, and consider me a convert. It makes those sudden bumps on the road easier on the butt. The headlight gets fairly bright, though its position tends to move around if the roads are rough, so you may have to readjust it every so often. I appreciate the option to install storage for the included bike lock, though it was a little tricky with the narrow space on the frame. At least I don’t need to bring a bag to carry the lock.

Three years on and I’m still not a fan of how you power the ebike. Lectric makes you stick a key into the bottom frame of the downtube. Twist it to turn the battery on so that you can press the power button on the handlebar and bring the XP 3.0 to life. If you plan to park it outdoors often, the key also unlocks the battery, allowing you to take it indoors for safety and recharging. I just hate constantly having to reach the underside of the frame. Do you think James Bond would be hunting for the keyhole before he hopped on a motorcycle? So uncool.

Lectric XP 3.0 electric bike folded up

Photograph: Lectric

Garmin Vivomove Trend Review: Wireless Charging!

Garmin Vivomove Trend Review: Wireless Charging!

One of the biggest pain points with fitness trackers is how each one has its own proprietary charger. It’s a serious inconvenience—if you forget a Lightning connector or a USB-C charger, you can always borrow one from a friend or find one in a store. But a proprietary Fitbit connector? Sorry! Guess you won’t be getting your steps tallied on that Italian walking vacation!

So it was with a sense of almost mystical reverence that I removed the Vivomove Trend from my wrist and placed it on the Qi charging pad next to my desk. I leaned over it breathlessly and examined the screen. Charging! Granted, it’s not incredibly fast, but it works! Never again will I be trapped on a work trip with an uncharged watch!

Garmin’s latest entry-level hybrid watch is still a little clunky to operate, but I do love its attractive, streamlined looks and that new charging system. Wireless charging on any Qi charging pad is almost magical. That, in itself, does a lot to put it at the head of the pack.

Best of Both Worlds

Garmin Vivomove Trend watch charging next to earbuds and keyboard

Photograph: Garmin

If you want to track your health without wearing an overtly chunky, sporty watch, you have a few options. Withings makes a tracker that looks as much like an analog watch as possible; Fossil’s Wellness watch packs as many metrics as possible into an analog watch face.

The Vivomove Trend gives you the best of both worlds. It comes in a variety of colorways (my tester is a beautiful, if slightly dated, peach gold with an ivory band). It has a dainty 40.4-mm case and an analog watch face. However, when you click on your device in the Garmin Connect app, you can pick up to three complications that will be visible when you swing the watch up toward your face.

This allows for much more customization than you might think, because some of the complications can combine—I opted for the Techie face, with the date up top and steps, battery, and floors climbed on the bottom.

To start an activity, check your heart rate, go to settings, or set a stopwatch or timer, you just touch your fingertip to the watch face. With a haptic buzz, the options pop up as glowing icons. If you click through to the timer but then realize you want to start an activity instead, you swipe back. As a side note, I do wish more trackers would just include one measly on-off button. (Even analog watches have at least one button!)

The buzz also alerts you when you get a notification or start an activity (you can change the strength of the buzz, but I didn’t notice a big difference). You can either start an activity manually or turn on auto activity tracking with Garmin’s Move IQ.

Move IQ is remarkably accurate—it picked up a wild 3-minute dash from the parking garage to a doctor’s appointment—but if you start an activity manually, you have to double-tap to start the activity once you’ve selected it. Since it connects to GPS via your phone, my tracked results from walking, biking, and running are consistent with results from other trackers—unless I forgot to start the activity manually, which happened a lot.

Insta360 Link Review: The Rolls-Royce of USB Webcams

Insta360 Link Review: The Rolls-Royce of USB Webcams

When I’m testing a webcam, I often play with the lighting in the room, both ambient and artificial. I do my best to throw off the autofocus and white balance to see how the webcam adjusts and responds. I move farther back in my chair and wobble around like a bowling pin. I got more oohs and ahhs from my colleagues as they marveled at how smoothly the Link refocused on my face. I’ve tested a lot of webcams that have jarring autofocus, but not the Link. It’s capable of focusing with my face as close as 4 inches (10 centimeters) to the lens, which is closer than I’d ever need to get to a webcam.

The Link can zoom up to four times, but it’s a digital zoom. That means zooming in will create a picture that’s more pixelated the more it closes in on a subject. However, this is a 4K webcam, so by supporting such a high resolution, you can zoom in a fair bit and still retain a sharp image. At the top end, the Link supports 4K resolution at 24, 25, and 30 frames per second. For less bandwidth or for a faster frame rate, which makes the video look smoother, you can downscale to 1080p at 50 or 60 frames per second, among other choices.

Twenty-four frames per second might sound redundant when 25 is also an option, but it’s the gold standard for movie productions, so capturing at this frame rate is desirable for anyone recording themselves on camera to upload later to YouTube or for a cinematic project. There’s support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) too, which helps keep the bright lights in your frame in check without underexposing or overexposing the image. It’s optional, but only works in 1080p or 720p at 24, 25, or 30 frames per second.

Most webcams come with pretty awful microphones, but the dual noise-canceling microphones on the Insta360 Link make me sound pretty decent (according to my colleagues). That said, I still prefer a standalone USB microphone like the Blue Snowball Ice. 

There’s no physical privacy shutter, but the Link deters hackers and weirdos from peeking through your webcam uninvited by automatically spinning its gimbaled head downward, away from you. This happens 10 seconds after the webcam is no longer in use by a conferencing app. When you start a video meeting, the Link perks back up and awakens to begin streaming again (it supports the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and more).

The Sign Off

Insta360 Link camera on orange backdrop

Photograph: Insta360

The problem? Three hundred bucks is a lot of money for a webcam. It has competition too. There’s the Obsbot Tiny 4K, another PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) webcam that has many of the same tricks (albeit with less polish) for a little less. The sublime Logitech Brio 4K Webcam is frequently under $150 and delivers almost-as-good image quality sans all the motion. 

The question is whether you need automatic tracking and gesture control. If the answer is no, then even the slightly superior video quality of the Link isn’t enough to justify spending almost twice as much as a webcam like the Brio, which is already an expensive webcam. You can get a great, simple webcam for just $50.

If you’re recording video often, though, or if you give virtual presentations regularly—or you just want to film your dance practices—then the Link is a fantastic choice. It nails the basics (great video quality) with a suite of polished extras, like automatic tracking, gestures, and what I refer to as the privacy droop. It’s not a bargain, but it is the best.

Apple Mac Mini (M2 Pro, 2023) Review: The Missing Piece

Apple Mac Mini (M2 Pro, 2023) Review: The Missing Piece

it’s easy to overlook the Mac Mini: Apple’s small, squarish PC isn’t particularly exciting. It’s not ultra-powerful like the Mac Studio, modular like the Mac Pro, or colorful like the 24-inch iMac. You can’t quite tote it around and work anywhere like you can with a MacBook. But it’s Apple’s most utilitarian machine, and that’s more evident with the 2023 refresh. 

The new Mac Mini is similar to its predecessor from 2020 except it now employs Apple’s next-gen M2 and M2 Pro processors. That alone breathes new life into this compact system, as it’s a low-cost plug-and-play solution that’s still powerful enough for the likes of content creators. The base price is more affordable than ever, starting at $599, and the Mac Mini is the cheapest way to access the M2 Pro processor at $1,299. The only other M2 Pro-powered Macs are the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, which start at $1,999 and $2,499, respectively. The closest desktop alternative is the base Mac Studio with an M1 Max chip for $1,999. But most people don’t need that much power. 

It doesn’t have to be showy. Whichever processor you get, the Mini is a smart and hassle-free way to get all the power most people need without emptying your wallet—and you actually have a say on what kind of peripherals to get. 

Build Your Own Adventure

Mac Mini M2 next to an Apple monitor displaying a video game

Photograph: Apple

The Mac Mini still follows the BYODKM rule. The initialism, originally used by Steve Jobs when he announced the first Mac Mini in 2005, stands for “bring your own display, keyboard, and mouse,” because you get only the machine and a power cord in the box. You’ll definitely want to add a pair of speakers for when you’re not using headphones, because the built-in speakers aren’t pleasant.  

This BYO design is great news if you already have those peripherals. Plug everything in and you’re good to go. Even if you’re starting from scratch and building your workspace, it doesn’t need to be too expensive. There are tons of cheap and excellent keyboards, mice, and monitors you can snag that won’t balloon the cost. The machine itself is tiny and unobtrusive, so it’s easy to plan accessories around its footprint. And at 2.6 pounds it’s lightweight and portable, which makes it great for hybrid workers splitting time between the home and the office. 

If you prefer tons of screens around your workspace, then you may be disappointed to learn that the base Mac Mini still only supports two external displays, just like the M1-powered model. That’s enough for most people, but if you upgrade to the M2 Pro you can connect up to three displays to bask in all that blue light. 

Rear view of Mac Mini M2 and ports

Photograph: Apple

Yeti Yonder Review: The Water Bottle I’ve Been Waiting For

Yeti Yonder Review: The Water Bottle I’ve Been Waiting For

Bar none, there is no company that’s easier to make fun of than Texas-based Yeti. My house is full of hilariously overengineered, overpriced products. The problem starts when these products become the most useful items I own. 

Just this morning, I used the Camino Carryall to drag my climbing gear to the gym. I had to take my daughter’s roller skating gear out of it, and before that 15 tiny soccer balls that I took to the park to play with kindergarteners. It’s five years old and looks as good as new. And the Yeti Lowlands? I carry that heavy-duty blanket to every festival and camping trip. I don’t have to stake the corners. It pads over every small rock and blade of prickly grass, and it has its own sling carrying case!

I even forced my husband to make a pilgrimage to the Yeti flagship store in Austin, Texas. On one level, I find it repulsive to make such an ostentatious production out of spending so much money on the company’s signature cooler. A cooler! It’s just something to put your Coke and bait in! Yet everything was so exquisite, so heavy, in just the right colors. As I wandered the aisles picking things up and putting them down again, I felt a deep, primal yearning for a Ford F150 and a fly-fishing vest.

Rinse and repeat when I first opened the box for the Yeti Yonder water bottle, which looked more like a sarcophagus hand-carved for the boy king Tutankhamen than a shipping container. The first thing I saw was the gigantic, full-color visage of climbing and skiing luminary Jimmy Chin, with his signature reckless grin, looming over two water bottles that were the color of sea glass before a storm. I picked one up and have simply never put it down. You guessed it. The 25-ounce Yonder is now my emotional support water bottle. I can and will have no other.

Field of Dreams

When I’m at home, I mostly drink from a Stanley tumbler. But when I’m out of the house, my previous favorite water bottle was a 26-ounce Yeti Rambler with a chug cap. 

I have weirdly specific water bottle requirements. I used to have a Nalgene, but it wasn’t insulated, and hot Nalgene water tastes just like taking a long lick off the bottom of a sticky McDonald’s ball pit. I’m also a talky, distracted drinker who has a tendency to pour water straight down the front of my shirt at the gym. (“Put to mouth, then drink,” I repeat to myself, to no avail.) The chug cap is a good compromise between being able to swig water quickly and not drenching myself with a single careless movement.

The Rambler is also dishwasher-safe! While my children use straw-cap bottles for their ease and convenience, I loathe cleaning them. I need specialized brushes to scrub the mold out of all the tiny valves and tubes, and then air-dry them every night. I will undertake this task for my kids, but not for myself. The Rambler is also insulated, and I can fill the whole thing with ice and refill it several times during the day and the ice won’t melt.

Yes, the Rambler is a perfect water bottle, except for one factor—its weight. Even empty, it weighs about 1.4 pounds. That’s fine if you’re in a car, on a boat, or pulling it in a wagon, but carrying that much weight on your back for an extended period is grueling.

Back Saver

Yeti Yonder water bottle with two cap attachments

Photograph: Yeti

That’s where the Yonder comes in. When I flew to CES and had to face the prospect of carrying a backpack from 7 am to midnight almost every day, taking my Rambler was a grim prospect. No, there was only one refillable water bottle I considered; a lightweight bottle whose cap I could wash and dry easily in and next to a hotel sink.