All posts by Tech Digest

Astro A50 Review Roundup

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The Astro A50 is a surround sound wireless headset that’s especially friendly toward consoles and boasts a sharp design – but how do these headphones really perform? Let’s take a look at what gamers and reviewers have had to say.

Features

The A50 provides Dolby 7.1 virtual surround sound, with a battery life of around 15 hours and a couple different options for headphone material for extra comfort. The headset does support line in connections for other types of audio, and provides audio software if you are tweaking settings carefully on a desktop. The construction is designed to be as light as possible.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Excellent surround sound
  • Wireless

Cons

  • Charging dock can be difficult to use
Astro A50 Dock

The A50 dock is a source of split opinions.

PC World

PC World liked the upgrade to the battery and the new charging system, but they weren’t convinced that a full dock was needed to charge the headset instead of a plug-in system that would have taken up less room. They were also uncertain if the excellent sound warranted such a high price in a market (around $250) that is becoming increasingly competitive with many lower cost options available.

“I also found myself leaving the A50 in a perpetual “On” state, thanks to a more invisible improvement: internal gyros. The previous A50 (and most wireless headsets) would automatically turn off if it didn’t detect any audio being played for a certain amount of time—say, five minutes. But the new A50 detects movement, so if you set the headset on a desk for 30 seconds it’ll automatically shut off. Lift it up and put it back on and by the time you’ve done that, it has probably paired back up with the base station and is ready to play audio again.”

Tom’s Guide

Tom’s Guide loved the surround sound that the Astro A50 can put out, and noted that the headset was surprisingly lightweight for all the features it provided, making it useful for long gaming sessions. The only downsides that the reviewer noted were that the mic was just okay at picking up your voice, and the sound management app could get a little confusing.

“The new Astro A50 is a perfect example of “If it ain’t broke, just make it a little bit better.” This premium wireless gaming headset retains the superbly comfy design and satisfying surround sound of its predecessor, while introducing the feature-rich Base Station and some neat software tools for casual gamers, streamers and competitors. It even has modular ear cups this time around. Although its microphone and companion app could use some improvement, the Astro A50 is still the best high-end wireless gaming headset you can buy.”

Amazon Users

Amazon users were mostly filled with praise for the headset and its sound quality, which apparently hit the sweet spot for buyers. However, many noted a common problem: It was tough to position the headset on the dock in the right manner for it to start charging, which soon became aggravating (having reviewed a few A50 models, we can say that this can be an issue at times).

“After having these for almost a month, I have not once experienced any of the problems people were saying they were having with the headset. I’m sure most people who have seen issues have had the headset for much longer than a month, so maybe it’s just a time thing, but I will happily update this post if I experience any of the issues. What I love about this headset Is that it is very comfortable. The cups don’t even touch my ears, the headband sits nicely on top of my head without any pains. The sound quality is amazing, and to my surprise, the mic quality really isn’t that bad.”

Bottom Line

The Astro A50 is a great headset with high ratings for sound and comfort…if you don’t mind dealing with the dock and the high price point.

Read Next: The Latest Gaming Headset Review

Astro A50 Review Roundup

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TP-Link Archer AC1900 Router Review Roundup

This post was originally published on this site

The TP-Link Archer AC1900 is a smaller router (one of our top picks: http://www.gadgetreview.com/best-wireless-router-for-home-gaming-mac-overall) that you can find for only $110, lower than many other routers with a combined speed up to 1.9GPps. But do people like this small router, especially when it comes to more demanding router management? Let’s find out!

TP-Link Archer AC1900 Router Features

In addition to the 1.9GBps combined speeds, this router includes beamforming for directing signals, a 1GHz processor, and USB ports (both 3.0 and 2.0) for connections. It offers dual band device managmeent, and comes with 4 Gigabit Ethernot ports.

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Fast for its size
  • Relatively affordable

Cons

  • Tough to position in some locations
  • Some bugs and failures noted in early models
TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 Ports

Ports on the TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900

PC World

PC World found this TP-Link model to be a reliable choice for those who hate dropped signals. However, they did notice a few quirks, too. The model seemed to be able to handle large file transfers with ease, and indeed was particularly fast for its cost. But the router then struggled with small file transfers, which seems a little strange. The review also found that the parental controls didn’t work, although this could be due to a temporary bug.

“Guess what, though: it’s still very good value for money. It’s one of the many AC1900-rated dual-band routers that are currently on the Australian market, and this means that it can do 802.11ac at 1300Mbps, and 802.11n at up to 600Mbps. It has three external antennas that are removable, and they support the good stuff we’ve heard about from other high-end routers, such as Beamforming, where the signal can be directed to a particular device’s path, rather than going all over the place.”

Trusted Reviews

Trusted Reviews liked the usability of the model, but found it a little hard to set up and manage, especially with only one USB 3.0 port. Tests found that speeds were reliable and competitive, but that other models did a better job over short distances (if your router is right next to your computer or console, for example).

“Elegant it may be but it’s not necessarily the most practical. The stand means you can’t lay the router flat or mount it on a wall. Moreover it isn’t sure footed enough and will fairly easily tip over. For most households these will all prove to be fairly minor points as once installed you’ll leave the router well alone, but its tendency to topple over definitely proved a little frustrating during testing.

Otherwise it’s a clean bill of health as the three aerials are removable, yet sturdy, and are easy to position. The lights on the front for indicating power, Wi-Fi connection, Internet connection and the like are all easy to see and tell apart.”

Amazon Users

Amazon users were doubtful of the small size, but found that the reach and speed tended to impress them, and that this TP-Link made an admirable alternative to more costly models that may be out of reach for some buyers. However, early versions of this router did seem to have a higher fail rate, so it’s important to get the latest model.

“After two weeks of testing it, I have four words: it just works — period. The signal is strong and punches through the lathe-and-plaster walls of my nearly 100 year old house. Its signal is considerably stronger than the WRT1900ACS that I had (which cost almost three times what this one did), and rivaled the signal strength of the $400 ASUS. It doesn’t drop connections, doesn’t reboot itself, and delivers a strong and steady stream of data to all devices, wired and wireless.

Only one word of warning; you need to make sure the Archer C7 that you purchase is NOT a first version. Everyone on the web has reported that TP-LINK badly botched the V1, especially for Macintosh/Apple devices (which is most of my house); most of those should be out of circulation or in landfills by now. The one I bought from Amazon was a V2, and it works perfectly with all of my Apple and non-Apple devices.”

Bottom Line

A powerful router for its size, the TP-Link is a little difficult to position but makes a great alternative for more expensive routers if you are on a strict budget.

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TP-Link Archer AC1900 Router Review Roundup

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Best Hoverboard 2018

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Hoverboards also known as ‘Self Balancing electric scooters’ are a fun and easy mode of transport. With several hundred products on the market, all with comparable features, it can be difficult to determine which is the best hoverboard in 2018.

But, after 30 hours of research, extensive testing and consulting, we’ve concluded that the #1 hoverboard on the market is the Swagtron T1. Why?

The Swagtron T1 charges in 1 hour, has an 8 MPH top speed and a range of 7-12 miles. This is the hoverboard that set the standard for those that have followed.

It is UL 2272 Fire Safe and has a 3 hour battery life.  Moreover, it gives you the best all around value for your money and packs in the features you want.

So without further ado, here are the top hoverboards for 2018.

Top 3 Hoverboards Compared 2018

#1 Swagtron T1 The Best All Around Hoverboard

Pros

  • 3 hour battery life
  • Range of 7-12 miles
  • Charging time is 1 hour

Cons

  • No Bluetooth and lack of GPS
  • No accompanying app
  • Build Quality could be better. Scratches easily.

The Swagtron T1 remains the best hoverboard for kids and adults. It supports a maximum weight of 220 lbs. This model is durable, easy to use, and is safe for everyone since it is UL 2272 compliant. The ABS outer covering is not only durable, but also fire-resistant.  It features a SentriShield battery pack  to prevent overheating and a Safestop feature that lets you get off the device safely while adding to the efficiency of the battery. That battery can be charged in about an hour and you are ready to roll. It even sports 2 learning modes for beginners. This model will offer you a smooth ride, great battery life and you will be using it for a long time to come. Great features combined with safety make this model a true winner in the field. It is the best all-around hoverboard that you can buy today.

#2 Epikgo Self-Balancing Hoverboard

Pros

  • All-terrain 8.5″ tires
  • Charges in under 2 hours
  • Maximum speed of 10 MPH

Cons

  • New riders may have a hard time with the large tires
  • Price is higher than some other models, but well worth it.

For those who like to trade the sidewalk and roads for a more off-road experience, this hoverboard is a dream come true. Especially since you won’t have to worry about potential damage to your hoverboard. The Epikgo self-balancing hoverboard should be your number 1 choice for off-road adventures.  With large 8.5 inch tires, powerful 400W dual hub motors, 1P56 certification, great handling, quick charging and excellent range, it is a good investment. You will find it to be stable ride on a wide variety of terrain and it has ample foot space for comfort. It will handle any terrain, whether it is grass, mud, sand and more. It sports a strong ABS body with aluminum fenders, a quick charge of under 2 hours and a top speed of 10 MPH. A 1 year limited warranty covers parts and labor from the manufacturer.

#3 Halo Rover

Pros

  • Powerful 800W motor
  • Maximum load of 265 lbs.
  • Bluetooth speakers and mobile app

Cons

  • Weighing 32 lbs it is quite heavy
  • Expensive compared to other models, but you get a great set of features for theprice.

If you are looking for a hoverboard that can handle any terrain, this one will do so effortlessly and will deliver an excellent riding experience. The Halo Rover Hoverboard also has the safety credentials that you want in a hoverboard. It is UL 2272 certified hoverboard with a UL certified LG battery. This model also delivers an impressively durable build with advanced water resistance. Rain or shine it will perform. The 8.5 inch wheels will handle any terrain and it can even climb hills with grades up to 20 degrees. This Halo Board also includes LED headlights to improve visibility for riders and pedestrians alike. You can have complete control over your hover board using a smartphone app that lets you monitor power, speed, distance traveled and more. The app can also adjust the speed, steering sensitivity, and other features. This is a solid choice for most experienced hoverboard users.

#4 Segway Minipro Self-Balancing Personal Transport

Pros

  • Made from aircraft grade material for a durable and lightweight frame
  • 800W motors
  • Easy to ride and maneuver

Cons

  • Long charging time
  • Automatic speed reduction keeps things under 10 MPH
  • Customers report issues that some units do not charge properly

The Segway Minipro Self-Balancing Personal Transport is the best all-round hoverboard for those who don’t have experience riding personal transports.  The adjustable knee bar makes it easy for new riders and experienced riders to maneuver. It is UL 2272 compliant, with a lithium ion battery and features IP54 certification so that it is resistant to water. The unit is lightweight and the large 10.5 tires deliver a smooth and satisfying rider experience, which also means that it absorbs shocks nicely. The customizable LED lights keep you visible and safe at night. The Segway Minipro Self-Balancing Personal Transport has a maximum speed of 10 MPH and a range of 14 miles. The powerful 800 watt motors round it all out. It also features 3 riding modes and a mobile app that provides tutorials, an anti-theft feature and also acts as a remote control. This is a solid hoverboard, especially for the inexperienced.

#5 Razor Hovertrax 2.0

Pros

  • Silent Operation
  • Detachable battery that extends battery life
  • Range of 15 miles

Cons

  • Low battery life
  • Top speed could be better
  • Not water resistant

The Razor Hovertrax 2.0 Hoverboard is a definite improvement over the 1.0 model.  Fans of the company will be happy to upgrade to this model. It is UL 2272 certified hoverboard to meet the industry’s electrical safety standards. It has a cruising speed of 8+ mph with silent 350 watt motors and a run-time of up to 60 minutes of continuous use for riders up to 220 lbs. The company’s advanced Ever Balance Technology and non-slip rubber foot pads make it a simple to use hoverboard for any child or adult. The detachable battery means that you can extend your battery life. The range on this unit is 15 miles. While the top speed could be better, it offers silent operation, and ease of use that both make up for it. New features on this model include the cool-blue LED light bar display, fender bumpers, LED battery power indicator, and two riding modes for training and normal riding. The price is just right on this model if you are looking for a budget hoverboard that is durable and easy to use.

#6 Swagtron T5

Pros

  • 5 level battery indicator
  • Light and durable
  • Range of 10 miles

Cons

  • 5 hour charging time
  • Low speed of 7 MPH
  • Not water resistant

The Swagtron T5 is perfect for anyone looking for an entry level hoverboard at a great price point.  This is a good first hoverboard for any user. You will get great functionality and features that you would expect from a budget hoverboard. This unit still does it all and is easy to ride. The light and durable construction make it easy to use and give it a long life. This one is really portable, weighing just 18.9 lbs. It has a maximum load of 187 lbs, is UL 2272 compliant, features SentryShield Battery protection and a Smart battery Management system. The air-tight aluminum alloy body protects the battery, mainboard, and gears from heat dispersion, making sure you are safe. It delivers a range of 10 miles and has a battery level indicator so that you know where your charge is at all times. It also features a handy learning mode for new riders. For those not ready for bigger and more fully featured hoverboards, this is the perfect model to choose. Many newcomers are flocking to the T5.

#7 Swagtron T580

Pros

  • Bluetooth enabled
  • Comes with app
  • Smooth ride

Cons

  • Low max speed
  • Low range
  • Mid-range power

The Swagtron T580 is a great middle of the road model from Swagtron. It packs in some very good features like the fact that it is Bluetooth enabled, allowing you to change modes, check the battery, access maps, and play music. The maximum speed is only 7.5 mph, but it has a respectable ability to climb inclines of up to 30° with its 150W dual motors. This model has 3 modes and travels up to 8 miles per charge, with a maximum weight load of 220 lbs. 6.5″ hard rubber tire give you a smooth ride. Your charging time will be 90-100 minutes. A single charge will yield a maximum range of 8 miles. It also comes with an app that is compatible with both iPhone and Android. There is a reason that this model sells. The Swagtron T580 is a great middle of the road model that delivers the features that most users want at a great price point.

#8 Skque Self Balancing Scooter

Pros

  • Smart battery charges quickly
  • Built-in Bluetooth speakers
  • Solidconstruction

Cons

  • Low max speed
  • Lack of smartphone app

The Skque Self balancing Scooter provides a comfortable ride and features a high quality chassis, giving it superior durability for a long life.  Another nice feature are the built-in gyros that give the ride some added stability.  As far as riding around your neighborhood or making quick rides back and forth to work, this one is a great choice. It will also be ideal for you if you only travel short distances. The LED lights will keep you visible at night. This models weighs just 22 lbs. Other features include 15 degrees of climbing, a max speed of about 7 to 10 MPH, a charging time of 1 to 2 hours and built-in Bluetooth speakers. It will hold a rider of up to 220 lbs. It lacks an app to add some extra features, but this is a solid basic model for kids or adults who just want ride around their local area. If you don’t need any extra bells and whistles, it is a great choice for the price.

#9 Hoverzon S Self Balancing Hoverboard

Pros

  • Smart battery management
  • Range up to 12 miles
  • Solid construction

Cons

  • No Bluetooth speaker
  • Low top speed
  • Not waterproof

The Hoverzon S Self Balancing Hoverboard has several great features that all make for a simple and fun experience. It has a top speed of only 8 MPH and a full charge will give you up to 12 miles distance. Construction is solid and durable, making it safe to use. It offers several riding modes so that users of all skill levels can enjoy and experience the best that this hoverboard has to offer. If it is an entry level hoverboard that you are looking for, you can’t go wrong with this one. Other features include 250W dual motors, a maximum weight is 220 lbs, gyroscopic motors that make your ride smoother, LED headlights, battery indicators, and smart battery management to keep things extra safe.

Hoverboard Buyers Guide

Below are the top features you should look for in a hoverboard.

Safety First – UL 2272 Fire Safety Certification

  • Your number one concern is safety. A few years back, hoverboards were known to catch on fire and since then the industry has done the responsible thing and made them much safer. You would be hard pressed to find any reports of fire today.  First and foremost, look for UL 2272 Certification on any hoverboard that you buy. That means it has passed all safety tests and is safe for you to ride.

The Correct Tire Size For the Terrain At Hand

  • Tire size is an important consideration when it comes to hoverboards. They come with a variety of sizes. Some are smaller and some are larger. Tire size affects not only the stability of the ride, but also where you can go with it and what kind of terrain it will be able to handle. If you are looking to simply sidewalk-surf around the neighborhood, smaller tires will do the trick. If you are looking to do kore and go “off-road” you’ll want larger tires that will handle more types of terrain better.

The Ideal Battery life and Charging Times

  • Longer battery life is good, but it isn’t everything. For instance, what good is a long battery life if your hoverboard only goes 5 MPH. You want to balance a long lasting battery with speed, performance and charge time. Look for a long battery life in a model that also delivers the speed that you want.
  • Charging times are another important factor to consider. You don’t want to wait 6 hours to charge your battery if it is only going to give you 3 hours of drive time and a wimpy 6 mile range. Again, what you want to look for is a balance that works for you. These days, a 1 or 2 hour charge time is acceptable, balanced against performance and how long that battery lasts while riding.

Make Sure Your Hoverboard Can Go The Distance

  • Along with battery life and charge times, the range that your hoverboard delivers on a single charge is one of the top considerations. Look for the best range that you can get in order to get the most out of your purchase. A great range with short charging times means less waiting around and more going places. A good range for hoverboards is 9-12 miles.

A Solid Yet Lightweight Construction

  • Like any other vehicle, one of your top concerns should be quality construction. You want a tough and rugged frame that will last. Some models even offer scratch resistant materials. Choosing a strong and solid hoverboard means that it will have a longer lifetime in service.
  • Along with a solid construction you also want a lightweight unit. A lighter hoverboard generally means more speed and a better battery capacity. It also makes for a smoother ride.

Powerful Motors Do Matter

  • Obviously, the more powerful the motors, the more your hoverboard can deliver. A 250 watt motor is fine, but twin 250 watt motors are going to give you much more power. That can equal more speed.  It also equates to more features and better performance overall. The bigger the better.

The Top Questions About Hoverboards Answered

It’s a good idea to buy a hoverboard that includes a warranty, 1 year or longer. Just in case you get a defective part, a bad battery, or it just plain stops working.  A warranty is a good idea and it protects your investment. All of our top picks come with at least a 1-year warranty.

Many hoverboards come with bluetooth speakers so that you can easily listen to your music while on the go. Is this a feature that you want? If not, you can save some money by avoiding models with extras like these. The same goes for models that include apps for your smartphone. These apps can add some really nice features, like music control, remote control and much more, but if you are not interested, look for models without these features to save money.

Generally hoverboards can cost between $100 to as much as $700. In our research, we found that you can skip both the $100 price point as well as the $700 price point. The sweet spot for hoverboards with quality features is the $200 to $600 range. The price of your hoverboard purchase will depend on what features you are looking for. More feature heavy and high-end specs will cost you more.

First off, hoverboards do not really hover. At least not in 2018. But they are still fun and you might be wondering how you actually ride one. We can help with that too. First, step onto the device with one foot Next, step on with the other foot and position your feet as far apart as comfortable. This will give you the best stance to control your hoverboard. Stand normally. To get going, lean forward or gently shift your weight forward. Only make small shifts in your weight. To turn just lean the appropriate foot forward. Those are the basics and it really is that easy. Whether it is a Segway, a self balancing scooter or a hoverboard, they all operate the same.

Best Hoverboard 2018

5 (100%) 1 vote


Best Tactical Flashlight: Powerful Can Be Small

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After taking a look at a dozen different flashlights from the top brands in the business, we focused on one big question: how well does the flashlight perform when you need it most? That’s really what the best tactical flashlight is all about.

After measuring brightness, timing how long the batteries lasted, dropping lots of flashlights on the pavement, and similar tests, we’ve finally come to a conclusion. If you want a durable flashlight with up to 800 lumens, a compact design that can fit just about anywhere, and more than 15 hours of light on AAA batteries, then the Lumify X9 is your model.

It also comes with an option to switch over for a rechargeable battery, strobe functions including SOS signals, and several other useful features that’s we’ll discuss below. You can also check out our other top picks, learn more about tactical flashlights, and find quick links to make a purchase!

Top Tactical Flashlights Compared & Reviewed

#1 Lumify X9 – Editor’s Choice/Best Usability

Lumify X9

Lumify’s flashlight is compact and powerful.

Brightness Test: 315 lux at 10 feet

Pros:

  • Very easy to use
  • Compact, rugged design
  • Multiple battery options
  • Dependable battery life

Cons:

  • Light modes can take time to learn
  • A little small for full-room illumination

Design of the Lumify X9

Arriving in its own foam-padded case, this Lumify flashlight is trying hard to be elite – and backs it up with an excellent design or the modern user. This is one of the most compact tactical flashlights that we’ve seen, easy to hold in your hand, drop in a coat pocket, or loop around your belt without the weight being an issue. It also comes with a small holster if you prefer this method, although it’s not necessary

The on/off button is recessed in the back of the flashlight, which is a little awkward for fast use but helps keep the design trim and water resistant, which are important bonuses. The flashlight concentrates the beam with a simple push/pull method that can narrow the beam from a tiny spot to a large circle as you need. You can also hold or tap the on/off button to switch between a strobe and an SOS light, although this takes some practice to get just right.

As for the frame, it’s made of military grade aluminum and largely impervious to any accidental damage – the compact design also helps here!

Performance of the Lumify X9

Lumify surprised us with a light that’s particularly reliable: Even after 15 or so hours of constant use, the light remained bright enough for use in dark spaces, an excellent rating for such a compact flashlight that can create up to 800 lumens.

Note that Luminify’s model has several energy source options: We used the three AAA battery option, but you can also buy a specific rechargeable lithium-ion battery for the model if you want to recharge your battery every day. This type of versatility in batteries is nice to see, even if it means going to some extra work when you need to switch.

Overall, the Lumify X9 has such a focus on usability that it’s easy to recommend for a variety of uses and situations.

The major criticism we found is that, due to the compact nature of the light, it faces some difficulty in lighting up large dark spaces (entire rooms, etc.), making it more useful in nearby illumination or confrontations.

At the broadest light beam setting, the model produced, on average, 315 lux at 10 feet. This is again a surprising powerful rating for such a small flashlight, and another reason we made it our top pick!

View on Lumify

#2 5.11 XBT D3 – Brightest and Heaviest

Flashlight: 5.11

5.11’s patrol flashlight may be just what you’re looking for.

Brightness: 340 lux at 10 feet

Pros:

  • Excellent illumination
  • Great battery efficiency

Cons:

  • Bulky, heavy design
  • Requires D batteries

Design of the 5.11 XBT D3

The XBT D3 is made in the model of traditional, patrol-style flashlights that were quite common back in the day, and so probably looks very familiar to many buyers. However, the model has been updated with an integrated circuit, a low/high power mode, a more ruggedized design with better gripping, and three XMLB LED bulbs.

This is all good news, but you still have to account for the weight, which is rated at 32 ounces with batteries. That’s a lot of heft for a flashlight, and that makes it more difficult to carry around or store. If you’ve used these patrol flashlights in the past you know what to expect here, but if this is your first tactical flashlight purchase, you may be disappointed with how heavy this flashlight can feel after a couple hours. On the plus side, the size and weight make this model a defensive option where compact models really aren’t, so that heft isn’t all bad news.

Performance of the 5.11 XBT D3

This 5.11 model far and away beat the rest of our reviewed models when it came to battery longevity. Even after 40 hours of constant use at a high level, the flashlight still managed to put out a beam with enough illumination to be usable (although significantly less so than at the beginning). That’s far better than the stated specs, and we were duly impressed.

The price, of course, is those three large D batteries that you need to use in the flashlight. They add a lot of weight, some extra maintenance, and of course an ongoing cost if you regularly use the flashlight and need to replace the D batteries regularly.

This traditional model is a little annoying, but the big benefit is a lot of luminescence. Rated at 1231 lumens and casting 340 lux at 10 feet, this is the brightest flashlight we reviewed, and excellent for pumping out a lot of light into large spaces when necessary. Those batteries fuel particularly powerful, long-lasting LED lights that are a vast upgrade to the old bulbs of more traditional patrol flashlights, and makes this 5.11 model an easy recommendation – as long as you don’t mind carrying it around.

View on 5.11 Tactical

#3 Streamlight Protac HL USB – Best Recharging Flashlight

Flashlight: Streamlight

Streamlight’s USB model charges like a smartphone; via USB – and it has a built-in battery.

Pros:

  • Handy USB charging
  • Multiple light modes
  • Useful clip

Cons:

  • Less illumination at a distance

Design of the Streamlight Protac HL USB

One of the first things you noticed about this Streamlight is that it’s strictly a USB charge model. How does this work out in practice? Pretty great! Connect a USB cable from your computer, laptop, battery charger, spare battery, or another source: the flashlight quickly charges up, and you are good to go! It’s an efficient recharge option that’s particularly easy to use in our high-tech times, and far better than replacing clunky batteries.

The flashlight also includes a strobe mode and a low/medium/high mode for saving money or raising the brightness. The anodized aluminum is very durable, but for water resistance, you will want to keep the USB sleeve tightly closed and double-check it if it is raining.

This model also comes with a removable pocket clip and a nylon holster. The pocket clip is particularly handy and durable, a strong addition if you want to clip this light on a belt or strap rather than worry about a holster.

Performance of the Streamlight Protac HL USB

The lithium-ion battery holds up well, with around 20 hours of powerful use (after which a recharge needs to boost the battery back to brighter levels. The single LED-powered bulb is rated at 350 lumens on the medium setting, but it has the lowest lux rating on our list at 40 lux across the surface of our sensor, at around 10 feet. That makes this compact flashlight well-suited for more enclosed spaces and up-close uses.

View on Amazon

How We Tested + Understanding Brightness in Terms of Lux & Lumens

If you take a look at the specs for tactical flashlights, including many of the features we discuss, you’ll see that the light intensity is typically provided in lumens. Lumens is an easy measurement to get: It measures the total amount of visible light that something produces. The more lumens, the more light the flashlight makes: Not that difficult to understand, and easy to compare!

However, we also measured our reviewed flashlights in lux, and we had a very good reason for doing that. Lux is the measurement of “illuminance,” a fancy way of saying the amount of light transferred to a surface (per unit area). One lux equals one lumen per square foot.

You can see how lux can be a particularly valuable way of evaluating something like tactical flashlights, where it’s important to consider how much a surface is illuminated for clarity, visibility, and so on.

Take the moon for example: On even the clearest night, a full moon really only shines up to one lux – it can’t really go beyond that. The sun, tends to shine for at least 10,000 lux. The difference in visibility between the two is obvious: lux, then is a great measurement of the intensity at which a flashlight operates when shining on a given surface.

So, we made sure that all our reviewed flashlights were set to their standard beams, then positioned a lux sensor around 10 feet away and took multiple measurements to see what the lux rating was for that point of space – a good test for how much illumination you would get when shining a light at a person’s face, for example. It’s not quite as good at showing how well the flashlight would light up, say, the inside of a dark building, but that can be extrapolated based on the results.

How We Choose the Top Rated Tactical Flashlights

Our tactical flashlight review process can be divided into three basic parts: light performance, usability, and battery performance.

Light performance, of course, refers to how well the light shines. Today’s flashlights often use clusters of LEDs and other methods to achieve a very bright, pure white light, unlike the flashlights of older times. We examine these lights with sensors, see how well they function up close and far away, and generally review how well they light up dark spaces (as well as any focus features, although these are relatively rare on tactical flashlights).

5.11 Flashlight on Table

Sometimes a heavier flashlight can be its own asset.

Usability refers to the design of the flashlight. How heavy is it? How easy is it to grip and operate quickly? Is it comfortable to store or carry around? This also touches on durability and how well the flashlight can handle drops, accidents, and rain.

Battery performance simply covers what kind of battery the flashlight uses, how long it lasts, and how easy it is to recharge or replace.

Tactical Flashlight Reviews Buying Guide

Heavy-Duty Flashlights: Rechargeable vs Traditional Batteries

The tactical flashlight world has faced a key question in the past several years: What type of battery is best? Today, there are two popular choices – good old fashioned batteries, and USB rechargeable flashlights that typically use lithium-ion battery packs. Currently, the USB recharge option appears to be a more popular choice, but let’s break down the advantages of both.

Traditional D or C Batteries:

  • Familiar replacement option, and easy if you have access to a lot of spare batteries
  • More weight or heft to the flashlight
  • More dependable beam strength over time – new batteries give reliable maximum brightness

USB Rechargeable Batteries:

  • Less expensive and easier to maintain
  • Regular charging prevents slow dimming seen with traditional batteries
  • Flashlights can be smaller, more compact, and easier to store

What is a Strobing (Flashing) Flashlight

You will have noticed that the majority of tactical flashlights come with a strobe light option, maybe even a couple different strobe modes. If you are wondering why this feature is included and how it should be properly used, here’s what to know.

First, the strobe is primarily used as a defensive feature. Shine a strobe light in someone’s eyes, and there’s an effect that creates after images and induces disorientation. That could be an important strategic choice when dealing with a threat or providing backup for someone in trouble. Plus, you can use it at a distance, it’s relatively harmless for most people, and you don’t need a lot of training or precision to turn on a strobe and point it the right way.

Lumify Flashlight on Table

Lumify’s SOS strobe is a unique case of additional value.

This does have uses…but it also comes with some serious disadvantages, which is why you don’t see a lot of law enforcement organizations recommending strobe lights. The first problem is that the strobe light also makes it very difficult for you to see, and this can be dangerous. A threatening person may be able a number of fast movements before you are able to tell that they moved, and that’s bad news if they are rushing you or trying to pull out a weapon.

Additionally, strobe lights can cause seizures in some people with epilepsy, which opens up another can of worms that many people don’t want to deal with. As a result, strobe features are often unused in an official capacity, and you should be very careful when using them yourself. It’s a good idea to practice with the strobe features of your flashlight and understand how they work so you don’t accidentally switch the strobe on.

RoHS Compliance

Scan information on tactical flashlights, and you may see a phrase like “RoHS compliant” advertised. What does that mean? RoHS is a standard, specifically the Restriction of Hazardous Substances standard. It was created by the European Union, but is widely used throughout the world to help limit products with dangerous materials.

What sort of dangerous materials are we talking about? Mostly toxic metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, and some toxic plastics – stuff that you really, really don’t want in your local landfill or leeched into the groundwater. Some electronics and light bulbs (especially in the past) have been made with materials like these. The RoHS compliance means that these flashlights do not contain such substances, and can be freely sold in countries that implement the RoHS.

What is a Tactical Flashlight?

Streamlight Flashlight on Table

Streamlight’s USB recharge fits in well with the always-ready nature of these flashlights.

Traditionally, a tactical flashlight was made to be used specifically by law enforcement or the military and was typically designed to be used alongside a weapon or attached to a weapon when patrolling dark areas. As a result, these flashlights had to be relatively compact, highly durable under a variety of circumstances, and very, very reliable. They also had to be easy to wear, equip, or generally carry around as needed.

Over the years, the tactical flashlight was adopted by other groups, like the mall and college security forces, private security for companies or office buildings, and so on. And then even later, neighborhood watch groups, preppers, and those concerned about family safety started adopting tactical flashlights as well, so there’s currently a surprising amount of demand for these elite flashlight products.

That demand has expanded the market, encouraged new flashlight technologies, and added a lot more variety to the types of tactical flashlights that you can find today. While we will be looking at tactical flashlights through the eyes of the individual consumer, many of the spec considerations and feature ratings remain similar for all target audiences.

Best Tactical Flashlight: Powerful Can Be Small

5 (100%) 6 votes


Best Sleeping Pad

This post was originally published on this site

While a portable Sleep Number mattress isn’t an option (yet), a best sleeping pad offered by an outdoor specialty manufacturers can ensure a sound night’s rest on the trail without needing to count sheep. Don’t make the mistake of packing the wrong sleeping pad for your next wilderness adventure – Nothing blows harder than hiking fifteen miles, setting up camp, and laying down only to discover your pad isn’t going to cut it. Follow our guide below for a little help picking out the perfect sleeping pad for your next excursion.

For those in a hurry, our #1 top pick and Editor’s Choice for the best sleep pad is the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol ($35-45). Its unique dimple design makes it a comfortable choice, it’s lightweight, and its level of insulation exceeds expectations for a pad that weighs only fourteen ounces and costs under $50 USD.

Best Sleeping Pad

How We Choose the Best Sleeping Pad

Like any other gear, sleeping pads should be carefully selected based on your unique hiking and/or camping conditions. Each of our top picks have been selected for application-specific properties. If you’re planning on camping overnight in extreme winter conditions, a pad’s R-value (its thermal resistance rating), should be a primary performance indicator that you consider. On the other hand, if you’re camping on the beach in July, comfort and cost may be the only two aspects you’re interested in. We weighed these properties in each top category below, with the most significant taking priority.

Some designs compliment human anatomy more so than others. Things like a tapered cut, side baffle inclusion, air compartment distribution, and foam cell construction all play in how well a sleeping pad supports someone while they sleep. Design elements like these also function to extend the usable life of pads through careful consideration of functionality and potential stress via use.

Insulating materials are rated for thermal resistance using a numerical value referred to as the R-value. This is used to classify the ability of an insulating material, in this case a sleeping pad, to withstand changes to an external environment’s temperature variations. Sleeping pads with higher R-values will generally keep campers warmer than those with lower values (i.e. 2.3 is better than 1.5). Performance testing to determine an R-value is done in a controlled, 70° Fahrenheit environment without airflow across the surface of the pads being examined. Because of this testing standard, R-values should be considered carefully based on trial and error. If you’re comparing similar pads (for instance, both foam dimple designs with equivalent thicknesses), then the corresponding R-values can be used to measure relative thermal protection reliably. If, however, you’re comparing an air pad to a foam pad with similar R-values, the best way to arrive at a definitive conclusion is to use both pads in the field.

For our ultralight top pick, weight was obviously a more important factor than other design and performance aspects. Weight, as it should be, was considered based on intended application; family, overnight campers aren’t going to value a one pound weight reduction as much as ultralight, cross-country hikers.

Other comparable pads’ costs were evaluated to determine if the cost alone was enough to keep them competitive. From our study, general use pads typically cost between $20 and $40 USD. Sleeping pads with significant R-values (5, or higher) can range between $110 and $250. And true ultralight pads (weighing less than 1 lb) start around $130 USD.

There are three primary types of sleeping pads: manually-inflated, self-inflating, and closed-cell foam pads. Manually-inflating and self-inflating pads are often preferred over foam pads because foam is rigid, bulky, and firmness can’t be adjusted like it can be with an inflatable variant. Backpackers, campers, car campers, and everyone in-between that prefer a highly-compressible pad (something that can easily be stowed away in a backpack) will typically opt for an air pad. For our review, construction type was considered in relation to application just like our other sleeping pad variables. As with everything else, your unique situation should be evaluated carefully when selecting the sleeping pad for your next outdoor adventure.

Note: All of our top pick prices, weights, and packed sizes reflect those for regularly-sized sleeping pads.

Why You Should Buy a Sleeping Pad

No matter what you’re planning on your next trip, it’s important that you go prepared. Even a well constructed, lofty sleeping bag isn’t going to keep you warm if you’re using it on the ground; Down fill (or synthetic) within a sleeping bag compresses when you lay on it, reducing the ability for warm air to become trapped inside. If you’re sleeping on the ground with only a sleeping bag, you’re going to lose body heat. A sleeping pad ensures that you’re insulated from the ground.

In colder temperatures, having another layer of insulation between you and the ground (or air if you’re a hammock camper) can mean the difference between life and death (in extreme cases). It’s important that you plan accordingly for the environment you’ll be spending time in. Cold weather backpacking can be a lot of fun, but if you’re unprepared you’re going to have a bad time.

Many newer sleeping pads are engineered with higher-grade insulating materials, reflective components for radiating body heat back toward a sleeper, tougher materials which better resist sharp rocks and twigs, and often are lighter weight than older sleeping pads.

#1 Pick Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol – Editor’s Choice/Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Best Sleeping Pad - Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol

A no-brainer for the classic adventurer

Price: $44 | Packed Size: 20 x 5 x 5.5″ | Weight: 14 oz | R-value: 2.6

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Super lightweight, worry free closed-cell foam construction, and a staple among outback trekkers, the Z Lite and Z Lite Sol are some of the best backpacking sleeping pads on the market.

The Therm-a-Rest brand is manufactured by Cascade Designs and is known among outdoor enthusiasts for its ultralight, trekking, travel, and camping sleeping pads. The brand’s website actually has a nice sleeping pad selection tool that steps consumers through their needs to determine the best fit for each adventure.

Ideal for backpackers, thru-hikers, and mountaineers, the Z Lite Sol is the brand’s improved design on the already great Z Lite mattress. Both are some of the lightest, compact, closed-cell sleeping pads on the market. They conveniently fold into an accordion-style shape for easy, external stowage on a pack, and the dimple design helps to retain heat from a sleepers body. The Z Lite Sol sets itself apart from the original in that it also has a reflective coating, ThermaCapture, which helps to capture radiant heat (Therm-a-Rest claims this increases overall warmth over the original model by almost 20%).

Closed-cell foam used in the construction of this pad is designed to be softer on the top and firmer on the bottom so that sleepers benefit from a surface that gives just a little more to their unique physique.

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#2 Pick REI AirRail 1.5 – Best Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

Best Sleeping Pad - REI AirRail 1.5

Air rails help sleepers stay secure and warm on the trail

Price: $90 | Packed Size: 9 x 6.5″ | Weight: 26 oz | R-value: 4.2

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: A self-inflating dream come true, REI’s AirRail 1.5 is the perfect sleeping pad for campers looking for a lightweight alternative in which comfort doesn’t have to be sacrificed.

REI’s AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad offers backpackers a low-weight pad with superior comfort. It’s a hybrid design combining an insulated foam filler with internal air compartments and side baffles. The air compartment firmness can be adjusted manually by filling the pad with more air through the inlet/outlet valve. Side baffles help to insulate a sleeper’s sides while also mitigating the possibility of rolling of the pad during a night’s sleep.

Quick-closing, high-flow valves ensure that inflation and deflation takes less time than comparable pads. The pad is constructed of a durable 75-denier polyester top and bottom, all seams are welded, and the top of the pad is embossed with a nonslip surface.

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#3 Pick Exped SynMat Hyperlite – Best Ultralight Sleeping Pad

Exped SynMat Hyperlite

An outstanding design that keeps adventurers warm and cozy all night long

Price: $134 | Packed Size: 9 x 5.25″ | Weight: 14.6 oz R-value: 3.3

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Exped SynMat Hyperlite is so lightweight you’ll forget you packed it, and it can be compressed to a near pocket-sized volume.

Exped’s SynMat Hyperlite delivers comfort on the level of an at-home mattress to the outdoors and minimizes the amount of weight you’ll need while trekking in to the outback.

Unique baffles that run the length of the pad create a support structure that gives to a sleepers body contours, helping develop a comfortable surface every time – even against uneven terrain. Welded seams ensure an airtight construction and mitigate the risk of a pad failure.

A lofted, microfiber insulation is engineered in a way that allows this sleeping pad to retain heat and function flawlessly even in colder environments – this is a 4-season pad.

Exped’s “FlatValve” design facilitates high airflow in and out of the pad and reduces the probability of tearing around the valve-to-pad interface which effectively increases the expected life of this mat.

A stuff sack and tear/puncture kit are included with this mat for extra measure, comfort, and convenience.

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#4 Pick Klymit Static V2 – Best Camping Sleeping Pad

Klymit Static V2

A home run for comfort and compressibility

Price: $60 | Packed Size: 8 x 3″ | Weight: 16.33 oz R-value: 1.3

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Klymit hit the nail on the head with this sleeping pad. It delivers an excellent combination of comfort and compressibility for its cost.

Exceptional comfort and only one pound of weight, the Static V2 from Klymit hit the mark when it comes to performance, cost, and design. Ideal for back country hikers, campers, and even casual use, the V2 has a “body-mapped” ergonomic design on an over-sized sleeping area for maximum comfort.

Side rail cushion compartments help to cradle sleepers for a better nights sleep and added security from rolling off of the pad during the night. The segmented air compartment inside of the pad helps to reduce air movement when on the sleeping pad, and also mitigates air loss in the event of a puncture. A twist-pull valve allows for inflation in as little as ten breaths, and deflates with ease. The valve also locks closed to prevent inadvertent opening while sleeping.

30-denier polyester on the top and 75-denier polyester on the bottom help improve comfort and durability. The pad comes with a patch kit, storage bag, and is treated with an anti-microbial laminate to prevent bacterial growth in and out of the pad.

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#5 Pick Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad – Best Sleeping Pad for Side Sleepers

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

An unbeatable sleeping pad that’s reliable and effective for most adventures

Price: $160 | Packed Size: 9 x 4″ | Weight: 16 oz | R-value: 3.2

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Best-in-class comfort, compression, and insulation, the NeoAir XLite is a phenomenal sleeping pad for both side, back , and stomach sleepers alike.

Ideal for hikers, thru-hikers, and back country minimalists, Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad is an excellent product that delivers a high level of comfort, a solid R-value for keeping sleepers warm, and a low-weight option for those that value every ounce.

A specially made reflective layer helps to reduce heat loss and trap body heat in air pockets without adding too much bulk to the overall design. The NeoAir XLite uses advanced fabrics and a tapered design to keep the warmth-to-weight ratio as ideal as possible.

The pad can be a bit noisy, but the combination of comfort and weight at this price point is difficult to beat.

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Key Factors

Trip Specific 

  • Picking the right pad for the job is the most important factor when navigating the hundreds of options available to consumers.
  • Foam pads may not be ideal for an ultralight backpacker. Keep function in mind first and foremost.

Size

  • If packability is a crucial component of your essential gear then a highly-compressible air pad may be a better choice than a foam pad.
  • Consider how you’ll carry your pad, and then eliminate the ones that don’t match your criteria.

Weight

  • Ultralight fanatic? Even if you aren’t, backpackers know how important pack weight is.
  • Your sleeping pad is one of three main weight and volume contributors in a pack (tent/hammock, sleeping bag, sleeping pad) and should be selected carefully to ensure your gear is technically ready for its specific use.

Features

Self-Inflating

  • Self-inflating sleeping bags have an open-cell foam layer internal to the outer polypropylene (or similar synthetic) layer. Once the air valve is opened, the foam layer expands and pulls air into the bag. Additional air can be blown into the bag to adjust the firmness of the mattress.

R-Value

  • A sleeping pad’s R-value is a measure of how well a pad can resist heat conductivity. The higher the value, the better a pad’s ability to insulate you.
  • R-values range from 1 (minimum insulation) all the way to 9.5 (extremely well insulated). As with all other features, consider every aspect of a pad before making a final decision.

Baffles

  • Some sleeping pads have side baffles meant to keep you snugly on the pad while sleeping (they’re also quite nice in hammock tents). Other pads have integrated pillow baffles.
  • From a purely functional perspective, these features do little to add value to a pad – but personal preferences vary greatly. These are options  if you fancy them.

Inflation Methodology

  • Valve types and air chambers vary greatly between inflating air pads. Notable features include fast-filling (or high-volume) inflation and deflation valves which allow for a fast setup, or breakdown, often only requiring a few large breaths.
  • Multiple air chambers have the added benefit of ensuring a pad retains most of its air in the event of a puncture, as well as reducing heat loss via compartmentalization.

Pad Textures

  • Another common feature to look for is pad texturing meant to keep sleepers more comfortable, but also helping maintain the position of the pad while moving around throughout the night. Textures vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but are typically coarse and applied to pads with an adhesive.
  • Some non-slip coatings can make re-packing your deflated pad a bit more difficult. We recommend floading up the pad in such a way so that the non-clip coating is contained within folds before rolling up and storing in a stuff sack.

Packed Size

  • Dependent on your particular needs, sleeping pads are available in a wide variety of packed sizes and can accommodate even the strictest ultralight hiker.
  • Typically packed size is relative to pad weight (the heavier the pad, the larger the packed size)
  • Foam pads are rigid and usually need to be strapped to the outside of a pack for trekking
  • Our top air pad picks all compress to a volumetric space of approximately 215 cubic inches, or about the size of an MSR camping cookset.

Mistakes to Avoid When Shopping for the Best Sleeping Pad

We really can’t emphasize just how important it is that you pick a pad designed for your intended use. Always check weather reports if you’re planning on spending any time exposed to the elements while your hiking, or camping, and ensure that your gear can collectively protect you from the lowest possible temperature. Both air pads and foam pads can effectively help to insulate you from external temps and reduce the amount of body heat lost through a night in the wild.

If you’re packing an air mattress, ensure you’re equipped to handle a tear, or rip. Most air pads will come with an include patch kit, but if your doesn’t you can buy these online, or from a local outdoor retailer for a few bucks. Nothing sucks more than having to sleep on a cold, hard surface because you’ve accidentally puncture your bed.

Regular, short, wide, and everything in-between. Make sure you check pad measurements in relation to your individual needs. Most pads come in a variety of sizes to accommodate men and women of both the large and small variety.

What Else You Should Think About

Having one of the best sleeping pads is just one facet of the overall equation. Another thing to consider is if you’re well-equipped when it comes to a backpacking backpack. Check out of list of the best backpacking backpacks to see how yours measures up, or to shop for one of the year’s best. Have light for the trip? Consider reading our review of the best hiking headlamps of 2017.

As with any outdoor adventure, remember to leave with what you bring in. Leave no trace, and stay safe. Hiking in the wilderness can be very rewarding and exciting, but you should take care to ensure you’re prepared for the worst each and every time. Let family and friends know where you’re going, take the right GPS unit and physical maps with you, and plan based on the environment and seasonal climate.

Our top pick and Editor’s Choice for the best backpacking sleeping pad is the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol. It’s lightweight, durable, and its R-value relative to its construction properties is a good value for nearly every budget.

Best Air Purifier for Pets

This post was originally published on this site

Following an in-depth comparison of more than thirty consumer air cleaners by (me) an indoor electrical room air quality engineer, we’ve determined that the best air purifier for pets and allergy sufferers, and #1 pick, is the Austin Air Healthmate Standard ($538.99).

The decision was based on pre-filter quality (to catch large particulate like dust and hair), HEPA filter class (based on the European Norm), carbon filter grade and specifications (for odor and gas control), and an analysis of the motor implemented and its effectiveness moving air across the multi-staged filter arrangements. The machine’s pre-filter effectively captures large pet dander before moving air through the activated carbon and HEPA filter array which works exceptionally well, eliminating smells that your hairy companion might track in and filtering finer particulate in the air.

Best Air Purifier for Pets

How We Choose The Best Air Purifier for Pets

Pre-filters help remove larger particulate from the air stream prior to more precision filtration. They’re often reusable and washable, and external to the higher-grade carbon and HEPA filters installed inside of a home air purifier. The main benefit of pre-filter inclusion in an air purifier design is that larger contaminants in the air are restricted from passing on to the more advanced filters and that increases the life and efficiency of expensive filters meant to remove the things that matter.

Pre-filters are relatively cheap to manufacture and cheap to include as a component in an air purifier and as such we believe the exclusion of such a feature demonstrates poor design. All of our top picks include pre-filter configurations, some of which are part of the activated carbon filter.

Pet odors are another issue that we wanted to ensure our top picks addressed. To do this, some form of an activated carbon filter needed to be a part of the filtration process. Activated carbon, or charcoal, filters adsorb odors by trapping molecules inside extremely porous carbon substrate. Since our top picks focus solely on the best air purifier for pets, we didn’t weigh our decision based on the quality of the carbon media used, but rather only the inclusion of a carbon filtration step. Air purifiers intended for use as smoke eliminators, or volatile organic compound (VOCs) removers require high-grade, activated carbon media to clean an environment more effectively.

HEPA, or High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance, filters are a crucial component in any air purification equipment. They function as the finest line of defense in the filtration process, filtering out a minimum of 99.97% of particulate matter that is 0.3 microns in diameter (to put that in to perspective, a human – or pet’s – hair is approximately 100 times larger in diameter). Using the aforementioned European Norm as a guideline to classify HEPA quality, we began our analysis by ensuring that air purifiers which made our list met a rating of at least the standard E12 classification. Purifiers using HEPA filters exceeding our baseline were rated more highly, with those combining multiple, high-grade purification technologies rated considerably higher.

Finally, motor quality and machine construction were considered to ensure that each air cleaner had sufficient power to move each manufacturer’s rated volumetric air across filter arrays. This is critical to performance because without enough power, air cleaners can’t optimally force flow through filters. Our top picks all demonstrate high airflow rates equating to powerful motors capable of pulling air into the machines and through filters as advertised. Typically, motor specifications and/or air flow information isn’t something that air purifier companies publish. More commonly, coverage area and maybe air changes per hour (ACH) are marketed to demonstrate product effectiveness. These numbers are usually reliable indicators of machine power although we’ve found some with grossly inaccurate claims so always do your own homework.

ACH numbers are the best way for a machine’s effectiveness to be gauged and compared. Plainly, ACH is the amount of times a purifier completely filters the air in an advertised square footage space within one hour. So for example, if a machine’s ACH is 5 and the machine is marketed as being able to purify spaces as large as 500 sq ft, then the machine will completely filter all of the air in a 500 sq ft area 5 times in one hour. Now, there’s a bit more to ACH than this simple explanation. Room height is assumed to be seven feet in ACH calculations. So for spaces in your home that have higher ceilings, the advertised ACH will not be accurate. There isn’t an optimal ACH rate. It’s only a way to measure and compare filtration power. If you’re looking at two purifiers with the same square footage rating and one has a higher ACH its a more capable unit.

Why You Should Buy an Air Purifier for Pet Dander

We all love our pets, but did you know that certain elements found within pet dander, saliva, urine, and fecal matter can be the cause of allergic reactions, or irritate asthma sufferers? Also, shedding pet hair creates an environment in which pollen and mold spores can live if undisturbed.

Most medical resources suggest that asthma and allergy sufferers remove pets from their home if irritation becomes a consistent problem, but we realize that this option isn’t always ideal. The best air purifier for pets will help owners mitigate the risk associated with pet allergens by removing harmful contaminates from the air.

The EPA lists indoor air quality as one of the leading contributors to individual health and wellness in the United States. Long-term effects from poor air quality have been suggested as having a potential to cause respiratory diseases, heart disease, some forms of cancer – and in extreme cases – death. Everyone reacts differently to indoor air pollutants though, so it’s important to consider your unique situation in relation to the information provided here and elsewhere. Having said that, pet owners can live healthier lives by using air purifiers in areas frequented by their furry friends.

#1 Pick Editor’s Choice/Best Air Purifier for Pet Odors – Austin Air Healthmate Standard

Austin Air Healthmate Standard HM 400 Air Purifier

The Healthmate Standard HM 400

Price: $539 | HEPA Class: H14 | Coverage: 1,500 Sq Ft | Auto Mode: No

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Austin Air’s Healthmate Standard takes a no-BS approach to air purification with components that are top quality in the industry.

So why is the Austin Air Healthmate Standard our top pick? What makes it the best for this consumer application? Simply put: it’s an industrially designed air purifier that beats most others in its class with respect to the variables we found most important.

The machine’s pre-filter, activated carbon and zeolite filter, and HEPA filter have been combined into a cylindrical, one-piece filter array that can easily be removed and replaced from the bottom of the machine when needed (although a new filter array should last an average user approximately three years). The Healthmate’s HEPA filter is industrial-grade, rated as H14 on the European Norm scale and retains 99.995% of particulate measuring 0.3 micrometers in diameter.

Build quality is superior and the machine isn’t an eyesore like some. Austin uses a purely mechanical filtration process for filtering air (devoid of ionization or ultraviolet treatments) and the motor we tested pushes air through the machine without straining. At full speed, the machine can be a bit loud (approximately 65 dB), but with this kind of performance it’s understandable. We recommend running on high for the first three to four hours after installation and then setting to medium for continued operation.

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#2 Pick Best Air Purifier for Pet Allergies and Asthma – Airmega 400S

Airmega 400S Smart Air Purifier

The only air purifier we’ve seen with dual HEPA filters.

Price: $711 | HEPA Class: H14 | Coverage: 1,560 Sq Ft | Auto Mode: Yes

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The most connected, “smart,” high-performance air purifier for pet allergies and asthma.

Airmega manufactures some of the most attractive and tech-savvy air purifiers on the market, and the 400S is the company’s MVP. If you’re looking for a high-performing air purifier for pet dander, this is an excellent buy.

Unlike many other air purifiers, Airmega’s units pull air through two separate intakes utilizing individual motors and carbon/HEPA combination filters. The machine’s side panels can easily be removed for cleaning and replacing each filter box. Just like the Healthmate, this machine comes loaded with an industrial-grade HEPA filter rated as H14 and retaining 99.995% of airborne particulate.

It’s a great looking machine that’s well built and nice to look at – probably the most attractive air cleaner we’ve review yet. A mechanical filtration process ensures that contaminants are captured, and because the unit uses two separate motors to drive the suction fans on either side it’s capable of operating more quietly than others rated for the similar coverage areas. Smart features on the device enable users to control the unit and monitor indoor air quality from their smart devices.

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#3 Pick Best Pet Dander Air Purifier – IQAir’s HealthPro Plus

IQAir HealthPro Plus Air Purifier

An awesome air purifier for most applications

Price: $899 | HEPA Class: E12| Coverage: 1,125 Sq Ft | Auto Mode: No

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: IQAir’s HealthPro Plus has been rated as a top performer in more of our application-specific reviews than any other air purifier.

We’ve discussed how much we love IQAir’s HealthPro Plus in the past, but never regarding pet dander. An excellent machine for nearly every application, the HealthPro Plus performs exceptionally well for pet related pollutants due to its unique combination of filters, internal sealing system, and build quality.

The HealthPro Plus includes a pre-filter, granulated activated carbon and impregnated activated alumina filter, and E12/H13 HEPA filter. Filters are installed in individual filter housing segments from top to bottom. The HEPA filter’s class varies between E12 and H13 depending on the machines airflow setting (airflow rates below 112 cfm keep the filter classified as a medical-grade H13, while higher flow rates reduce efficiency to E12).

IQAir uses a doubled-walled housing, rubber vibration padding on the motor, and an “EvenFlow” air diffuser to reduce noise created from operation and from our examination all of these features seem to work well. Just like our other top picks, the HealthPro Plus doesn’t use ionizers or UV to treat air, but rather works its magic through a completely mechanical purification process. Air is pulled from the bottom of the machine and suctioned through the filter arrangement until clean, purified air is released from the top (EvenFlow Diffuser).

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Key Factors to the Best Air Purifier for Pets

Pre-filter

  • Pre-filters are a necessary part of the filtration process when dealing with indoor animals. Large particulates in the air, like hair, can cause efficiency and lifespan reductions in carbon and HEPA filters.
  • Regularly clean your air purifier’s pre-filter to ensure maximum airflow through the primary filter array.

Carbon filter

  • Pets stink; it’s not their fault, just part of being a four-legged friend. An air purifier using an activated carbon filter as part of the overall air filtration process with help to reduce, or even completely eliminate, nasty odors from cats and dogs.
  • If you have an animal of the feline variety, try keeping your litter box close to the purifier – we’ve heard from air purifier owners this helps quite a bit.

HEPA filter

  • An absolute must for any kind air purification, HEPA filters remove the smallest of air particles from the air.
  • HEPA filters help to prevent the spread of bacteria, pollen, dust mite feces, and even fleas if used in conjunction with a HEPA vacuum cleaner.

Airflow

  • Air suctioned through an air purifier needs to be properly suppressed from escaping the machine until it has been completely processed through the filter array. Leaks between the intake and exhaust reduce a machine’s effectiveness exponentially, in some cases nearly completely nullifying the use of a machine at all.
  • In addition to ensuring internal seals are a part of an air purifier’s design, airflow patterns created by an air cleaner are important too.
  • Some machines unintentionally create air loops which recirculate air that’s just been cleaned – poor efficiency. Our analysis of intake and exhaust ports considered the optimal airflow design based on each machine’s unique physical characteristics.

Features To Look For

Automatic Mode

  • When coupled with an air quality sensor, an automatic function works well to ensure airflow settings are adjusted based on airborne pollutants detected.
  • We know it sounds odd, but some machines feature an “automatic” mode that’s controlled by a timer function only which isn’t truly automatic. Timer functions are convenient for setting machines to day/night cycles, but not as a true “set it and forget it” option.

Filter Indicator

  • While nearly all air purifier filters have a lifespan between twelve and thirty-six months (lifetime use varies greatly based on filter assembly and materials of construction), it isn’t easy for us busy folks to remember when it’s time to change our filters.
  • A filter indicator automatically detects changes in airflow across a filter and provides an audible or visual indication that filter efficiency has decreased and a new filter may be required.

Noise

  • You’re going to live with your air purifier so noise is an important aspect to consider. Most cleaners aren’t that loud on lower settings, but some can get a little fussy when turned up. Expect powerful units on maximum airflow settings to create between 80 and 90 decibels (think blender on a medium setting).
  • If you’re planning on sleeping near your machine this point becomes even more critical. All of the machines on our list can be used comfortably without sacrificing quietness in your home.

Coverage

  • Maximum treatable area demonstrates a machine’s ability to not only effectively purifier a certain volume of air, but also the sheer suction power that a machine has available. ACH is a great number to refer to especially when comparing multiple units although, unfortunately the ACH number isn’t always advertised. When in doubt, go larger. If you require treatment of a space that’s 500 sq ft, it’s better to purchase a machine capable of treating 700 sq ft than one built for 499 sq ft.
  • The greater the suction, the more air being moved across the filter array, and the more effective a machine is at removing stubborn particulate.

Mistakes to Avoid

This really needs to be reiterated: without the incorporation of a pre-filter an air purifier meant to help against pet dander could be less effective due to carbon and HEPA filter blockage by larger particulates. Always check to make sure a pre-filter is part of the machines design for this application.

It may be tempting to try out a less expensive product, but be very cautious. We’ve found that many machines priced under $150 USD are often just too weak to properly pull in air around them.

One method that some less powerful machines will incorporate into the filtration process is ionization. Air ionizers charge particles so that negative and positive attractions retain impurities in the air, and while this technology can be used very effectively – most consumer products that feature ionization just don’t perform as they should. Another issue with ionizers is that they produce ozone which is a respiratory irritant at specific parts per million. Again, some machines utilize ionization very well – but you’ll need to do your homework carefully.

What Else You Should Think About

When composing this piece, we had quite a bit of feedback regarding just removing animals from the home, but as pet owners ourselves we realize that sometimes that isn’t a reasonable solution to the problem. As additional steps to combat allergies caused by indoor pets, consider using hypoallergenic shampoos, as well as regularly vacuuming with a vacuum that incorporates a HEPA filter of its own.

Doing these things in combination with running the best air purifier for pets works well to eliminate irritating sources of allergies that can hide in your home. If you’re looking for an air purifier to treat a wider variety of pollutants, check out our air purifier comparison article as a general guide on the subject.

Our top pick as Editor’s Choice/Best Air Purifier for Pets, Austin Air’s Healthmate Standard is an excellent choice for reducing airborne pollutants that could be causing asthma attacks and/or irritating allergies. We’ve personally tested this unit and it’s one of the best units for consumers with animals in their home!