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8 essential summer gadgets

Consumer Reports News

Action camcorder
Want video of snorkeling or windsurfing? Enter action (or sports) camcorders. They're compact, rugged, and often waterproof, and they attach to clothes, helmet, or handlebars for hands-free use. Just don't expect many features; even viewfinders and LCDs are rare among the dozen or so models we tested. For more info, see our camcorder buying guide and Ratings.

The GoPro Hero3 White Edition ($200, at right), a recommended model, weighs just 2.6 ounces (5.5 with case), captures good-quality high-def video and photos, and has a long battery life. With built-in Wi-Fi and an optional remote, you can send video to a smart phone or tablet


Just about any headphones will work with your tablet or phone. We've picked two in-ear models with very good sound that are also sensitive enough to provide adequate volume even from low-powered portable devices. For more info, see our headphones buying guide and Ratings.

The Klipsch Image S4i ($100, shown at right) are cool-looking and have a three-button inline remote control that lets you answer and end calls on most smart phones and some cell phones. And the Sennheiser CX 215 ($30), a CR Best Buy, has unusual contoured shells that can be easily gripped by your fingers; it comes in five funky colors.

Find out all about the latest evolutions in portable gadgets: Read "8 trends in mobile devices."


E-book readers
Amazon Kindles and Barnes & Noble Nooks are leading choices; they offer fine performance and access to an extensive selection of titles. Unlike Nooks, which require a corded connection, Kindles wirelessly accept most e-books borrowed from public libraries. From among our recommended models, we've selected the lowest-priced Nook and Kindle readers with a built-in light, along with a lower-priced, non-lighted sibling. For more infor, see our e-book reader buying guide and Ratings.

The Kindle Paperwhite with Special Offers ($120) offers outstanding contrast and resolution, making it the best e-ink screen we've tested. But it carries ads and offers on the screen saver and along the bottom of the library screen. (An ad-free version costs $140.) The Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight ($120) is the original lit reader. It comes with antiglare coating that slightly improves readability in bright light. The Nook Simple Touch ($80) is essentially the Glowlight Nook minus the light. The antiglare coating is a $20 option that's worth considering but not essential. And the Kindle with Special Offers ($70), a CR Best Buy, is the least expensive Kindle and a fine performer that carries ads. (An ad-free version costs $90.)


Wireless portable speakers
Pipe music into a battery-powered speaker via a wired or wireless Bluetooth connection and you'll enjoy better and louder sound from your smart phone or tablet. Most new smart phones and tablets support Bluetooth. The TDK Life on Record ($150), a Bluetooth speaker, costs less and sounds better than the trendy Beats by Dr. Dre Pill and Jawbone Jambox, though it's a bit larger. It's easy to use and is designed to resist dust and water. You can use it as a speaker phone with a Bluetooth-compatible phone, and its USB port will charge an iPod or iPhone. For more info, see our Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speaker systems buying guide and Ratings.

Need a different kind of gadget? Check our tablet buying guide and Ratings and our smart phone buying guide and Ratings for tips, advice, and reviews.

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