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http://www.pcmag.com Latest Articles From PC Mag http://www.pcmag.com/images/pcm_rss_logo.gif http://www.pcmag.com Copyright 2011 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. PCMOnline@ziffdavis.com?subject=RSS_Query 60 en-us Email marketing and marketing automation are similar practices.

However, marketing automation gives you more personalized, more recurrent, and more automated customer communication opportunities. http://www.pcmag.com/roundup/352693/the-best-marketing-automation-software?source=SectionArticles Zoho Campaigns’ limited templates and dated user interface keep it from reaching best-in-class status. http://www.pcmag.com/review/343727/zoho-campaigns-email-marketing?source=SectionArticles Using the internet on your Android phone isn’t as secure or private as you might think. Fortunately, you can protect your mobile communications with a secure virtual private network (or VPN) app. http://www.pcmag.com/roundup/348411/the-best-android-vpn-apps?source=SectionArticles Website monitoring service SmartBear AlertSite has great real-time alerting capabilities, strong monitoring and reports across platforms, and its highly configurable both in its user interface and its pricing for SMBs and enterprises. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2492703,00.asp?source=SectionArticles Ghostery MCM is highly focused on front-end monitoring through third-party tag tracking. This is both innovative and valuable, but as it lacks many other core website monitoring capabilities it’ll be more of an addition to your IT tool kit rather than a foundation. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2492701,00.asp?source=SectionArticles For IT professionals and serious website operators, Pingdom has it all – strong monitoring, excellent analytics, and advanced features, too.

The only downside is that all this goodness is wrapped in a difficult interface that requires a steep learning curve to leverage. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2492702,00.asp?source=SectionArticles Dynatrace UEM is a surprisingly intuitive and well designed website monitoring tool with excellent reporting and dashboards. While it could use some additional capabilities around APM, synthetic monitoring, and some other advanced features, it’s still an excellent choice for medium to large-sized operators. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2492700,00.asp?source=SectionArticles Small companies, new sellers, and design experts will love the gorgeous and powerful websites you’ll be able to create. Unfortunately, the tool won’t scale well for larger companies that have lots of inventory and third-party software needs. http://www.pcmag.com/review/355705/wix-stores?source=SectionArticles Although GoDaddy GoCentral Online Store is a solid choice for new site builders, its functionality is limited compared to some of the more dominant players in the category.

Test this tool if you’re looking to get started quickly and make adjustments via mobile. http://www.pcmag.com/review/355900/godaddy-gocentral-online-store?source=SectionArticles Apple Music boasts exclusive albums and Siri and Apple Watch compatibility, but this well-rounded streaming music service falls short of toppling Slacker Radio. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2487092,00.asp?source=SectionArticles Zoho Books may not have strong name recognition in the realm of accounting software, but it tops many competitors in terms of depth, capabilities, and customization. The lack of integrated payroll, however, is its most serious deficit. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2486499,00.asp?source=SectionArticles HostGator is a reliable Web hosting service that’s simple to use and offers an array of useful plans for consumers and small businesses. It’s our top pick for novice webmasters. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2423475,00.asp?source=SectionArticles Bluetooth earphones don’t get much more affordable than the Skullcandy Jib Wireless, which packs a strong bass punch for the price. http://www.pcmag.com/review/353781/skullcandy-jib-wireless?source=SectionArticles Act-On is one of the best marketing automation suites on the market.

But can you afford all that it has to offer? http://www.pcmag.com/review/353288/act-on?source=SectionArticles Novelists, screenwriters, book authors, and bloggers: Look no further for the best dedicated tool for your craft. http://www.pcmag.com/article/352505/the-best-writing-apps?source=SectionArticles Although the Monoprice 27-Inch Premium Series IPS WQHD is a nice-looking monitor with an affordable price tag, it comes up short on performance and features. http://www.pcmag.com/review/353374/monoprice-27-inch-premium-series-ips-wqhd-monitor?source=SectionArticles Pardot is one of the best marketing automation tools on the market. It packs a breadth of wonderful features into a system even a novice marketer can use. If you can afford its high price, then you should probably pony up the cash. http://www.pcmag.com/review/352561/pardot?source=SectionArticles If you’re a startup or a growing small business, then HubSpot has designed its business with you in mind.

The tool will scale with the smallest micro business to the largest enterprise, without disrupting your operations. http://www.pcmag.com/review/352587/hubspot?source=SectionArticles Infusionsoft is an easy-to-use CRM and email marketing platform geared toward small businesses.

It’s not the cheapest or the most in-depth, but the goal-oriented platform succeeds at helping businesses hit measurable sales and marketing goals. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2474084,00.asp?source=SectionArticles One consumer tech website found that PC manufacturers overstate battery life, but measuring it meaningfully can be challenging. http://www.pcmag.com/news/352826/are-laptop-battery-life-claims-bogus?source=SectionArticles

The Best Earphones (In-Ear Headphones) of 2017

Earphones vs. Earbuds

If you’re a music lover, chances are you’re not happy with your phone or media player’s bundled earphones. Most of the time, they sound pretty dismal.

Some devices don’t come with any earphones at all, but even the models that do include them tend not to offer a high-quality listening experience. Your music and video can definitely benefit from an upgrade. Earbuds are not earphones, as they don’t enter your ear canal.

Instead they sit just outside of it, where it’s easy to become loose and cause problems when it comes to accurate stereo images (in which both ears get the same amount of audio) and bass response. You often get earbuds bundled with phones or other devices. Earphones fit in the ear canal and form a seal inside your ear, blocking outside noise while piping sound directly into your ears.

They’re much smaller and lighter than headphones, since they don’t need to fit on or over your ears and don’t require any outside support (though some have stiff wire sections or flexible fins to keep them in place without getting in the way). Plus they won’t mess up your hair. Here you’ll find the best in-ear models we’ve tested.

Wired, Wireless, or Wire-Free?

Earphones can connect to your smartphone through a 3.5mm cable or wirelessly over Bluetooth, depending on the model.

Wired earphones are generally less expensive, and you don’t need to worry about keeping them charged. Bluetooth earphones are more convenient because you don’t have to physically connect them to your smartphone, but they need battery power to work. For the most part, you won’t find a 3.5mm port and removable cable on Bluetooth earphones; when they’re out of power, they’re out of commission until you charge them again.

There’s also true wireless earphones, which we also call wire-free. These are essentially Bluetooth earphones, but with no cable connecting the individual earpieces.

It took a solid year for the bugs to get shaken out of this category, with issues like short battery life and awkward design plaguing early devices. We’re starting to see some very compelling wire-free earphones now, with companies like Bose and JLab offering sets with the power, longevity, and intuitive controls necessary for us to recommend them. Typically wire-free earphones are more expensive than conventional wireless earphones, but if that wire running between the earpieces is a constant nuisance for you, it could be a worthy purchase.

Good for Workouts

Earphones might not be as eye-catching as headphones, but they can be much more convenient.

Besides their size and weight, earphones are often more resilient than headphones when dealing with moisture. This is important if you want to listen to music at the gym. Earpads can get soaked and worn with a solid sweat, and they aren’t built to withstand the regular, constant friction that comes with working out.

Earphones can be built to be water- and sweat-resistant, and hold up much better to activity. Besides the rugged factor, earphones are also much better for staying on your head while you’re in motion. A good set of headphones will feel comfortable when you’re sitting or walking around, but when you start running or biking they can easily shake free of your ears.

Fitness-oriented earphones often have stabilizing fins built in to them to ensure that they’ll stay in place no matter what you do at the gym. For the best options, check out our list of The Best Headphones for Running[1].

Not all earphones are workout-friendly, though; don’t assume your earphones will handle what you throw at them unless they’re fitness-oriented earphones, or at least are explicitly listed as water- and sweat-resistant. Really pricey earphones can be as fragile as really pricey headphones, and you don’t want to accidentally ruin a £200 pair with ear sweat.

Caring for Your Earphones

Whichever model you choose, make sure to use the included pouch or carrying case as often as possible in order to preserve the longevity of your earphones. Balling them up, shoving them into a pocket, and then untangling them each time you want to listen does more to wear them out prematurely than just about anything else.

Wire-free earphones typically come with charging cases that are easily pocketable and keep the earphones’ batteries topped off, making care for them a bit easier. If you don’t want to get tripped up on wires, check out the Best Wireless Headphones[2]. If you place a priority on blocking out external sounds so that you can enjoy your favorite music in peace and quiet, read the Best Noise-Canceling Headphones[3].

And if you’re shopping on a budget, scan our picks for The Best Headphones Under £50[4].

References

  1. ^ The Best Headphones for Running (www.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ Best Wireless Headphones (www.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ Best Noise-Canceling Headphones (www.pcmag.com)
  4. ^ The Best Headphones Under £50 (www.pcmag.com)

The Best Wireless Speakers of 2017

Cut the Cord

Wireless speakers are everywhere these days. Big, small, expensive, cheap, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. The sheer choice can seem overwhelming, but this our top picks are sure to have at least one speaker that’s right for you.

Before anything else, though, you need to decide how you want to go wireless.

Bluetooth or Wi-Fi?

Bluetooth is the most common wireless music streaming standard, but it isn’t the only one. Bluetooth is a point-to-point wireless system, pairing a transmitter (your phone) with a receiver (your speaker) to play music. It’s very direct and easy to set up, and can stream pretty high-quality music thanks to technological advancements that have greatly improved Bluetooth audio fidelity over what it was a few years ago.

Bluetooth generally doesn’t have any multi-room tricks in itself, though some speakers can set up stereo pairs with the help of an app, while others can create a wireless mesh among multiple speakers for multi-room audio. It isn’t quite as high-fidelity or as powerful as Wi-Fi multi-room, however.

Wi-Fi audio includes standards like Apple AirPlay and Google Cast, along with various manufacturers’ own Wi-Fi streaming platforms, like Sonos. Wi-Fi can handle more bandwidth than Bluetooth, so it can support higher fidelity audio.

It can also integrate into your home network, so you can easily play audio from any device connected to your Wi-Fi without pairing anything. The trade-off is that Wi-Fi music systems generally require a Wi-Fi network to connect to, so they can’t be used portably with your smartphone like Bluetooth speakers. The different Wi-Fi standards also mean various services might or might not be available to stream over the device, though this is less of a problem than it has been in the past thanks to Google Cast and Sonos’ lengthy lists of third-party services they support.

Most new speakers available feature some kind of wireless support, whether they’re clip-on bike speakers or big soundbars[1]. With some exceptions, any speaker you pick up at an electronics store will be able to stream audio either over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Your speaker might even be able to handle both wireless methods.

Check if your Wi-Fi speaker has a Bluetooth mode for using it on the go.

What Kind of Speaker?

Besides the type of wireless connection, you need to think about what style of speaker you want. Smaller, battery-powered speakers (usually Bluetooth) are useful because you can take them anywhere, but they don’t get particularly loud. Larger speakers generally offer fuller sound and richer bass, but they can be more expensive and are often not portable.

Many larger speakers need to be plugged into power at all times. This might seem inconvenient, but it has its advantages. The size and constant power means these speakers can get much louder than a tiny Bluetooth speaker you can toss in your bag.

They’re very handy options to just set in your living room and use whenever you want to listen to music at home. The Amazon Echo is a unique case; it isn’t very big or very powerful, but the always-plugged-in design ensures it stays within range of your home network so it can respond to voice commands and play music without a local source at all times. On the other end of the speaker flexibility spectrum are portable speakers.

Many Bluetooth speakers have built-in batteries and can easily be used anywhere, not just hooked up in your living room. These are generally less powerful than the bigger, stationary speakers, and often a bit less expensive, too. Besides single speakers, you can also find stereo pairs designed for desktop computers[2] and home theater speaker systems like soundbars, soundplates, and home-theaters-in-a-box.

These speakers are obviously not portable at all, but if you want a centerpiece sound system for your living room or office they’re likely your best choice.

Voice Assistants

Voice assistants let you simply tell your speaker what to play instead of looking through your smartphone. They were initially very limited, closed systems only available on first-party devices, like Alexa on the Amazon Echo and Google Assistant on the Google Home[3], but that’s steadily changing. More and more third-party speakers are integrating some form of voice assistant, like the Sonos One and Alexa.

These voice assistants are useful for more than just playing music. You can ask them for weather forecasts, sports scores, unit conversions, and even language translation. They also generally support third-party skills that let you do anything from order pizza to play trivia games.

If you have other smart home devices[4], you might even be able to integrate them as well, letting you control the lights and thermostat with your voice.

For more, check out the latest wireless speaker system reviews in the Speakers Product Guide[5], as well as The Best Bluetooth Speakers[6].

References

  1. ^ soundbars (www.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ desktop computers (www.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ Google Home (www.pcmag.com)
  4. ^ smart home devices (www.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ Speakers Product Guide (www.pcmag.com)
  6. ^ The Best Bluetooth Speakers (www.pcmag.com)

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