7 Great Gifts for Beer Lovers

Different kinds of beers in different shaped glasses, fresh from the tap.
Master1305/Shutterstock

“I love beer” isn’t the stigmatized statement it used to be. With tons of high-quality beers available even in the most remote markets, being a beer snob (in the most positive sense) is A-OK. Here are some gift ideas for the beer lover in your life.

For Just the Right Pour: Libbey Craft Brews Assorted Beer Glasses ($30)

A variety of beer glasses will prepare your recipient for properly pouring any brew.
A variety of beer glasses will prepare your recipient for properly pouring any brew. Libbey

One of the first things you learn about the different varieties of beer is that they’re best served in carefully-chosen glasses, bringing out the flavor and color of each brew. This starter set will give you one of each glass made specifically for the broader varieties of lager, porter, Belgian ale, hefeweizen, and two all-purpose pub glasses. Buy multiple kits if your gift recipient is often entertaining other beer lovers.

For Showing Off Their Collection: Bottlecap Displays (Various)

These state cutout bottlecap displays are perfect for local microbrews.
These state cutout bottlecap displays are perfect for local microbrews. Skyline Workshop

If your recipient likes beer so much that it’s a part of their home decor, then a bottle cap display might be the perfect addition. These wooden state cutouts are ideal for beer lovers who specialize in local microbrews, but more general displays can also be found in album or basket form. The more they drink, the faster they’ll decorate.

For Dependable Pop-Topping: “Bar Key” Bottle Openers ($12)

Classic bar keys make great, useful gifts.
Classic bar keys make great, useful gifts. KISEER

There must be a million different kinds of bottle openers out there, but for our money, nothing beats the classic bar key. These stainless steel openers are big and easy to grip, so the user won’t cramp up if they’re serving bottles by the dozen, and the loop at the end makes them easy to find on nails or pegs. But if you lose one, don’t worry: they’re also cheap enough to buy in bulk and spread around the house.

For the Perfect Serving Temperature: Whynter Beverage Fridge ($220)

A beverage fridge with specific temperature control is great for following serving suggestions.
A beverage fridge with specific temperature control is great for following serving suggestions. Whynter

Many craft beers and microbrews come with serving suggestions for temperature. Changing up your whole fridge for a single glass of beer isn’t very practical, but this handy beverage refrigerator comes with manual temperature control from the high 30 degrees Fahrenheit to the mid-60s, which should cover most beers. As a bonus, its clear door lets you show off what you’re currently chilling. The removable shelves allow the user to accommodate different sizes of bottles and cans.

For Dropping Some Beer Knowledge: Unlabeled Board Game ($30)

Unlabeled gives players the chance to show off a well-developed palate.
Unlabeled gives players the chance to show off a well-developed palate. Unlabeled

If your gift recipient fancies themselves an expert on every possible type of beer, then get them this board game to prove it—or knock them down a peg. Get a party going and tell each guest to bring a bottle of unlabeled beer, then take turns seeing who can guess the style or even the precise label. Naturally, it’s the kind of game that gets more entertaining the longer you decide to keep playing it.

For Sharing the Love: EdgeStar KC2000 Kegerator ($469)

A kegerator gives you a perfect bar-style pour, chilled beer, and a full keg capacity at home.
A kegerator gives you a perfect bar-style pour, chilled beer, and a full keg capacity at home. EdgeStar

Nothing beats the taste of a beer right from the tap. For those who won’t accept anything less, a kegerator (combination keg cooler and bar-style tap for pouring) is a great investment in a home bar, patio, or deck. This model is relatively inexpensive and can handle a full-sized keg from your local distributor or wholesale vendor. The CO2 tank for the tap can be mounted internally or externally.

For Those Curious About Homebrew: Northern Brewer Craft Beer Making Kit ($50-60)

This homebrew beer kit comes in six different varieties.
This homebrew beer kit comes in six different varieties. Northern Brewery

The ultimate expression of beer appreciation is making your own, and it’s surprisingly easy. Previously the “Mr. Beer” line was the go-to pick for an introductory course in the craft of homebrewing, but Northern Brewer has beaten out this mainstay with a simpler, cheaper kit design that has the same high-quality results. You can even choose which type of beer you’d like to start with: variations of the kit come with the ingredients to brew your own wheat, brown ale, Irish red, IPA, double IPA, or pumpkin ale. Select which one you’d like on the Amazon page, and keep the instructions and tools to make variations for a truly customized drinking experience.

The Best Products to Keep Your Apartment Cool

This collection of gadgets will keep your place cool all summer long.
Michael Crider

Summer’s coming, and so is sweaty misery, if you’re in an area that bakes during the hottest part of the day. Even the most powerful AC systems sometimes can’t keep up, but you can help keep your home cool with these low-tech solutions.

For this list, we’ve focused on standard items that don’t need elaborate installations, for those who can’t afford full home systems or can’t install much in the way of hardware since they’re renting. (Landlords don’t always see powerful, efficient air conditioning as a priority for their tenants.)

We’re going to focus on two options here: air cooling and circulation, with things like fans and portable/non-permanent air conditioning units, and heat exclusion, keeping heat and light outside of your home. Check out our selections below.

The Best Window-mounted AC Unit: GE AEM08LX ($289)

This LG in-window AC unit is easy to set up and operate.
This LG in-window AC unit is easy to set up and operate. LG

A window-mounted air conditioner has the best bang-for-your-buck in terms of immediate cooling power. Although it’s limited to a single room, this GE model can blast you with blessed freon-cooled air without the expense or power draw of a full central AC system.

At a little under $300, it’s also inexpensive enough that it can supplement an existing system if it’s not doing the job for a bedroom or office, or stand on its own for an external garage or workshop. You may need a bit of help installing it if you can’t lift the 60-pound unit, but it comes with an installation bracket and plastic blocker in the box. Once it’s set up, plug it into a standard outlet, and you’ll get a blast of cold air right away.

The Best Portable AC Unit: Whynter ARC-14S ($480)

A portable AC unit is pricey, but more flexible than a semi-permanent window installation.
A portable AC unit is pricey but more flexible than a semi-permanent window installation. Whynter

For those who don’t have the option of a semi-permanent window installation or need to be able to move the AC from room to room, a portable solution will serve them best. We have a whole roundup dedicated to portable AC units, but the best overall pick is the Whynter ARC-14S.

With a massive 14000 BTU output, it can cool a single 500-square foot room or supplement cooling for something larger like a living room. You still need to find a window for the exhaust air and humidity, but it can be set up and broken down in just a couple of minutes.

The Best Window Fan Unit: Holmes HAWF-2041 ($43)

Holmes dual-blade window fan
A compact dual-blade window fan is a great way to get the hot air out and cool air in. Holmes

If your budget won’t stretch to an AC unit or you only need an occasional burst of cool air, this Holmes window fan might suit your purposes better. The dual fan design sits in your window and expands to fit, with options for drawing in cool air, blowing out hot air, or running the twin fan blades in opposite directions for full air exchange. It’s an excellent solution for anyone who doesn’t want an elaborate installation or needs to move from one uncomfortably hot room to another. And the price makes it reasonable to pick up two of them—then you can position them so one fan is pulling in cool air and one is pushing out hot air across your room or apartment.

The Best Air Circulating Fan: Lasko 20″ QuickMount ($70)

This powerful circulating fan can stand on its own or mount to the wall.
This powerful circulating fan can stand on its own or mount to the wall. Lasko

A traditional floor fan might be all you need if you just want a little air circulation. If that’s the case, skip the fancy futuristic designs for this more conventional 20-inch Lasko fan. There’s some deceptively smart design packed into this unit: the controls are on the front, unlike many high-air-volume models, and its V-shaped bracket can be used on a floor or table or hung on the wall with the included steel mount.

The Best Heat-Blocking Blinds: Belle Max Honeycomb Cellular Shades ($30)

Foil-lined, chambered blinds can keep out huge amounts of light and heat.
Foil-lined chambered blinds can keep out huge amounts of light and heat. Belle Max

Read the remaining 6 paragraphs

Lenovo Smart Clock Review: A Near-Perfect Smarthome Bedroom Companion

Michael Crider

Last year Google impressed the tech world with the Home Hub, an excellent smarthome management tool and miniature entertainment center. Lenovo’s Smart Clock, despite the disparate branding, is a smaller sequel. And it’s every bit as good.

Sporting a 4-inch screen, a 6-watt speaker, an understated cloth-covered design, and excellent integration with Google’s Assistant and Home systems, the Smart Clock is a fantastic add-on to any compatible smarthome setup. But what surprised me is that, thanks to some smart design choices, it makes a great little bedside alarm clock in its own right. And at $80, only a bit over half the price of the Home Hub and a reasonable $30 more than the Home Mini, it’s also an excellent value.

The Smart Clock is a great product that gets an unreserved recommendation. It’s a nearly perfect gadget if you want a Home Mini with a display, or just an alarm clock with a few web-enabled tools and audio options.

Smart, Understated Physical Design

The Smart Clock looks at first glance like a miniaturized Google Home Hub. The understated grey cloth covering means it will fit into almost any home decor. And it’s small enough to fit anywhere, too: about the size of a soda can. In terms of absolute volume, it’s only a little bigger than the Home Mini.

The Lenovo Smart Clock with the smaller Google Home Mini and larger Home Hub.
The Lenovo Smart Clock with the smaller Google Home Mini and larger Home Hub. Michael Crider

But where the Home Mini is designed for voice commands only, with touch controls thrown in as an afterthought, the Smart Clock expects you to interact with it in a much more tactile fashion. Only two physical buttons are on top, volume up and down, with an invisible sensor between it for touch. (More on that later.)

The screen is unblemished with any physical controls, though if you look closely you can spot two microphones straddling a light sensor on the top bezel. There’s no camera to be found. In the rear, you have a proprietary power cable (no internal battery), a microphone on-off switch, and a full-sized USB port for easily charging any phone.

All the controls and inputs, aside from the screen: volume, power, USB charging, mic switch.
All the controls and inputs, aside from the screen: volume, power, USB charging, mic switch. Michael Crider

And that’s it. The slanted body and cloth covering are reminiscent of Google’s home products instead of the original bamboo-covered Lenovo Smart Speaker. But with its size and tactility, I’m reminded of the Chumby, a nifty web-powered, small-screened gadget from 2008. It was also positioned as a connected alarm clock, among other things. Chumby is long dead, but I think its unique design (if not its independent, hack-friendly spirit) lives on in the Smart Clock.

A Perfect “Goldilocks” Gadget

The original Google Home speaker is ostensibly the product between the Home Hub, with its seven-inch screen and decent speaker, and the Home Mini, a tiny screen-free, USB-powered booster point for smarthome voice commands. Lenovo appears to have built the Smart Clock as both a replacement for the original Home (in terms of price) and a midpoint between the Home Mini and the Home Hub (in terms of features).

Setup via the standard Google Home app is quick and easy.
Setup via the standard Google Home app is quick and easy. Michael Crider

The Smart Clock nails this midpoint, giving users the screen interactions of the Home Hub with the size and accessibility of the Home Mini. Standard Google Assistant voice commands are easy to use, as expected, and the usual lights, music, and pre-programmed smarthome routines are accessible from the screen if you want more fine control. Actual management is best left to the Home app on your phone, but accessing anything you’ve already installed and set up from the Smart Clock is a breeze.

Read the remaining 16 paragraphs

Anker Infini Pro Review: a Super-Simple Sound Bar That Hits the Right Notes

Anker's Soundcore Infini Pro is an impressive upgrade over its budget options.
Anker

Anker is a well-known brand in the mobile space: the company’s battery packs and other accessories are simple, functional, and thrifty. Anker hopes to bring that same vibe to its Soundcore sub-brand, now expanding into home theater.

The Infini series consists of two cheaper soundbars, the standard and “Mini,” both offering stereo sound at under a hundred bucks. But the Infini Pro is an interesting proposal from Anker: premium, powerful sound, with a simple setup that appeals to non-audiophiles who want better audio from their TV.

It uses a 2.1 setup with an integrated subwoofer and very few frills in terms of connections or settings but adds in Dolby’s Atmos kinda-sorta-surround sound and Bluetooth to help justify the higher $250 price tag.

And for the most part, it succeeds. Anker’s minimalist approach to design will undoubtedly be welcome by people who don’t know—or care—what ARC or optical audio cables are. The simple setup makes it easy to get good sound from more or less anything with barely any thought. This comes at the expense of flexibility and a higher cost—$250 might be more than some are willing to spend.

Keep It Simple, Soundbar

Building off the critical success of the Infini and Infini Mini, Anker keeps things simple with the Pro. At a little over three feet wide and 4.5 inches deep, the bar is bigger than many in this price range but justifies the size with the integrated subwoofer and top-firing Atmos speakers hiding behind the fabric wrapping.

The upward-firing Atmos subwoofer drivers are hard to spot: notice the circles on either side of the control cluster.
The upward-firing Atmos subwoofer drivers are hard to spot: notice the faint circles on either side of the control cluster. Michael Crider

There’s something notable in its absence, however: a screen. Even cheap soundbars often include a small LED for basic audio and source management, but the Infini Pro does without.  Instead, it uses a short row of LEDs, opposite the hardware buttons on the top of the central unit, to indicate connection and input status.

The Infini Pro is a little over three feet wide, with dedicated tweeters, woofers, and subwoofers.
The Infini Pro is a little over three feet wide, with dedicated tweeters, woofers, and subwoofers. Michael Crider

On its own, that’s not a bad idea. Keeping the user interface to a minimum is a good call for something that’s going to be sitting in front of your TV. But while the LEDs are pleasantly obscured when you’re watching from a chair or couch, that means you’ll need to stand up to see if the input you’ve modified has any effect. It’s a surprising whiff in terms of usability.

A Bluetooth-powered app is available, but doesn't offer any more options versus the remote.
There’s a Bluetooth-powered app, but it doesn’t offer any more options than the remote. Michael Crider

Elsewhere in the box, you get some minimal documentation and an infrared remote, which has a simplified control setup that looks very similar to the mini remotes from Roku, Apple TV, et al. The remote is minimalism done right, with an intuitive layout that nonetheless manages to find a logical spot for every function. After a couple of days, I could control everything I needed to without relying on a backlight. Which is good, since the remote doesn’t have one. You’ll also get some small, flush brackets for mounting the soundbar to a wall.

Not Looking For a Hookup

The Infini Pro’s input options are a bit sparse, but they should get the job done for the vast majority of users. HDMI pass-through and HDMI ARC will take care of things for most TV and receiver connections—though if you have an audio receiver, I doubt you’d be looking for an all-in-one soundbar solution. Optical audio input and a standard headphone jack are there if you want to keep things even simpler. The rear panel includes what looks like a USB 3.0 port, but the manual says it’s for service only: it can’t be used for an audio connection or directly loading local music.

The Infini Pro offers standard HDMI, HDMI-ARC, optical audio, and a headphone jack.
The Infini Pro offers standard HDMI, HDMI-ARC, optical audio, and a headphone jack. Michael Crider

Read the remaining 12 paragraphs

The Best Video Editing Software for Beginners

Digital video camera recording an interview between two women
Zodiacphoto/Shutterstock

Video editing isn’t an easy skill, even for the technically-inclined. It doesn’t help that the software to do it is generally expensive. If you’re hoping to get into video editing without spending a bundle, we have a few suggestions.

We’ve made selections for both paid and free options on standard PCs, plus the obvious choice for macOS. For those of you who are limited to a smartphone or tablet, we also have an app pick, plus one for users who are confined to web-only interfaces. Whatever your platform or budget, you should be able to use at least one of the software options below.

The Best Paid Video Editor for Beginners: Corel VideoStudio Pro ($70)

Corel is a software company that’s been around for longer than many of their users have been alive (no, really, the company was founded over 30 years ago), and that experience shows. Their beginner-friendly VideoStudio video editor is an ideal choice for those looking to get started.

For one, its interface isn’t as complex or advanced as Adobe’s options (even Premiere Elements is a little overwhelming), but it still contains some of the basic principles that you’ll need to master if you ever want to move on to more advanced editing. That said, it’s perfectly capable of basic timeline and effects if all you need is a simple presentation or YouTube video. At under $100 for the full version—with a 30-day free trial if you’re still not sure—the 2019 edition of the software is an excellent choice for the aspiring videographer.

The Best Free Video Editor for Beginners: HitFilm Express

HitFilm Express offers a surprisingly capable editor for free, though some options require a paid upgrade.
HitFilm Express offers a surprisingly capable editor for free, though some options require a paid upgrade. HitFilm

Most free video editing software is a little basic, but HitFilm Express includes a system that can handle surprisingly advanced editing duties without overwhelming the user with a super-complex interface. The system also includes access to a few special effects—a great tool for youngsters or students hoping to make some fun stuff.

HitFilm includes unlimited audio and video tracks—not a given with free software—but you may need to purchase some of the add-on packs to access the most advanced features. You can see which features are free and which are paid here.

The Best Mobile Video Editor for Beginners: Quik

GoPro's Quik smartphone editor offers more options and a better interface than any alternatives.
GoPro’s Quik smartphone editor offers more options and a better interface than any alternatives. GoPro

Editing video on a phone screen is not an easy task: the touch-based interface means the precision of a mouse isn’t really an option. But if you’re looking for something quick and dirty for an easy share or YouTube upload, and your phone’s built-in editor isn’t cutting it (sorry), then give Quik a try.

This free app is published by GoPro, the action camera people, specifically to be used with their camera hardware. But it works great with video taken on your phone as well. It can even sync with a music track, and it supports advanced video options like slow motion and 60 FPS output.

The Best Web-Based Video Editor for Beginners: Kizoa

Kizoa offers basic editing tools when your only option is a browser.
Kizoa offers basic editing tools when your only option is a browser. Kizoa

Read the remaining 5 paragraphs