Blue Yeti X Microphone Review: Return of the King

The Yeti X, the sequel to the phenomenal Blue Yeti, hits all the right notes.
Michael Crider

Following up on the Blue Yeti, the undisputed king of prosumer USB microphones, is not an easy task. When it seems every podcaster and streamer on the planet has one, how will Blue convince you to buy it again?

The answer is by making small but appreciable refinements to the beloved formula. The Yeti X streamlines the formula that made the original so fantastic, with new features that make it even easier for novices to make great recordings. Interface tweaks and a handy live level readout are the biggest improvements, but the new software is a welcome addition, too.

There might not be enough here to demand an upgrade if you’re happy with your original Yeti, but the Yeti X has surpassed the original and ensures that Blue holds onto its crown for years to come.

I’ve Heard This Song Before

If you’re familiar with the original Yeti, the new Yeti X won’t seem like a revolutionary change. It’s still a big, beefy, and oh-so-satisfying microphone, covered in steel with a handsome and sturdy stand. The unit we were sent is all black with a dark chrome finish beneath the mic element and on the bottom of the base. It seems Blue is switching from its default grey finish to a matte black—it makes sense, given the focus on streamers over podcasters. Almost all of these elements have carried over from the smaller Yeti Nano.

The microphone controls have been condensed, and made even more useful.
The microphone controls have been condensed and made even more useful. Michael Crider

The cylindrical body of the Yeti has been squared off a bit; this is technically called a “squircle,” if you can bring yourself to say it without cringing. Beneath the prominent Blue logo (that’s the company, not the color—the logo is black), the volume dial and mute button have been combined into a single dial with a built-in button. When you plug the microphone in, you’ll see that the ring around this dial has some LED elements. More on that later.

Around back you’ll see that the recording mode dial has been replaced with a single button, which is easy to pick out without looking. It has the same four recording modes, indicated with a new LED light: cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional and bidirectional. Tilt the mic up on its stand, and you’ll see the same headphone jack and power/data port the original Yeti used. Only now, since it’s 2019, the MiniUSB port has been replaced with USB-C.

On the bottom is the mount, headphone jack, and $%@&ing MicroUSB port.
On the bottom are the mount, headphone jack, and $%@&ing MicroUSB port. Michael Crider

Haha, just kidding. It’s MicroUSB. And it’s bull. Complete, utter bull that this microphone revision that’s years in the making is using a cheap, outdated cable. Appropriately, I had trouble with the included MicroUSB cable, which I had to immediately replace with one of my own to keep it reliably connected to my PC. It’s really the only sour spot in the physical design. Seriously, Blue, why the hell would you—

[Editor’s note: at this point, the reviewer ranted for several hundred words about how much he hates seeing MicroUSB ports on new products. We’ve tactfully removed this section, and direct you to his nearly identical editorial if you want to read that sort of thing.]

Dial It Up

Remember when Apple condensed the inner and outer buttons on the original iPod into a streamlined, all-in-one design on the iPod Mini? Blue has done something similar with the physical controls of the Yeti X. Only better.

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I Freakin’ Love the Logitech G603 Wireless Gaming Mouse

The G603 is the best mouse I've ever used.
Michael Crider

Fair warning: This isn’t a review, it’s a love letter. I’m going to use 800 words to shamelessly spill praise on my favorite gaming mouse. Come along and watch, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The Logitech G603 was released in 2017. As a fan of Logitech mice in general and their gaming mice in particular, I snapped it up for myself as an upgrade to the similar G403 Wireless. It hasn’t left my desk since—even when I’m reviewing other mice, I often need to return to my comfort zone for an extended gaming session or distraction-free work. It’s become an essential part of my desk setup, every bit as cherished as my ridiculously-customized mechanical keyboard.

I freakin’ love it.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

The G603 is shaped identically to the older G403, a “shooter” style gaming mouse with a relatively high back, two thumb buttons, and a DPI switch above the scroll wheel. The older design uses a rechargeable battery, RGB LED lights on the scroll wheel and logo, and a small cavity on the bottom of the body where you can add or subtract a little weight.

The entire top of the mouse pops off to access the AA batteries.
The entire top of the mouse pops off to access the AA batteries. Michael Crider

The G603 does away with all three of those features, with a huge redesign that’s not obvious from the exterior: You can pop open its hood like it’s a little plastic muscle car. Popping it on and off is easy but secure, thanks to a few small, strategically-placed magnets.

Inside you’ll find space for two standard AA batteries instead of a rechargeable battery, and a bay for the USB dongle when you go on the road. Those AA batteries might seem old-fashioned, but in fact, they’re the key to the G603’s genius: It lasts freakin’ forever.

It Keeps Going and Going and Going. . .

How long is the battery life? I honestly couldn’t give you a precise answer. On Amazon-branded rechargeable AAs, I get somewhere between six months and a year of use out of this thing, using the “High” setting on the bottom-mounted switch. It’s presumably the same tech powering Logitech’s “Marathon” branded wireless mice, the M705 and M720. (Which I also love. Platonically.) For a gaming mouse, even one that uses beefy AAs, that’s absolutely insane longevity—even the most long-lasting rechargeable wireless gaming mice get less than a week of battery life, thanks to those crazy high-powered sensors and low-latency connections.

Which is why the battery life on the G603 is astounding. It uses Logitech’s proprietary “Lightspeed” wireless USB connection to make latency more or less undetectable, and it has a 12,000 DPI laser sensor. That’s not the most ridiculous sensor out there, but it’s more than most gamers will ever be able to use effectively. And this thing is basically immortal compared to other wireless gaming mice. Even stripping out the LEDs from more conventional gaming mice, this shouldn’t be possible.

The G603 features Logitech "Lightspeed" and Bluetooth wireless.
The G603 features Logitech “Lightspeed” and Bluetooth wireless. Michael Crider

The only downside to this setup is that it’s rather heavy for a gaming mouse at five ounces (141 grams). I don’t mind. What can I say? I like my mice with a little heft—that’s just more of it to love.

Heavy Petting

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This 20,000 mAh RAVPower Battery Charges Up with Whatever Cable You Want 

RAVPower's latest battery has flexible inputs and outputs.
Michael Crider

Most portable batteries out there charge up with either a wall adapter or a MicroUSB port. The RAVPower Portable Charge PD 3.0 can handle that, or charge up with a USB-C or Lightning cable. It’s pretty handy.

The idea here is that you can recharge this 20,000 mAh battery with whichever cable you have around, no matter what that is. The MicroUSB and Lightning ports on the top edge can accept charge into the battery only, while the more flexible USB-C port can take charge in or dish it out at up to 18 watts for super-fast device recharges.

The battery can accept power from Lightning, USB-C, and MicroUSB cables.
The battery can accept power from Lightning, USB-C, and MicroUSB cables. Michael Crider

Two standard rectangular USB-A ports—one using Qualcomm’s proprietary QuickCharge 3.0 system, another with RAVPower’s self-branded “iSmart” system—round out the flexible I/O. All three output ports can be used at the same time. Here’s a quick rundown of the power ins and outs in watts:

  • MicroUSB (input only): Up to 18 watts
  • Lightning (input only): Up to 12 watts
  • USB-C (input and output): Up to 18 watts
  • QuickCharge USB (output only): Up to 18 watts
  • iSmart USB (output only): Up to 12 watts

In a nutshell: This thing can charge almost any mobile phone at its maximum rate, but it doesn’t have the oomph for bigger devices like USB-C laptops. The battery has a maximum output of three amps, so trying to charge multiple high-wattage devices at once isn’t going to work—when I tried, my Galaxy Note 8 lost its “fast-charging” status on the lockscreen.

The full LCD percentage readout is handy. Notice the blue icon for maximum speed input charging.
The full LCD percentage readout is handy. Notice the blue icon for maximum speed input charging. Michael Crider

All that flexibility is nice, but the unit itself has some slick touches, too. Instead of the usual row of dots to indicate the remaining battery, it has a proper LCD screen beneath a bit of black plastic, showing the current battery charge level as a percentage readout. It even has a little blue indicator to tell you when it’s got a high input charge for faster refilling. And you’ll want to see that indicator since even at the maximum input, charging this 20,000 mAh battery will take several hours.

The package doesn't include a charging adapter, just a flimsy MicroUSB cable.
The package doesn’t include a charging adapter, just a flimsy MicroUSB cable. Michael Crider

And therein lies this battery’s one shortcoming: It doesn’t come with an easy way to juice it back up at maximum speed. The package has a single dinky USB-to-MicroUSB cable, just eight inches long. That’s it. If you plug the included cable into, say, a standard USB port on your PC or an older phone charger, it will take an entire day to recharge.

I wouldn’t expect a super-fancy charger to come with this $50 battery—very reasonable for the capacity and features—but a one-port wall-wart doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Perhaps RAVPower is assuming that, if you’re looking for a charger that can output high-watt electricity on so many ports, you already have an appropriate charger and cable.

The battery can handle output to three different devices at once.
The battery can handle output to three different devices at once. Michael Crider

That one omission aside, this is a sturdy battery that can take power in and dish it out, to and from pretty much anything smaller than a laptop. If you want something that can be refilled almost anywhere (and you’ve got a spare 18-watt charger lying around), go for it.

The Lenovo ThinkVision M14 Mobilizes My Multi-Monitor Addiction

The ThinkVision M14 connected to a laptop.
The ThinkVision M14 is a fantastic USB-C powered portable monitor. Michael Crider

When you go from a multi-monitor desktop PC to a laptop, it feels like switching from a sports car to a tricycle. But portable USB monitors can fix that problem, and Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 is the nicest one I’ve ever used.

The M14 is amazingly portable and flexible, and its ThinkPad-style fit and finish is unbeatable. You need a laptop or tablet with USB-C to use it, and it isn’t the cheapest option out there.

But if you want a second screen that’s ready to go anywhere, you should put the M14 at the top your shopping list.

Flawless Fold-Out Design

I’ve used multiple USB-powered portable monitors in the past. Usually, the case doubles as a floppy stand or there’s a weak plastic kickstand on the back. The M14 puts all of them to shame with its integrated design, which features a full, laptop-style hinge for the standing platform, and a small fold-out extender for a little extra height. The stand also holds both the USB-C charging/video ports, the power and brightness buttons, and a Kensington lock slot. The only thing on the screen is, well, screen.

The Lenova ThinkVision M14 two-part kickstand.
The two-part kickstand is the best I’ve ever used on a portable monitor. Michael Crider

When folded out, the base is incredibly stable anywhere within its 90-degree range of motion. That’s probably because the entire assembly is feather-light at just 1.26 pounds, with a 1/4-inch bezel around three sides. If you slip this thing into your laptop bag, you might forget it’s there.

The back of the Lenova ThinkVision M14 lying flat.
At just over one pound, the entire package is remarkably light and portable. Michael Crider

The fold-out stand also means the M14 fits on almost any desk or table that can accommodate its 13-inch width. When you fold it up, it’s just half an inch thick at its thickest point. And with USB-C ports on both sides to charge it, you can put the M14 pretty much anywhere.

USB-C All the Way

Speaking of those ports, they’re also pretty flexible. You can plug in a USB-C-to-C cable on either side of the screen to connect to your laptop or tablet, or any other device that adheres to the USB-C video-out standard.

And I do mean any device. In addition to its Lenovo cousin, the ThinkPad T490s, I tested the M14 monitor with a Chrome OS tablet, which immediately detected it and started sending correctly-formatted video. I also checked to see if it could charge my Galaxy Note 8 simultaneously. To my surprise, the phone also recognized the screen and activated the built-in Samsung DeX feature to output a desktop interface. Score one for standardized video!

A Samsung Galaxy Note 8 connected via USB-C to the M14, which displays the Samsung's DeX phone interface.
Compatibility with USB-C standards means the M14 even works for Samsung’s DeX phone interface. Michael Crider

You can also use the monitor as a pass-through for a USB-C charger. So, you can plug the screen into a laptop and run its LCD panel off the laptop’s battery. Or you can plug it into a charger on one side and use the other to send power to your laptop.

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The J&TOP Switch Dock Is Better and Cheaper Than Nintendo’s Original

This third-party Switch dock is better than the original in almost every way.
Michael Crider

Nintendo is really taking the piss with its Switch accessories. The $90 dock is a good example: if you need a second one for another TV, and the Switch is portable enough that you will. It’s a ridiculous expense.

Grab this generic one from Amazon vendor J&TOP instead. It does all of the same things that Nintendo’s first-party Switch dock does, at half the price. It’s even easier to use, thanks to a more straightforward, phone charger-style setup, with USB, HDMI, and charging ports that are evenly spread around its base.

The dock replicates all of the functions of Nintendo’s overpriced hunk of plastic, with a USB 3.0 and 2.0 port for accessories and charging other stuff, like extra controllers. It works as a kickstand, too, whether or not it’s plugged into anything.

The dock replicates all of the ports on Nintendo's hardware.
The dock replicates all of the ports on Nintendo’s hardware. Michael Crider

If for some reason you want to use the Switch’s screen on its own, you don’t even need to unplug the HDMI cable: just hit the button on the back of the dock, and it’ll cut off the video and audio output. That’s a niche use case, but again, it’s something you can’t do with Nintendo’s Switch dock, which completely covers the screen and speakers.

The third-party dock is about a third the size of the original---it travels well.
The third-party dock is about a third the size of the original—it travels well. Michael Crider

J&Top’s design is easy to travel with since it’s about one third the volume of the Nintendo dock. The only downside is that it doesn’t come with a compatible USB-C charger. (Nintendo’s dock has one in the box.) You’ll need a fairly specific one, too, since the Switch gets picky about its volts and amps—15 and 2.6, respectively. It also seems a little pickier when it comes to HDMI cables since I had to switch to a more high-quality one to avoid the occasional flicker.

It even shows off your Switch better when the screen isn't in use.
It even shows off your Switch better when the screen isn’t in use. Michael Crider

But even allocating an extra $15 or so for a second charger, this dock beats the original in pretty much every way, for half the price. Get one if you’re looking for an easier way to travel with your Switch, or you just want to use it on a second TV. It’s available in button-down black, or translucent green or purple if you want something a little more colorful.

Reviewer’s Note: I tested this with my Switch purchased in 2018. I can’t guarantee that it’ll work with the newer, longer-lasting model—though it should. I doubt it will work with the Switch Lite when it comes out, though since it doesn’t do video-out anyway, there wouldn’t be much point. I should also note that, quite a while ago, the Switch had some serious issues with third-party docks bricking units thanks to faulty USB-C compliance. That issue appears to have been resolved with a firmware update, and I didn’t experience anything like it.