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14
Nov

DU Speed Booster: Does what it claims, but can be intrusive (review)


screenshot_20161105-231647If you have a middle-aged Android device that seems to be working a little too hard nowadays, or if you fancy yourself a power user of multiple apps, you may find yourself looking into possibly installing a “speed-booster” type of app. screenshot_20161105-231655

These app market themselves as being useful in cleaning up your RAM, trash, security, and other functions to maximize performance. These aren’t games or productivity apps, but function more as utilities, working with your operating system to keep it running smooth and light.
One very popular option in the Play Store is DU Speed Booster, from DU Apps Studio. This is a free app available for download in the Play Store. They also offer other apps including standalone anti-virus, emoji keyboard, browser (really!), and photo editor.

DU Speed Booster offers multiple “boost” functions within a very clean, easy-to-use interface.
DU Speed Booster offers the following options in increase the speed of your device:

  • Phone Boost: Clears up RAM space. RAM is your fast, short-term memory; vital for running your apps and games.
  • Trash Cleaner: Cleans out your cache, system trash, and assorted downloaded files.
  • App Manager: Closes out apps running in the background, using up RAM and battery. Lots of common apps stay running in the background, searching for updates and notifications.
  • Security: Virus checker. Pretty self-explanatory.
  • Battery Saver: Combines the above to extend your battery’s life until needed charge.
  • Smart Charge: Visually shows your device’s charge level and charging speed (also shows ads).
  • Quiet Notifications: Silences your device’s beeps and chimes during time periods you define.

There’s a couple more additional features that are offered within DU Speed Booster that I’d like to expand upon:

The first is ‘Game Booster’; this feature maximizes your device’s capability to run your screenshot_20161105-231709favorite (and often resource-intensive). It does this by closing other apps that may be running in the background and such, to clear up RAM space for your game of choice. When you download the DU Speed Booster app, you actually get a second icon on your home screen for this Game Booster feature.

This is a bit interesting, because as it adds a second icon, it’s not really a second/separate app. By opening this icon you get the exact same interface and functions that are available in the Speed Booster app’s main menu screen. I am not sure I care for additional icons being forced onto you home screen (imagine Facebook automatically adding a Messenger icon upon downloading).

The second is ‘Network Booster’, which is a bit of a misnomer. This feature doesn’t screenshot_20161106-222851really boost anything; rather, it is a speed test app built within. Upon activating, it sends ping, download, and upload tokens out to the internet to quantify your current network speed (to see if you’re getting what you pay for).

These tests, while interesting, are truly a moment-in-time snapshot and not really a true measure of your network’s speed….so use these (not just this one) with a bit of caution.
For one, your day and/or time-of-day of testing can play a big part on your network’s performance. Example: My home network is fairly OK during the day, but once late evening comes along my speeds accelerate to at or above it’s advertised speed (check out the adjacent screenshot as an example).

Also, data is by its nature very bursty (is that a word?), meaning that data signals don’t send a continuous stream of 0’s and 1’s but, instead, will send a small pile of data for a very short period of time and then could go quiet for a bit. So, if you were to start this test while others in your home/office are enjoying a Netflix or YouTube session, you could see your speed numbers plummet (especially if QoS is implemented, giving video a priority in the network).

OK, soapbox moment over, back to the review.

screenshot_20161105-231700As stated earlier, the overall interface of this app is very clean and good-looking.  Upon opening you are greeted with a menu screen. Here you can either pick and choose which features to utilize (see bullet point list above), or there is a very large “OVERALL BOOST” button in the top-center to press, activating all speed-boosting functions on your device.

That’s really all there is to it in terms of app usage. There is a ‘settings’ menu, but it’s pretty limited. The best part of this menu is the “Phone Menu”; pressing this analyzes your device, and in a very short period of time, it presents you with a ‘task-manager’-style screen that shows you your CPU use %, RAM usage meter, ROM meter, SD card fill, phone signal level (in dbm)….plus the Android OS version, IMEI number, and handful of other secondary metrics. I found this to be one of the most interesting/useful portions of this app.

screenshot_20161105-231945Which goes to the question: does the app work as advertised? I use an Alcatel Idol 4 as my daily driver, which isn’t a powerhouse phone by any standards. But, it does what I need it to do well. And, using a speed boost app, including DU Speed Booster, didn’t provide any visible performance improvement, no matter what app I was using at the time.  It didn’t hurt my phone’s performance either, so in my experience it was pretty much a net-zero for me.

One big thing I must mention in this review that I didn’t care for is the amount of ads screenshot_20161105-232103
throughout this app. Running just about any function within this app results in a ‘results’ screen, and in addition to showing how much speed/memory is saved, there is a list of various ads running below.

The more you explore the app, the more ads you will find, as well. I understand this a free app, and this is how the developer generates their revenue, but the amount of ads was a bit of a turn-off for me.

Another negative was a recurring set of app notifications regularity popping up on my phone, warning me of how much performance I could be improving if I just used the app. I can be a bit OCD when it comes to keeping my phone and screen “clean”, but his may be even more irritating than the in-app ads. And, to make things more aggravating, I couldn’t find a way to disable these, either. Again, nothing life-altering here, but something I can definitely live without.

screenshot_20161105-231732Also, the need for a “speed booster” type of app on your Android device nowadays can be a bit of a questionable topic. The more current versions of Android all are built to assign and monitor RAM as efficiently as possible.

Moreover, one feature of Android requires apps running in the background (to allow for real-time info and notifications) so manually closing apps will be a very temporary endeavor. Android and/or the apps themselves will just re-start themselves to continue operations as normal anyways. So, beyond the very-short-term you’re likely not getting a whole lot of value these days.

That said, if you are having problems with speed, memory, and/or performance of your Android device (especially if it’s an older model or OS version), you aren’t risking anything by trying DU Speed Booster. It’s at least worth checking out, and the clean interface makes it easy to do just that. Just be ready for some additional icons in your notification tray from time to time. If you can live with that, then you should be able to live with this app without issue.

14
Nov

This $15 accessory will transform the look of your Amazon Dot


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Accessorize your Echo Dot to fit the decor of every room in your house!

The Amazon Echo Dot allows you to access the power of Amazon’s voice-controlled A.I. assistant Alexa from wherever you are in the room, with all that tech crammed into a package about the size of a hockey puck. And if you end up opting for the black color option, it’ll really look like there’s a hockey puck sitting on your end table. Or your kitchen counter. Or wherever you end up placing them around your house.

Amazon offered the bare minimum of color options — white or black — which is pretty standard for tech products, but not ideal for a product that ideally will fully integrate into the decor of different rooms in your house. You want something with some texture and muted colors to blend in, rather than stand out.

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That’s why you definitely need to check out these sweet cases for the second generation of the Amazon Echo Dot. There are two material styles to choose between — leather and fabric — and each have their own aesthetic charm, with unique colors options. The leather options would definitely pair well if you’ve got a leather couch in your living room or den, while the fabric options — available in Charcoal, Indigo, and Sandstone — adds some much needed texture over the smooth plastic housing.

The cases have vents and cutouts so the speakers won’t be muffled at all when installed. To install, simply line up the USB and headphone jack on the Echo Dot with the corresponding cutouts in the case and you’re good to go!

The Echo Dot is affordably priced at $50, meaning you’ll probably end up buying a few to create a network throughout your house. And the cases are also reasonably priced at $15 for the fabric ones, and $20 for the slightly classier leather options. All told, you can buy a more fashionable Echo Dot for $70 or less — still a steal compared to, say, Google Home.

See at Amazon

14
Nov

Samsung’s Black Friday deals start Nov 20: Gear S3, SD cards and more on sale


Samsung’s Black Friday deals are (almost) here.

Black Friday just starts earlier and earlier every year, and as is now the norm Samsung is pre-announcing its deals before the sale even starts. Over at its Black Friday deals page, you’ll find an incredible number of deals across mobile, home entertainment, appliances, accessories and more.

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You’ll have to spend a good amount of time going through each of the sections to see the biggest discounts and worth-while deals, but here are a few of the highlights from a mobile perspective:

  • Gear S3 (Frontier or Classic) for $299, $50 off
  • Gear Fit2 (Large or Small) for $149, $30 off
  • Gear VR (2015 model) for $69, $30 off
  • Galaxy Tab S2 9.7″ keyboard case for $74, $75 off
  • 128GB microSDXC EVO+ card for $57, $32 off
  • Level On Wireless headphones for $129, $70 off

Many of the remaining mobile deals offer decent discounts, but for devices we wouldn’t really recommend at this point. For example you can get a certified pre-owned Galaxy Note 3 for $249, a Note 4 for $399 or a Galaxy S6 for $399 — good prices, but for phones that have little or no support life left. You can also get various Tab A and Tab E tablets … which really aren’t great deals considering the high-end year-old Tab S2 line can be found at a discount regularly today.

Don’t buy a certified pre-owned Galaxy Note 3, please.

Outside of mobile, Samsung has a handful of great deals on TVs and home theater components, including several hundred dollars off its high-end TV sets and solid discounts on sound bars and receivers. There are a couple deals on big Bluetooth speakers as well, if that’s your sort of thing.

Samsung’s Black Friday deals officially start on November 20, but each deal has a specific start date that you can take note of — some don’t go live until several days later. Is anyone interested in picking up some of these deals? Let us know in the comments below!

Samsung

Samsung is a massive South Korea-based multinational company that makes some of the best-selling phones, tablets and mobile accessories, but also spans industries such as televisions, appliances and semiconductors (like memory and processors). Samsung is the largest Android device manufacturer worldwide.

  • Best Samsung phones
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge review
  • Best microSD card for Android

14
Nov

Games are having performance problems in PlayStation 4 Pro


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Your PlayStation 4 Pro isn’t operating at 100% yet.

It looks like Sony’s latest console isn’t exactly living up to its name yet. The PlayStation 4 Pro is supposed to be all about delivering the best possible gaming experience for those who have upgraded to a 4K television, as well as deliver a better PlayStation VR experience. If you go check out a PlayStation 4 Pro demo, you’ll be shown some great examples of how this console can perform under ideal situations, but now that people have them in homes and are actually playing the “enhanced” games, it looks like Sony missed their mark on a few titles.

In some cases, performance actually dips below what the original PlayStation 4 and the new slim PlayStation 4 are capable of. Here’s what you need to know!

Read more at VR Heads!

14
Nov

New MacBook Pro’s Dedicated AMD Graphics Chips Are ‘Significantly’ Faster and Support Dual 5K Displays


Apple dropped Intel’s integrated Iris Pro graphics in favor of dedicated AMD graphics across its entire new 15-inch MacBook Pro lineup, resulting in performance improvements over previous models. Perhaps more interestingly, the switch to AMD provides expanded external display support that desktop users have patiently waited for.

As Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica explains, AMD’s Polaris-based Radeon Pro 450, Radeon Pro 455, and built-to-order Radeon Pro 460 GPUs in the new 15-inch MacBook Pro support up to six displays, whereas Intel’s integrated GPUs affixed to the logic board can drive a total of three displays.

The expanded support enables the new MacBook Pro to drive two of Apple and LG’s new UltraFine 5K displays at 60Hz simultaneously. Intel’s GPUs can’t because, due to bandwidth limitations of the DisplayPort 1.2 spec, the two 5K displays technically function as four displays. This method is known as Multi-Stream Transport (MST).

When you hook one of LG’s 5K monitors to one of the new MacBook Pros, what you’re actually seeing on the screen is two pictures stitched together to make a single seamless image. This is because the version of the DisplayPort spec supported by Intel’s GPUs and almost all monitors these days—version 1.2—doesn’t have enough bandwidth to drive a 5K display at 60Hz all by itself. […] Apple is actually pushing two DisplayPort 1.2 streams to the monitor over the single Thunderbolt 3 cable.

There’s nothing wrong with this method, except that it cuts down on the number of external displays your computer can support. Intel’s integrated GPUs can drive a total of three displays, but you use up two of those three streams to drive one 5K monitor and one of them to drive the laptop’s internal display. AMD’s GPUs support up to six displays, so you can use two of those connections for one 5K monitor, two of them for the other 5K monitor, one for the laptop’s internal display, and still have one left over for yet another monitor if you really wanted to use one.

Apple could have used Nvidia’s faster Pascal-based GPUs, which support DisplayPort 1.3, but Thunderbolt 3 and most monitors do not support the higher-bandwidth spec yet. In the meantime, Nvidia’s GPUs can only drive up to three displays beyond the main MacBook Pro screen — not enough for dual 5K displays over MST.

Apple will have more flexibility again when DisplayPort 1.3 becomes more common. Those future laptops will be able to drive two 5K screens plus a laptop’s internal screen using just three DisplayPort streams instead of five. For now, though, if pushing two high-end 5K screens at once was a design goal for Apple, AMD was the only way to go.

In terms of performance improvements, Cunningham benchmarked the mid-range 2.7GHz 15-inch MacBook Pro with the Radeon Pro 455 graphics chip to determine just how much faster the notebook truly is compared to the 2016 12-inch MacBook and older MacBook Pros released over the past few years.

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He found the Radeon Pro 455 to be a “significant boost” over the built-to-order dedicated GPUs available in the 2012-2015 MacBook Pro models, namely the Nvidia GeForce GTX 650M, Nvidia GeForce GTX 750M, and AMD Radeon R9 M370X respectively, but said the new MacBook Pro remains unsuitable for high-end gaming and VR.

Is it disappointing that Apple didn’t decide to push the envelope a little more? Sure. Is it too bad that performance and power efficiency were apparently sacrificed in the name of external display support? Yes. Are these midrange GPUs in any way inconsistent with any MacBook Pro released in the last decade? No.

Apple officially says the 15-inch MacBook Pro offers up to 130% faster graphics performance, and up to 2.5x more computing power per watt, compared to the previous-generation 15-inch MacBook Pro, but those stats are based on the built-to-order Radeon Pro 460 chip that costs between $100 and $200 extra.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro
Tags: benchmarks, 5k displays, AMD
Buyer’s Guide: MacBook Pro (Buy Now)
Discuss this article in our forums

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14
Nov

Best UK Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2016 deals


Some people love shopping in sales, others hate it, but most people love a bargain.

Luckily for those of you who don’t like looking, we are here to help and there is no better time for us to lend a hand than Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Black Friday is on 25 November, Cyber Monday is on 28 November, but the sales have already started.

If you are US-based, you can read the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals in our separate feature, while here we are concentrating on the best deals in the UK. Keep checking back as we will update this feature as soon as we hear of anymore deals. Good luck and try not to throw things at any computers or push any humans in the process of getting your bargain.

Hot gadget deals

  • Best Black Friday UK TV deals: 4K, HDR, OLED TVs and more
  • Black Friday UK laptop deals: the best laptop deals online
  • Best Black Friday UK fitness tracker deals: Garmin, Fitbit, Polar and more
  • Best Black Friday UK games deals: Amazing PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo deals

Retailers

Amazon.co.uk

Visit Amazon Black Friday deals site

Amazon started Black Friday sales on Monday 14 November, promising a range of lightning deals and longer sales across all sorts of products. For lightning deals you’ll have to be fast, but you can watch forthcoming deals. Amazon is also doing daily deals, with some real bargains to be had.

  • Sony 65-inch 4K HDR Android TV, £1299 (save £400) – click here to get this deal

Argos

Visit Argos Black Friday deals site

Argos runs deals all through the year, but Black Friday is a time to get something special. We’re still waiting to here exactly what the company will offer, but there’s a range of deals available already:

  • Xbox One 500GB with Quantum Break, £199 (save £50) – click here to get this deal

Boots

Visit the Boots Black Friday deals site

Boots might not be top of your list for the latest electronic, but if you’re after grooming products or something else healthcare related, it’s a good place to start Christmas shopping. We’re still waiting for then full range of Boots deals to made available.

Carphone Warehouse

Visit the Carphone Warehouse Black Friday deals site

Carphone Warehouse has confirmed that it will be offering a range of deals, but is yet to start the sales. 

Carphone Warehouse Black Friday starts on 25 November and will run for 24 hours, both in store and online.

Currys/PC World

Visit Currys Black Friday deals site

Currys/PC World offers a range of deals all the time. We’re yet to see exactly what will be highlighted for Black Friday, but we’re being teased with LG and Samsung TVs, Dyson cleaners and HP laptops. Currys tells us that in 2015, it sold 30 TVs a minute on Black Friday.

You can expect the Currys/PC World deals to go live at 6am.

eBay

Visit the eBay Black Friday deals site

eBay is the land of deals for many, be that new from store outlets, or from individuals who have something that you want, but they don’t. There’s a full range of deals available through eBay, and although they currently aren’t positioned as Black Friday deals, it’s always worth looking.

EE

Visit the EE Black Friday site

EE’s Black Friday offering is currently a holding page where you can sign-up for more information, but we’re expecting a full range of deals to be offered as we approach the big sale day.

John Lewis

Visit John Lewis Black Friday deals site

John Lewis has a commitment to be “Never Knowingly Undersold” so, as the site points out, it has to “match competitors’ prices”. The advantage with John Lewis is that it offers aftercare and often guaranteed cover for five years for many products, which is ideal for big gadgets like TVs or laptops.

The John Lewis Black Friday deals will start at midnight on 24 November.

HotUKDeals

Visit HotUKDeals Black Friday deals site

The HotUKDeals site is home to deals all year round but during Black Friday and Cyber Monday they can get white hot. It’s worth popping to the site to see what deals users have found.

HotUKDeals is already listing some companies like Microsoft and Samsung, so there should be tech deals galore.

Game

Visit the Game Black Friday deals site

Game has been pushing a range of offers on consoles and games for some time (we’re tracking best games deals separately), so you can expect some big deals come Black Friday. 

Marks & Spencer

Visit the Marks & Spencer Black Friday deals site

Marks & Spencer is also on the Black Friday bandwagon and although there isn’t that much technology on its site. However, it does sell a range of activity trackers and other items, with some great deals on Fitbit in 2015.

Mobiles.co.uk

Visit the mobiles.co.uk Black Friday deals site

Mobiles.co.uk is part of the Dixons Carphone group and a strong competitor when it comes to price. There’s a full range of deals already listed on then site, but Black Friday hasn’t proper kicked off yet. 

You can register to be alerted to deals, if you wish.

O2

The O2 Black Friday deals site

In 2015, O2 run two sets of deals on Black Friday. In 2016, however, the company is yet to say much about whether it has any plans. We’ll keep checking for you, just in case they decide to offer some deals. 

Tesco

Visit the Tesco Black Friday deals site

Tesco has a countdown time on its dedicated Black Friday site so again, we will have to wait to find out what the supermarket giant will offer. You can see the latest offers however, as well as register as a new customer to make sure you’re ready to go when the clock hits zero.

Tesco Black Friday deals start on 21 November and run through to 1 December. We’ll bring you the best deals when they land.

Three

Visit the Three Black Friday deals site

Three has something planned for Black Friday, promising lots of deals on the big day.

Currently, however, all you can do is sign up for details. Or you can just bookmark this page instead, and save yourself the spam.

Vodafone

Visit the Vodafone Black Friday deals site

Vodafone will be taking part in Black Friday for the third year, with a countdown clock running down to 25 November.

The company is promising great deals on phones and tablets. Not long to wait to see what the big red has in store.

Manufacturers

Dyson

Visit Dyson Black Friday deals site

Dyson, manufacturer of high-end vacuums, lighting, driers and fans will be slashing prices for Black Friday. Currently the company is running a range of deals, so if you want to clean up before Black Friday, then Dyson is there for you.

  • Dyson V8 Absolute, £399 (save £100) – click here to get this deal 

HTC

Visit the HTC Black Friday deals site

HTC has long been a player in Black Friday and is promising more in 2016. At the moment there are no details, but you can sign-up to be alerted when they go live.

We will be updating the deals across retailers and brands as and when they go live.

14
Nov

Best Black Friday 2016 UK camera deals: DSLR, compact and system camera bargains


Black Friday falls on 25 November this year and will offer a great chance to snap – geddit? – some camera deals at a cut of the normal price.

Ahead of the big day, some retailers are already putting out deals. So whether you’re looking for a compact, compact system or DSLR camera, we’ll be updating this page to bring together the best camera deals for Black Friday through to Cyber Monday 2016.

Argos Black Friday camera deals

Argos may have a lot of older stock going cheap, but there are some particularly eye-catching bargains to be found within. The current best:

  • Canon EOS 1300D and 18-55mm lens, £299.99 (save £30) – get this deal here

Jessops Black Friday deals

Jessops is remaining fairly tight-lipped ahead of the big day on 25 November. But it has teased a Nikon promo when buying a Nikon DSLR:

  • Free Nikon DSLR accessory kit (worth £50) – get this deal here

Currys PC World Black Friday deals

One of the bigger electronics vendors in the UK, Currys doesn’t have any specific camera deals running right now – there’s a lot of manufacturer cashback promos, as you’ll find anywhere – but does have a big “register your interest” landing page to keep you ahead of the price-cut action.

Calumet Black Friday camera deals

Calumet is known for its high-end photo kit and the site is touting “crazy prices” for its 25 November deal. No more details just yet, but you can sign up now to get deals delivered to your inbox.

Wex Photographic Black Friday deals

There’s not been any word from Wex about specific Black Friday deals, but then this UK independent’s prices are always about as low as they go from a reliable source. Always worth checking out the site before committing to another deal, just so you know you’ve got the best price going.

More Black Friday UK deals

  • Best Black Friday UK phone deals: Apple, Samsung, Android phone deals galore
  • Best Black Friday UK TV deals: 4K, HDR, OLED TVs and more
  • Best Black Friday UK games deals: Amazing PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo deals
  • Best Black Friday UK fitness tracker deals: Garmin, Fitbit, Polar and more
14
Nov

‘The Martian’ VR experience comes home


It’s been a long time coming, but The Martian VR Experience is finally ready. Fox has released its virtual reality take on the stranded-on-Mars movie (plus Andy Weir novel) for the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, with Oculus Rift support coming soon. Spend $20 and you can fill the boots of astronaut Mark Watney as he struggles to survive and make it back to Earth, both in 3D sequences and 360-degree videos. As Fox explains to Variety, this isn’t just a polished version of the demo we saw at CES in January — there are many “technical and narrative improvements” that could make it feel fresh.

Like many current VR experiences, this isn’t likely to be particularly deep or long-lasting. However, it’s certainly more ambitious than the many Hollywood VR tie-ins that limit themselves to canned video. More importantly, it’s just the start of Fox’s VR plans. The studio tells Variety that it sees VR as a “new media opportunity,” not just a way to sell you on whatever movie or TV show is premiering that week. You can expect to see more projects that take advantage of VR’s immersion, and that’s good news if you’re looking for more reasons to justify that expensive headset.

Via: Variety

Source: Fox Innovation Lab

14
Nov

The best intermediate sewing machine


By Jackie Reeve

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After talking with two sewing machine dealers, a teacher, and seasoned sewers, we think computerized machines are the best bet for intermediate sewers and for beginners who know they love sewing and can invest a little more for features that will make learning easier. We spent 12 hours researching specs, reviews, and recommendations, and testing several machines. We think the Janome DC5100 offers the best combination of useful and versatile computerized features for a range of sewers. Plus, it comes at a great price. We have other picks for quilters, travelers, and anyone who wants dealer perks in our full guide.

This review covers only computerized machines. If you’re interested in mechanical machines less than $300, check out our review of the best sewing machine for beginners. If you have the basics of sewing down—like how to thread a machine, change a bobbin and a needle, and make simple pillows or clothes—you might want to invest in an intermediate-level machine that can help you progress into more complicated projects. Although you can spend thousands on computerized models, a budget of $400 to $900 will get you really handy features, like the machine telling you which stitch and presser foot to use for specific fabrics.

How we picked and tested

We considered machines best for all-purpose use, quilting, travelling and small spaces, and for those that want to take sewing classes and buy from a dealer (dealers will often throw in classes for the cost of a machine).

After looking at our Best Sewing Machine for Beginners guide, we narrowed down machines within a $400 to $600 price range with the features we would want if we weren’t beginners anymore. We were looking for a good selection of useful everyday stitches, like straight, zigzag, buttonhole, and basting (which loosely secures layers together while you work, an alternative to pins).

Harvey Federman, owner of the sewing machine dealership Sew Right, suggested we look for machines with automatic needle threading (which is great if your eyes strain to thread through those impossibly tiny needle holes), easy-to-edit stitch width and length options (and a program mode to save them, if possible), a start/stop button so you don’t have to use the foot pedal, and a needle up/down feature to let you choose where the needle stops when you stop sewing. Every machine on this list has at least three out of these four functions.

We wanted a nice assortment of included presser feet, including ¼-inch seam, zigzag, buttonhole, zipper, darning, and straight stitch. We were also looking for a few included bobbins and some basic cleaning supplies to help maximize the initial investment in the machine. And ideally we wanted safety features, like a machine that beeps or won’t sew if the presser foot is raised—this helps prevent you from sewing over your fingers.

To find machines with as many of these options as possible and then start narrowing them down, we paid close attention to models that were readily available on sites like Amazon and Sewing Machines Plus, a huge online sewing store, and we looked at their user reviews. Then we read thorough reviews from sewing sites and blogs. We reached out to Federman, who sells a range of brands at his dealership, to see what we should be looking for in this price category.

Best for sewing a range of products

We think the Janome DC5100 is a great all-around machine for most intermediate sewing needs. Compared with other computerized machines less than $600, the DC5100 offers more preprogrammed features, better customer service, and you can buy it online or at a dealership, depending on what’s more convenient for you. This machine will do a great job at sewing heavy-duty fabrics like denim or leather, delicate silks, and even medium and large projects like curtains or twin-size quilts. It has most of the features on our wishlist for an intermediate machine.

The DC5100 includes 167 stitches, which covers all the essentials we like to see—straight, zigzag, basting, stretch—plus many decorative stitches for embellishments. Most reviews we came across in our research noted the high quality of the stitching this machine produces. Reviews for machines frequently mention good stitch quality, but across the board reviewers raved about it for the DC5100. It scored a perfect 5.0 on Sewing Insight, a well-known sewing review blog.

The Janome DC5100 comes with 167 stitches, many of which are decorative. Most people probably won’t use all the stitches, but they’re nice for customizing projects.

This pick has a few drawbacks. It does not have the safety feature that stops the machine from sewing if the presser foot is raised. And Janome’s warranty isn’t as good as that of some other companies on our list. But even with the drawbacks, we have experience with Janome machines and know they’re reliable and built to last.

Good for travel and small sewing spaces

If you need a machine for traveling, or to fit in a small space, Janome makes excellent three-quarter-size sewing machines that are smaller and lighter than standard machines. We looked at several other three-quarter machines, but this Janome gives more features at a better price. The New Home 720 is a standout choice if you want a machine to take with you to sewing classes, on vacation, or even if you want to do light sewing but don’t have the space for a heavy machine to just live out on a table all the time.

This machine comes with automatic needle threading, a start/stop button, and a needle up/down feature. These are all features Federman recommended looking for in a computerized machine.

The New Home 720 weighs only 12 pounds, making it the lightest of our picks (the Janome DC5100, by comparison, weighs 18.7 pounds). The light weight makes this a great machine for travel or if you need to routinely stow your machine away in a closet. But it won’t be as stable as our other picks for sewing bigger projects like bed-sized quilts. A three-quarter-size machine like this will shake or jostle around on your table if you tackle anything heavy duty, like denim or canvas.

Great for quilting and bed-sized blankets

If you’re mostly interested in quilting, we like the Juki HZL-F300. It has a larger work surface than our other picks, which makes it better for sewing bed-sized quilts, and it’s heavy enough that it won’t move around on your sewing table if you’re sewing a large blanket.

The HZL-F300’s work area measures 8 inches wide, 12¼ inches long, and 4½ inches high off of the work surface (the Janome DC5100’s is shorter, narrower, and slightly lower). Overall, the Juki’s dimensions allow you to work on bigger projects, like queen- or even king-size bed quilts. Juki also makes an extension table you can buy to make the HZL-F300’s work surface even bigger, to about 12 inches wide and 19¼ inches long.

At 21 pounds, the Juki weighs more than all of our other picks (except the HV Opal 650), giving it more stability on your work table while you push large or thick projects through. That weight can be essential. Quilts are surprisingly heavy, and if you’re trying to get even stitches, you don’t want your sewing machine to budge and get pushed around by a giant blanket. This machine is specifically designed to stand up to weighty, thick projects.

Moderately priced and higher-end dealer-only machines

If you want the perks of buying from a dealer—like sewing classes, help troubleshooting problems, and annual maintenance—the Pfaff Smarter 260c is our top recommendation for a machine under $600. It has some advanced features, like a simple touchpad to select stitches, that you’d usually find only in higher-end machines. This Pfaff is the newest in the company’s Smarter line, which is basically designed to be the Apple of sewing machines. It’s super simple to use and looks sleek.

For a higher-end dealer machine you can grow into, we like the Husqvarna Viking Opal 650. If you sew a lot, even if you’re still learning, but aren’t used to a computerized machine, you may want to invest a little more on this one. It has lots of extra features that are actually useful for sewers at a wide range of skill levels, like automatic needle threading, a stop/start button, and the needle up/down feature. Plus, it has an outstanding warranty.

Check out our full guide to learn more about how we chose the best moderately priced and higher-end dealer machines.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Sweethome: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

14
Nov

12 gifts for your NSFW neighbor


We’re all adults here — no shame if you want to get a certain someone in your life something naughty for the holidays. First, the obvious: We brought together a team of male and female editors to research the best sex toys for both men and women, because yes, we know that’s where some of your minds went when we said naughty. But if a vibrator seems like a buzzkill, we also have recommendations for a vaporizer, VPN subscription and even a combination iPhone case/cigarette lighter.

For our full list of recommendations in all categories, don’t forget to stop by our main Holiday Gift Guide hub.

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