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Biden urged to back AI weapons to counter China and Russia threats

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Last chance to score a Fire TV Stick Lite for $22 or the 4K version for $38

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If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on
our website, we may receive an affiliate commission.

  • Fire TV Stick deals haven’t been as common lately as other Amazon device lines, but that changed earlier this week.
  • BGR Deals readers have been swarming Amazon for the Fire TV Stick Lite while it’s down to $21.99, and the even more popular Fire TV Stick 4K is on sale for $37.99 instead of $50.
  • These deals will almost certainly end soon now that the week is coming to an end, so it’s your last chance to take advantage.

As 2020 drew to a close, Amazon wrapped up the year with incredible deals on so many different Amazon devices. That’s not surprising at all, of course, but it was a bit of a surprise when the action continued into 2021. So many of those great sales from 2020 carried over into the new year. Unfortunately, however, just about all of the hottest deals we saw on Amazon’s various device lineups over the course of February have now vanished since Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day are both behind us.

Thankfully, there are still some very impressive Amazon device deals to be found on Amazon — and the list of remaining deals happens to include two of the most popular Amazon gadgets you can buy. It’s also a bit of a surprise since these particular Amazon gadgets haven’t been discounted very often over the past few months.

Today’s Top Deal %title% List Price:%original_price% Price:%price% You Save:%discount_amount% (%discount_percent%) Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy NowCoupon Code: %coupon_code% Available from Amazon BGR may receive a commission

Amazon’s beloved Fire TV lineup is neck and neck with Roku in terms of popularity among our readers. Now, the most affordable product in that lineup is even more affordable thanks to a 27% discount. Head to Amazon and you’ll find the Fire TV Stick Lite on sale for just $22.99. For those unaware of this latest addition to Amazon’s Fire TV lineup, the device itself is exactly the same as the regular Fire TV Stick. The only difference is the remote, which is still an Alexa Voice Remote but doesn’t have the extra power and volume buttons to control your TV. If that’s not a deal-breaker for you, definitely take advantage of this bargain!

On top of that, you can also save even more by upgrading to the king of Amazon’s streaming dongles, the Fire TV Stick 4K. There is perhaps no streaming media player at the $50 price point that comes anywhere close to matching the Fire TV Stick 4K, and it’s on sale right now for just $37.99. And finally, if you want it all you can pick up a $120 Fire TV Cube on sale for $99.99. It’s basically a Fire TV Stick 4K combined with an Echo Dot, and people love it!

Fire TV Stick Lite

  • Our most affordable Fire TV Stick – Enjoy fast streaming in Full HD. Comes with Alexa Voice Remote Lite.
  • Press and ask Alexa – Use your voice to easily search and launch shows across multiple apps.
  • Tens of thousands of channels, Alexa skills, and apps – Including Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, and HBO Max. Subscription fees may apply.

Fire TV Stick Lite with Alexa Voice Remote Lite (no TV controls) | HD streaming device | 2020 r… List Price:$29.99 Price:$21.99 You Save:$8.00 (27%) Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now

Fire TV Stick 4K

  • Our most powerful streaming media stick.
  • Watch favorites from Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, and more. Stream for free with Pluto TV, IMDb TV, and more.
  • Launch and control content with the Alexa Voice Remote.

Fire TV Stick 4K streaming device with Alexa Voice Remote | Dolby Vision | 2018 release List Price:$49.99 Price:$37.99 You Save:$12.00 (24%) Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now

Fire TV Cube

  • The fastest, most powerful Fire TV streaming device.
  • From across the room, just ask Alexa to turn on the TV, dim the lights, and play your show.
  • Control compatible soundbar and A/V receiver, and change live cable or satellite channels with your voice.
  • With the built-in speaker, ask Alexa to check the weather, turn off the lights, and more – even when the TV is off.
  • Instant access to 4K Ultra HD content, plus support for Dolby Vision and HDR, HDR10+.

Fire TV Cube | Hands-free streaming device with Alexa | 4K Ultra HD | 2019 release List Price:$119.99 Price:$99.99 You Save:$20.00 (17%) Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now


Follow @BGRDeals on Twitter to keep up with the latest and greatest deals we find around the web. Prices subject to change without notice and any coupons mentioned above may be available in limited supply.

Best Buy lays off 5,000 workers as it shifts focus to online sales

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Snow outside of a Best Buy store in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Feb. 17, 2021.
Enlarge
/ Snow outside of a Best Buy store in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Feb. 17, 2021.

Nick Oxford/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Best Buy says it has trimmed its headcount by 21,000 over the last year as the pandemic has accelerated the company’s transition to selling online. Most of those losses were due to attrition—including workers who were furloughed during the pandemic last year and then chose not to return to work. But Best Buy says that in recent weeks it formally laid off 5,000 workers. The company now has about 102,000 workers—including employees in its retail stores and corporate headquarters.

A company will often lay off workers because it is struggling. The last year has certainly been a challenging period for some brick-and-mortar businesses. This week, for example, electronics giant Fry’s shut down all of its stores.

But that doesn’t seem to be the situation at Best Buy, which has weathered the pandemic fairly well. In the last quarter, same-store sales at Best Buy’s brick and mortar stores were up 12 percent compared to a year earlier. Meanwhile, online sales were up an impressive 89 percent.

As a result, online sales accounted for 43 percent of total sales in Best Buy’s fourth quarter, which ends on January 31. That’s way up from 25 percent in 2019 and 22 percent in 2018. And Best Buy believes that this shift will be mostly permanent, with 40 percent of sales coming from online in the new fiscal year.

Best Buy is downsizing its physical retail presence

Best Buy says its recent changes are an effort to adjust to this new market reality. Traditional stores aren’t going away, but they’re becoming less important. Best Buy says that it has been closing about 20 stores per year over the last two years and expects to accelerate the process in the coming year. Best Buy has 450 stores (out of roughly 1,000) whose leases will run out in the next three years. The company says that it always rigorously evaluates a store before renewing its lease, but in the future, the company will have “higher thresholds on renewing leases.” In other words, under-performing stores will get shuttered more quickly than in the past.

That will mean fewer workers overall and particularly fewer full-time workers. As it laid off 5,000 mostly full-time workers, Best Buy is planning to add 2,000 new part-time jobs.

Best Buy is also working to increase the flexibility of its workforce by training workers to perform a mix of face-to-face and online-oriented jobs. For example, during a slow shift, workers with appropriate training can pick up customer calls from Best Buy’s national hotlines.

Best Buy plans to reconfigure stores to devote less space to showrooms in the front of the store and more space to storage and shipping facilities in the back. Store workers will be able to spend some time helping customers face to face and some time packing online orders.

Some parts of Best Buy’s business are booming

This is all in the context of a generally upbeat financial picture for the company. In a call with investors on Thursday, Best Buy executives reported that the pandemic has boosted demand for several categories of products that Best Buy stocks. For example, the company has struggled to keep gaming consoles on store shelves because “there just hasn’t been enough inventory to meet demand.”

Remote workers have been spending heavily on a range of work-from-home products, from “high tech chairs to monitors to standing desks.” Best Buy says that printing products are in perpetually short supply.

Best Buy also says that home theater equipment and personal fitness gear has been selling briskly as more people exercise and watch movies at home. Kitchen gadgets have also been selling well.

Moreover, Best Buy believes the spending surge is unlikely to abate in 2021. While many workers have struggled financially during the pandemic, a lot of white-collar workers have seen their savings rise as they kept their jobs but couldn’t spend as much on restaurant meals, travel, or other luxuries. So Best Buy expects strong sales of luxury gadgets to continue well into 2021.

Latest Galaxy S10 update from Samsung could stop you from upgrading your phone – Express

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If you have a Galaxy S10 tucked inside your pocket, Samsung has just announced some very good news. The South Korean technology firm has announced that it’s extending its security updates for a number of its popular devices, which mean its gadgets are now guaranteed to receive important new features and security updates for four years.

Samsung previously only offered two years of software upgrades, so this is a major change for fans of these popular smartphones.

Alongside recently-launched phones like the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy Note 20 getting these future updates, Samsung has also revealed that many older devices will be part of the programme. In fact, a swathe of phones including the S10, Note 10, A10e and Galaxy Fold are part of the new programme.

By extending support for security updates delivered on a monthly or quarterly basis, Samsung says it is giving users peace of mind knowing their data is protected for as long as they use their Galaxy device.

READ MORE: New Motorola Moto G10 and G30 offer huge Android specs at a ludicrously low price

HERE’S A FULL LIST OF ELIGIBLE PHONES

Galaxy Foldable devices: Fold, Z Fold2 5G, Z Flip, Z Flip 5G

Galaxy S series: S10, S10+, S10e, S10 5G, S10 Lite, S20 5G, S20+ 5G, S20 Ultra 5G, S20 FE 5G, S21 5G, S21+ 5G, S21 Ultra 5G

Galaxy Note series: Note10, Note10+, Note10+ 5G, Note20 5G, Note20 Ultra 5G

Galaxy A series: A10e, A20, A50, A11, A21, A51, A51 5G, A71 5G

Galaxy XCover series: XCover FieldPro, XCover Pro

Galaxy Tab series: Tab Active Pro, Tab Active3, Tab A 8 (2019), Tab A with S Pen, Tab A 8.4 (2020), Tab A7, Tab S5e, Tab S6, Tab S6 5G, Tab S6 Lite, Tab S7, Tab S7+

Amazon’s surprise Fire TV Stick sale slashes Lite to $22, 4K model to $38

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If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on
our website, we may receive an affiliate commission.

  • Plenty of Amazon devices have gone on sale with discounts in 2021, but Fire TV Stick deals have been few and far between.
  • The good news is that Amazon remedied that with a few surprise bargains this week.
  • Our readers have been flocking to buy the Fire TV Stick Lite, which is down to just $21.99 right now, and the wildly popular Fire TV Stick 4K is down to $37.99 instead of $50.

Amazon wrapped up the year in 2020 with some fantastic deals on so many different Amazon devices. Then, the fun continued in 2021 because so many of those incredible sales carried over into the new year. Unfortunately, however, just about all of the hottest deals we’ve seen on Amazon’s various device lineups over the past few weeks have now vanished since Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day are both behind us. All those great bundle deals are gone too, and only a few Amazon devices are on sale left this week.

The good news is that the list of remaining Amazon device deals happens to include two of the most popular Amazon gadgets you can buy. It’s also a bit of a surprise since these particular Amazon gadgets haven’t been discounted very often over the past few months.

Today’s Top Deal Amazon shoppers are obsessed with these black AccuMed masks — and they’ve never been price this low! List Price:$26.25 Price:$19.99 You Save:$6.26 (24%) Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now Available from Amazon BGR may receive a commission

The Fire TV lineup is neck and neck with Roku in terms of popularity among our readers. Now, the most affordable product in that lineup is even more affordable thanks to a 27% discount.

Head to Amazon and you’ll find the Fire TV Stick Lite on sale for just $22.99. For those unaware of this latest addition to Amazon’s Fire TV product catalog, the device itself is exactly the same as the regular Fire TV Stick. The only difference is the remote, which is still an Alexa Voice Remote but lacks the extra power and volume buttons to control your TV. If that’s not a deal-breaker for you, definitely take advantage of this bargain!

You can also save even more by upgrading to the king of Amazon’s streaming dongles, the Fire TV Stick 4K. There is perhaps no streaming media player at the $50 price point that comes anywhere close to matching the Fire TV Stick 4K, and it’s on sale right now for just $37.99. And finally, if you want it all you can pick up a $120 Fire TV Cube on sale for $99.99. It’s basically a Fire TV Stick 4K combined with an Echo Dot, and people love it!

Fire TV Stick Lite

  • Our most affordable Fire TV Stick – Enjoy fast streaming in Full HD. Comes with Alexa Voice Remote Lite.
  • Press and ask Alexa – Use your voice to easily search and launch shows across multiple apps.
  • Tens of thousands of channels, Alexa skills, and apps – Including Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, and HBO Max. Subscription fees may apply.

Fire TV Stick Lite with Alexa Voice Remote Lite (no TV controls) | HD streaming device | 2020 r… List Price:$29.99 Price:$21.99 You Save:$8.00 (27%) Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now

Fire TV Stick 4K

  • Our most powerful streaming media stick.
  • Watch favorites from Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, and more. Stream for free with Pluto TV, IMDb TV, and more.
  • Launch and control content with the Alexa Voice Remote.

Fire TV Stick 4K streaming device with Alexa Voice Remote | Dolby Vision | 2018 release List Price:$49.99 Price:$37.99 You Save:$12.00 (24%) Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now

Fire TV Cube

  • The fastest, most powerful Fire TV streaming device.
  • From across the room, just ask Alexa to turn on the TV, dim the lights, and play your show.
  • Control compatible soundbar and A/V receiver, and change live cable or satellite channels with your voice.
  • With the built-in speaker, ask Alexa to check the weather, turn off the lights, and more – even when the TV is off.
  • Instant access to 4K Ultra HD content, plus support for Dolby Vision and HDR, HDR10+.

Fire TV Cube | Hands-free streaming device with Alexa | 4K Ultra HD | 2019 release List Price:$119.99 Price:$99.99 You Save:$20.00 (17%) Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now


Follow @BGRDeals on Twitter to keep up with the latest and greatest deals we find around the web. Prices subject to change without notice and any coupons mentioned above may be available in limited supply.

The best toaster oven for 2021 – CNET

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For generations, the toaster oven has been a trusty, crusty countertop companion for toasting and baking, an appliance that also doubles as a second, smaller oven that boasts faster heating (and reheating) times than your main one.

But if you’re here to find the best toaster oven, the one that you must buy immediately with one click, well… I’m sorry to say I’ve got some disappointing news for you. Toaster ovens are, in my humble opinion, thoroughly overrated.

Maybe that’s a difficult truth to hear. The problem is that most food you’d want to toast, like bread or bagels, would be better off in a standard toaster, and most food you’d want to bake would turn out better sitting on an oven rack in your traditional oven, where it’ll benefit from a stronger set of heating elements. Either way, you’re compromising from the get-go. And good luck cooking a roast or other complicated and time-intensive foods in a countertop toaster oven, even if they do have the right temperature range.

Most toaster ovens are bulky as hell, too — and thanks to the rise of kitchen-friendly smart displaysfood processors, Instant Potssous vide cookers, and the like, the chances are good that you’ve got a better way to put that precious counter space to use.

Read more: Top bread machines for home bakers 

Still, maybe you don’t have a conventional oven and need a countertop toaster oven — or maybe you just want one, dammit. I get it! Despite my misgivings, there’s still a lot to like about the things. This is a much-beloved kitchen appliance we’re talking about, and my toasty hot take is probably a minority report.

But splurging doesn’t always make sense. Do you really need to add in modern luxuries like bar code scanners, built-in food cameras and smart cooking assistance? Techie toaster ovens from names such as TovalaJune and Brava can cost anywhere from $300 to $995, but most of the extras found in a mini smart oven are above and beyond what an average kitchen needs.


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More reasonable are “upgrade pick” toaster ovens such as the fun, well-calibrated Panasonic FlashXpress, or a sturdy stalwart like the Breville Smart Oven, both of which we reviewed — and loved — a few years ago. But at $127 and $299 respectively, those models, too, are outside the mainstream in a world where a regular toaster can be had for less than $30

Read more: 4 signs it’s time to replace your toaster oven

That’s why I decided to take a look at some of your less-expensive options to see if I could find a good value. I honed in on popular, well-reviewed models that cost between $50 and $100, and I used convection heating — a trick that uses a fan to circulate the hot air to evenly toast and cook — as a baseline, must-have feature.

Then, with six toaster ovens ready to go in our test kitchen, I set out to put them to the test to try to find the best of the lot. Of these six, we came away with a clear favorite, and we’re also including the aforementioned Panasonic and Breville toaster ovens because they remain well worth the splurge.

We’ve tested all of those aforementioned upgrade picks here at CNET Appliances, but the only one any of us has ever bought for ourselves is the FlashXpress. It’s a fun, quirky countertop cooker that uses an infrared heating element for tasks like toasting bread and baking frozen pizza with speedy precision, and it has an easily removable crumb tray. It might not be big enough for everybody (or for baking for everybody), but that also means that it won’t take up any more counter space than it needs on your countertop. Even now, six years after we first reviewed it, it’s still easy to recommend it as the best toaster oven for toasting or baking food, or even a countertop toaster oven upgrade.

Read our full Panasonic FlashXpress review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The Breville BOV800XL definitely isn’t cheap at around $270, and there’s nothing “smart” about the smart oven in a cloud-connected sense. But the Breville Smart Oven Pro cooks just about everything about as well as you could possibly expect from a countertop convection oven. On top of that, the mini smart oven is sturdy, attractive, and has an easily removable crumb tray, and it’s packed with extra cooking setting modes that you might actually find useful, including convection cooking. This Breville Smart Oven is a great compact toaster oven pick if you don’t have a smart oven, don’t have room for a full size oven or if you need a small toaster oven for cooking food just about every day.

Read our full Breville Smart Oven review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

I hate that the door on this convection toaster oven opens down more than 90 degrees. The glass can crash directly against the corner of your countertop if it isn’t pushed all the way back against your backsplash.

Still, if you can forgive that design flaw, then you’ll love the way this convection toaster oven cooks, whether you’re toasting, baking or broiling. Available for about $60 at Costco, this countertop oven was a top finisher in each one of our cooking tests. That sort of reliable, predictable cooking and baking is exactly what you want from your toaster oven.

Editor’s note, Jan. 18, 2021: The Oster TSSTTVCG05 appears to have been discontinued. The two closest alternatives are the Oster TSSTTVDFL2-AF ($60) and the Oster TSSTTVF816 ($70).

Other toaster ovens we tested

  • Bialetti 35047: This countertop oven model was one of our top value picks of 2019 for its strong features and classy design. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be available any longer, at least not at any of the online retailers we track. It isn’t even listed on the Bialetti website anymore.
  • Black & Decker TO3265XSSD: One of the newest models from the top name in toaster ovens replaces the convection bake setting with a gimmicky, one-temperature-fits-all “Air Fry” mode. It’s fine for the price if you need a wide-bodied design with extra room for toast.
  • Hamilton Beach 31123D: One of Hamilton Beach’s “Easy Reach” models, the slightly under-powered 31123D makes it a little easier to see inside as you’re cooking or broiling, thanks to a sloping “Easy Reach” door that lifts up to open. Too bad Hamilton Beach stamped a large logo on the glass to obstruct your view.
  • Nostalgia Retro RTOV220RETRORED: The cheesy, retro-red design makes it look more like a toolbox than a toaster oven, and it felt a bit cheaply made. Still, this eye-catching model performed passably well in our tests. 
  • Toshiba AC25CEW-BS: The digital controls are nice to have in this fancy-looking, black stainless steel option, but it comes with a learning curve thanks to underpowered toasting and overpowered baking and broiling.

More from Chowhound: 10 toaster oven hacks you need to try right now

Energy Draw 1,800W 1,500W 1,500W 1,500W 1,500W 1,500W
Settings 9 (Toast, Bake, Broil, Warm, Bagel, Pizza, Cookies, Defrost, Reheat) 4 (Toast, Bake, Broil, Air Fry) 4 (Bake, Toast, Broil, Convection) 4 (Bake, Pizza/Toast, Broil, Convection) 5 (Bake, Toast, Broil, Warm, Turbo) 10 (Bake, Toast, Broil, Convection, Pizza, Cookies, Rotisserie, Defrost, Reheat, Keep Warm)
Toast time, 2 slices, medium setting 5:00 4:00 3:30 5:30 4:30 3:20
Toast time, 2 slices, dark setting 8:00 8:00 6:30 9:00 7:30 4:30
Exterior Dimensions 19.7 x 15.8 x 14.2 in. 21.5 x 23.0 x 11.2 in. 9.4 x 18.7 x 15.2 in. 19.2 x 15.4 x 10.8 in. 18.5 x 15.7 x 10.4 in. 19.0 x 10.8 x 15.6 in.
Interior Width 12 in. 16 in. 12 in. 12.5 in. 12 in. 12.5 in.
Interior Depth 12 in. 12 in. 12 in. 12 in. 12 in. 12 in.
Interior Height (from bottom rack position) 7.5 in. 7.5 in. 5 in. 7 in. 6 in. 7 in.
Broil Height (from top rack position) 2.5 in. 2 in. 3.5 in. 4 in. 4 in. 2 in.
Weight 18.0 lbs. 19.0 lbs. 14.0 lbs. 15.6 lbs. 14.9 lbs. 16.2 lbs.
Color Black Stainless Steel Stainless Steel Stainless Steel Red Stainless Steel Black Stainless Steel
Key Features “A Little Extra” button Mesh air-frying rack “Easy Reach” door Retro design None Built-in rotisserie cooker
Warranty 1-year 2-year 1-year 1-year 1-year 1-year
Price $90 $79 $69 $99 $64 $99 

What are my options?

You’ve got absolutely no shortage of toaster ovens to choose from. Names like Black & Decker, Hamilton Beach, Oster and countless others have been cranking the things out for generations now.

The true bargain-bin picks cost less than $50. If you’re willing to spend a little more, you should expect to get some form of convection heat and cooking, as well as perhaps a wider oven cavity, a few additional cooking preset options, digital controls, a non-stick coating on the bake pan or a nicer-looking design. The Bialetti and Toshiba models I tested come in black stainless steel, matching a modern large appliance trend, and the Toshiba model features a built-in rotisserie rack, too. The Nostalgia model offers a unique, red-bodied build, while lower-cost options from Hamilton Beach and Oster serve as simpler budget picks.

How we tested toaster ovens

Testing toaster ovens requires an awful lot of cooking, so I donned my trusty tan apron and got to work. 

Specifically, I set out to cook a wide variety of common toaster oven fodder. With the exception of the toasting tests, where I looked at each toaster oven’s individual settings for light, medium and dark toast, I used standardized temperature and cook times, and followed the recommendations on the box for whatever I was cooking wherever possible.

More from Chowhound: How to Clean Your Toaster Oven


Ry Crist/CNET

Toast tests galore

Bread made up the bulk of my test fodder — after all, of all the foods most of us probably make most often with these things it’s toast.

Most low-end toaster ovens use a built-in kitchen timer to set the broiling, toasting and cooking time. Typically, those timers include a couple of preset options for toasting — medium toast, dark toast and in some cases, a setting for light, barely toasted bread, too. 

Fancier models with an LCD display will usually let you dial into a specific doneness level when you’re toasting. You’ll typically get about six or seven settings to choose from with those, each with preprogrammed toasting times. That’s more precise than turning a timer knob, and worth it if you’re a stickler for the perfect shade of golden brown.

For my purposes, I toasted two slices of thin, white sandwich bread in each toaster oven at its version of each of the three common settings: light, medium and dark. After each test, I photographed the results and made sure to let the toaster oven cool back down to room temperature before testing again.

The main thing I was looking for was a nice, even color at medium settings, as well as the ability to easily adjust up or down from there.

The models with digital displays — Bialetti and Toshiba — were the easiest to use, since you dial into your preferred level of doneness on a six- or seven-point scale rather than guesstimating with a timer knob. Four out of 7 was a touch too dark for my tastes with Bialetti, but it’d be easy enough to leave it set at 3 (it was also the only toaster oven that visibly toasted the bread at the lightest toast setting). I also appreciated that it was the only toaster oven of the bunch to feature an “A Little Extra” button for those times when your toast needs another minute.

Meanwhile, the Toshiba’s toast was a little too light at 4 out of 6, and too light at the darkest setting, too.

The other four toaster ovens I tested all use timer knobs with little markers for different settings. I’m not a fan of the approach, especially with a model like the Hamilton Beach 31123D, which puts tiny markers for medium and dark toast directly adjacent to one another on the dial. Though a full 3 minutes of toasting time separates them, you’ll have to stoop down, squint and turn the knob very carefully if you want to hit anything in between the two with any sort of consistency.

The best of the manual control bunch? That’d be the Oster TSSTTVCG05, which consistently delivered satisfying golden brown toast at medium settings in less time than Bialetti, and which also features the best setting for folks who like toast dark, but not charcoal black.

toaster-oven-waffle-gridtoaster-oven-waffle-grid

Ry Crist/CNET

Speaking of the darkest setting, I didn’t begrudge the toaster ovens that burnt the hell out of my bread, because that darkest setting is often needed to toast from frozen. To put that to the test, I toasted several batches of frozen Eggo waffles in each toaster at the darkest setting. Predictably, the ones that had produced black toast at the same setting did the best job, though the Black & Decker toaster oven’s Eggos were a little too well done at the darkest setting, too. That’ll force you to search for a sweet spot between medium and dark on the dedicated doneness dial when you’re toasting frozen food.

Meanwhile, the weakest toasters of the bunch — Hamilton Beach and Toshiba — weren’t able to get the Eggos quite crisp enough. They might have benefited from Bialetti’s “A Little Extra” button.

When following the instructions on the box, Black & Decker and Oster gave us the best-cooked frozen pizza.


Ry Crist/CNET

Pizza and other frozen snacks and foods

I also baked a bunch of frozen pizzas — personal-sized pepperoni pies from DiGiorno, to be specific. The box recommends baking a frozen pizza at 425 F for 17 minutes, so that’s what I did with each toaster oven. 

The results were all over place, but not terribly surprising. The Hamilton Beach toaster oven was a little wimpy in the toast tests, and it followed suit here, too, with an underbaked pizza that needed another couple of minutes in the oven. Meanwhile, the toaster oven with the most power — the Bialetti — gave us burnt pizza that cooked a lot faster than you’d expect.

Toshiba burnt the pizza, too. That was more surprising since it had the opposite problem during my toast tests. Like Bialetti, it offers a dedicated pizza setting. With both models, the result was basically identical — burnt pizza when following the box instructions.

The best-cooked pizzas of the bunch came from Oster and Black & Decker, while the bright red, retro-designed Nostalgia toaster oven baked a passable pie, too.

In addition to DiGiorno’s, I made sure to test a number of other frozen snacks and foods, including mozzarella sticks (short bake time), Pizza Bagels (medium baking time) and waffle fries (long baking time). Again, for the most part, I was less concerned with how things tasted than I was with how much each toaster oven matched the recommended temperature and cook times compared with the user’s manual. The results largely lined up with what we saw from the pizza, but if you want to read more details, you can check out my full testing notes here.


Ry Crist/CNET

Convection cookies

My last tests were an office favorite: Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. I baked five cookies at a time in each toaster oven at its convection setting and according to the recommended time and temperature settings.

The Toshiba toaster oven again produced an overcooked result, which fit the pattern — it undercooked during toast tests and overcooked during baking and broiling tests. Bialetti and Black & Decker’s cookies were slightly well done, too. Meanwhile, Nostalgia, Oster and Hamilton Beach produced our taste testers’ top cookies (they passed the eye test with my Twitter followers, too). 

Nostalgia’s convection setting gave us the most even bake on cookies — a notable difference from the standard baking tests, where Nostalgia tended to cook faster in the back. 

In honesty, though, all of the toaster ovens did pretty well at the convection setting — it’s a feature that really makes a difference with baked goods like cookies. In fact, all of them can bake cookies or anything else just the way you like. The ones that overcook or undercook will just require more of a learning curve.

To that end, the Oster toaster oven emerged as my top pick from a performance standpoint — it aced my toast tests and proved predictable throughout all of my baking and broiling tests, too. That said…

Don’t get burned by bad design

I’ve yet to test a toaster oven that makes foods taste any better than a full-size oven would. They’re simply not designed to perform to that standard — especially not for less than $100.

That’s why I think you should take most toaster oven performance claims with a grain or two of salt. As long as your toaster oven doesn’t overcook or undercook foods too much, and if it has enough power (1,500 watts is a good benchmark for average-sized convection toaster ovens), then you won’t notice much of a difference in the way it cooks foods as compared with other models like it.

You will notice design flaws and clunky user interfaces, though, so if you can, head to the store and get your hands on the models you’re zeroing in on before you buy. Open and close the doors, adjust the racks — look for the little things. For instance, the glass door on the top-performing Oster model opens down more than 90 degrees, which means that the glass can clank directly against the corner of your countertop if you don’t have it pushed up against your backsplash.

As for me, I hated the imprecise doneness dials on the Hamilton Beach and Nostalgia toaster ovens, and I was also bugged by the temperature dial on the Toshiba model, which starts at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and moves in 20-degree increments — that means you can’t hit a precise 400.

None of these countertop toaster ovens is perfect, but some in this price range look better than others, and feel much easier to use. Those are differences worth shopping around for.

You’ll also want to think about what you’ll be using your toaster oven for most often. If you like toast with your coffee each morning, prioritize a toaster oven with a precise preset. If you like to broil things like hamburgers, make sure you get a toaster oven with a high top rack position 2 or 3 inches underneath the heating elements. Many don’t let you set the racks any higher than halfway up, which is too low from the heating elements for a good char.

What about my energy bill?

One argument in favor of countertop toaster ovens is that they use less energy than a full-size traditional oven. That’s true — most full-size electric ovens will draw about 2,400 watts at medium to high heat, while the average toaster oven will draw around 1,500 watts. That means that every time you’re using your toaster oven instead of your full-size oven, you’re cutting your energy consumption by a little over a third.

What does that mean in dollars and cents? Let’s walk through the math. Assuming an energy rate of $0.12 per kilowatt hour and an average use of 1 hour per day, the full-size oven will add about $105 to your energy bill each year. Unplug the oven and use a toaster oven instead, and that yearly energy cost drops to $65.

Your actual savings will vary based on use, and will likely be a lot less than $40. After all, most people who own toaster ovens will continue to use their full-size oven sometimes, if not most of the time, and hardly any of us will stop using our ovens altogether. So let’s split the difference and say that using a toaster oven instead of a full-size oven at least some of the time can knock as much as $20 off of your yearly energy bill, provided you’re baking something just about every day.

That’s still pretty good, but it’s also less than you might expect. Think about it — the average 1,500-watt toaster oven offers about 0.6 cubic feet on the inside, while the average 2,400-watt electric oven offers about 5 cubic feet. The toaster oven is 85 percent smaller, but it’s only using 35 percent less energy. If you’ve got a family to feed, or if you like to make multiple batches of cookies at a time, then you’ll actually get more value from the full-size oven.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Are there smart toaster ovens?

There sure are — well, smart countertop ovens, anyway — but it’s very early, and they’re very expensive. Unless you’re an enthusiastic early adopter of smart kitchen tech with lots of cash to burn, they’re tough to recommend, and I’d stick with a regular oven.

The first to arrive was the June Intelligent Oven, which now sells in a second-gen model for $599. It’s a capable cooking machine that uses built-in cameras to identify what you’re trying to make, and it offers cooking guidance and an abundance of settings to tweak in its companion app. It also isn’t good at making toast.

The Tovala Smart Oven is another second-gen smart oven, and at $299, it’s less expensive than June. It doesn’t feature built-in cameras — instead, this smart oven uses a built-in QR code scanner to identify specific Tovala meal kits, as well as up to 750 frozen foods from retailers like Trader Joe’s. From there, the smart oven automates the entire cooking process. You just put the food in and press start.

The Brava Oven is a capable connected cooker — but it costs $995.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The third smart oven worth mentioning comes from Brava, and it’s the most expensive of the three at $995. Among toaster oven upgrades, it’s a bit like Frankenstein’s monster — you get the same infrared heating elements as the Panasonic FlashXpress, the same built-in cameras as June, and the same meals kit approach as Tovala. Like the smart oven itself, those meal kits are awfully expensive, with dinner for two ranging from $28 to $45.

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Whirlpool’s smart oven is available now for $799.


Chris Monroe/CNET

I don’t think any of these smart options are worth buying yet, but connected cooking gadgets are continuing to mature — and with products like the Instant Pot proving that there’s still a healthy appetite for well-featured kitchen tech and kitchen appliances, manufacturers are motivated to innovate. 

That includes the market-movers. Whirlpool has a smart countertop oven of its own now, and more big brands are likely to follow suit. Just recently, LG announced that its smart ovens will support Tovala’s meals kits — though you’ll need to scan their QR codes with the Tovala app on your phone. And if you’re in the market for a microwave, you might consider the $250 Amazon Smart Oven, which basically combines a microwave with an air fryer and adds in built-in Alexa voice controls.

It isn’t smart, but if you’d rather splurge on a fancy pop-up toaster, the $300 Revolution R180 actually left us impressed and charmed when we tested it out.


Molly Price/CNET

Heck, even plain old toasters are looking to grab attention. The latest is the Revolution R180, a $300 toaster with a touchscreen on the front. Interestingly, that one uses diamond-shaped heating coils that are faster and more efficient than traditional toaster coils, and it worked as advertised when we tested it out. I wonder if we’ll see similar designs start to pop up in the toaster oven category.

Fresh competition like that might lead to something truly compelling — and, at the very least, it should eventually help to bring prices down to more reasonable levels. When we get to that point, I’ll update this section to include our top pick with its pros and cons.

More delicious buying advice

Apple is testing optical in-screen fingerprint sensor for its upcoming iPhones

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In a world still struggling with a pandemic for over a year now, face masks have become a crucial item for saving lives. But they also make facial recognition systems redundant, especially those on our daily use gadgets such as smartphones, with the best example being iPhones. Well, it appears that Apple might finally pay heed to the demand of iPhone users and employ an in-screen fingerprint sensor on its smartphones. As per a report from The Wall Street Journal, Apple has been experimenting with an in-display fingerprint sensor and might bring it to its upcoming iPhones without ditching Face ID hardware.

“Apple has been working on in-screen fingerprint technology and has considered including both Touch ID and Face ID on the same device, two former Apple employees told me. While they couldn’t confirm the company’s plans, other reports, including one from Bloomberg, say Apple is testing in-screen fingerprint sensors in its next iPhone,” says the report. Interestingly analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted back in August of 2019 that the 2021 slate of iPhones will offer both Touch ID and Face ID. And earlier this month, a couple of tipsters with a solid track record mentioned that Touch ID will return on the iPhone 13 family.

Apple might offer both Face ID and Touch ID on upcoming iPhones

The latest report also cites a former Apple employee who added that the company has been experimenting with an optical in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is said to be more reliable than the ultra-sensing in-display fingerprint sensor used on Samsung’s Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S21 series phones developed by Qualcomm. However, iPhones will only get an in-display fingerprint sensor if they match the accuracy and speed standards Apple set with the physical Touch ID sensor that you still find on older iPhones (and a few newer models such as the iPhone SE 2020), iPads, and MacBooks.

In the past few months, there has also been speculation that Apple might use a physical side-mounted fingerprint sensor on its upcoming iPhones, just like the one we saw on the iPad Air that made its debut late last year. However, Face ID will continue to exist on iPhones as it facilitates a host of AR features such as Memojis.




I’ve been writing about consumer technology for over three years now, having worked with names such as NDTV and Beebom in the past. Aside from covering the latest news, I’ve reviewed my fair share of devices ranging from smartphones and laptops to smart home devices. I also have interviewed tech execs and appeared as a host in YouTube videos talking about the latest and greatest gadgets out there.

Is it worth tracking your carbon footprint?

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Billing itself as a “Strava for lower carbon living”, Edinburgh-based website Pawprint, which launched in September 2019 and is set to launch on the App store this month, works in a similar way to Capture, with users encouraged to answer questions about their lifestyle across areas such as home, diet, travel and consumer goods.

MWC Shanghai: Gadget companies gather for rare pandemic tech expo

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Fictiv nabs $35M to build out the AWS of hardware manufacturing

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Hardware may indeed be hard, but a startup that’s built a platform that might help buck that idea by making hardware a little easier to produce has announced some more funding to continue building out its platform.

Fictiv, which positions itself as the “AWS of hardware” — providing a platform for those needing to produce some hardware, giving them a place to design, price and order those pieces and eventually get them from one place to another — has raised $35 million.

Fictiv will be using the money to continue building out its platform and the supply chain that underpins its business, which the startup describes as a “Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem.”

Dave Evans, the CEO and founder, said that the focus of the company has been and will continue to be not mass-produced items but prototypes and other objects that are specialized and by their nature not aimed at mass markets, such as particular medical devices.

“We are focused on 1,000 to 10,000,” he said in an interview, which he said was a challenging number of produce as these kinds of jobs fall short of seeing bigger economies of scale, but are still too big to be considered small and inexpensive. “This is the range where most products still die.”

The round — a Series D — is coming from a mix of strategic and financial investors. Led by 40 North Ventures, it also includes Honeywell, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., Adit Ventures and M20 (Microsoft’s strategic investment arm), as well as past backers Accel, G2VP and Bill Gates.

The funding brings the total raised by Fictiv to $92 million. Its valuation is not being disclosed.

Fictiv last raised money nearly two years ago — a $33 million round in early 2019 — and the interim years have well and truly tested the business concept that he envisioned when first establishing the startup.

Even before the pandemic, “we had no idea what the trade wars between the U.S. and China would do,” he said. Quite abruptly, the supply chain got completely “crunched, with everything shut down” in China over those tariff disputes.

Fictiv’s fix was to shift manufacturing to other parts of Asia such as India, and to the U.S. That, in turn, ended up helping the company when the first wave of COVID-19 hit, initially in China.

Then came the global outbreak, and Fictiv found itself shifting yet again as plants shut down in the countries where it had recently opened.

Then, with trade issues cooled down, Fictiv again reignited relationships and operations in China, where COVID had been contained early, to continue working there.

“I guess we were just in the right places at the right time,” he said.

The startup made its name early on with building prototypes for tech companies neighboring it in the Bay Area, startups build VR and other gadgets, with services that included injection molding, CNC machining, 3D printing and urethane casting, with customers using cloud-based software to design and order parts, which then were routed by Fictiv to the plants best suited to make them.

These days, while that business continues, Fictiv is also working with very large global multinationals on their efforts with smaller-scale manufacturing, products that are either new or unable to be tooled as efficiently in their existing factories.

Work that it does for Honeywell, for example, includes mostly hardware for its aerospace division. Medical devices and robotics are two other big areas for the company currently, it said.

Fictiv is not the only company eyeing up this opportunity. Others that have been building marketplaces that either directly compete with what Fictiv has built, or targets other aspects of the chain such as marketplaces for design, or marketplaces for factories to connect with designers, or materials designers include Geomiq in England, Carbon (which is also backed by 40 North), Fathom in Oakland, Kreatize in Germany, Plethora (backed by the likes of GV and Founders Fund), and Xometry (which also recently raised a significant round).

Evans and his investors are careful not to describe what they do as specifically industrial technology to keep the focus on the bigger opportunities with digital transformation and of course the kinds of applications one might have for the platform that Fictiv has built.

“Industrial tech is a misnomer. I think of this as digital transformation, cloud-based SaaS and AI,” said Marianne Wu, a managing director at 40 North Ventures. “The baggage of industrial tech tells you everything about the opportunity.”

Fictiv’s pitch is that by taking on the supply-chain management of producing hardware for a business, it can produce hardware using its platform in a week, a process that might have previously taken three months to complete, which can mean lower costs and more efficiency.

“And when you speed up development, you see more products getting introduced,” he said.

There is still a lot of work to be done, however. One of the big sticking points in manufacturing has been the carbon footprint that it creates in production, and also in terms of the resulting goods that are produced.

That will likely become even more of an issue, if the Biden administration follows through on its own commitments to reduce emissions and to lean more on companies to follow through for those ends.

Evans is all too aware of that issue and accepts that manufacturing may be one of the hardest to shift.

“Sustainability and manufacturing are not synonymous,” he admits. And while materials and manufacturing will take longer to evolve, for now, he said the focus has been on how to implement better private and public and carbon credits programs. He envisions a better market for carbon credits, he said, with Fictiv doing its part with the launch of its own tool for measuring this.

“Sustainability is ripe for disruption, and we hope to have the first carbon-neutral shipping program, giving customers better choice for more sustainability. It’s on the shoulders of companies like us to drive this.”

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