Sometimes I look at my desk and find too many boxes staring back at me. So I’m reviewing three gadgets that don’t necessarily warrant a full review but are worth your consideration.
Wiko Ride 3
It isn’t very often I am offered a low-priced Android phone to review, especially one that’s tied to one carrier, but I’ve been testing the Ride 3 from Wiko Mobile, a European company that has its U.S. headquarters in Plano.
The Ride 3 is a good-looking phone running Android 11, and it’s available for just $34.99 from Boost Mobile. The phone only works on Boost, so you can’t unlock it to work with other carriers.
The Ride 3 features a 6.09-inch display with a resolution of 1,560 by 720 pixels. The screen takes up most of the front of the phone, with a small notch at the top for the 5 megapixel selfie camera.
The phone runs on a MediaTek Helio A22 2.0 gigahertz quad-core CPU with three gigabytes of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage.
It has a 3,400 milliamp-hour battery that had no problem lasting all day. Wiko says you can talk for 16 hours on a charge. The phone charges via USB-C.
The Ride 3 has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5, along with a headphone jack. The Ride 3 runs on 3G and 4G LTE networks, but not on 5G.
The main camera has a 13 MP sensor. There is another camera on the back, but it is strictly to help with depth focusing. The depth camera helps determine how far the subject is from the background, which allows for the user to blur the background after the shot.
The SIM card slot is hiding under the phone’s plastic rear cover, where you will also find a microSD card slot to increase the storage.
Overall, the Ride 3 is a pretty good phone, and it’s certainly a bargain. But for $34.99, you can’t realistically compare it with $400 midpriced phones or $1,000 flagship phones.
What you get is a good-looking phone with the latest Android OS that anyone can afford.
Pros: Cheap, current operating system, expandable storage, headphone jack.
Cons: Tied only to Boost Mobile.
Bottom line: I hate to gripe about a phone this cheap. You get what you pay for. This is one you won’t mind buying for the kids.
Tronsmart Apollo Air+
Wireless earbuds are a category of gadget that has really taken off over the last year. Everyone seems to be releasing their own version of Apple’s AirPods.
I get pitched so many sub-$50 wireless earbuds that I have to tune them out.
There are some features on higher-priced wireless earbuds like active noise canceling that do get my attention.
I’ve been testing the Tronsmart Apollo Air+ TrueWireless Stereo Plus Hybrid ANC Earbuds ($99), and I’ve been impressed with what I hear so far.
The buds have a design with a silicone ear tip that sticks out a bit farther than AirPods Pro, and this design fits my ear shape rather well.
I’ve said it before: The key to good wireless earbud sound is a good fit. You can buy $200 AirPods or any other high-end brand, but if you can’t get a comfortable seal in your ears, they won’t sound good.
The Apollo Air+ have Qualcomm’s QCC30-46 chip with aptX and aptX Adaptive technology for very low latency.
The active noise canceling (ANC) is impressive. You can really hear background noise disappear when you turn it on by touching either earbud three times.
I have a small fan at my desk that sounds like a jet engine when I’m listening to music at my desk, and the ANC on the Apollo Air+ really quieted things down nicely.
The buds have in-ear detection, so your music will stop if you take them out.
The buds have three microphones on each ear to help your voice sound clear on calls and to monitor the background noise for the ANC system.
They can play for five hours on a charge, and the battery case can charge them for up to 20 hours of playback. They are available in black or white.
The battery case can be charged via USB-C or wirelessly.
The sound is really clear. Music sounds a bit bass-heavy out of the box, but you can download the free Tronsmart app that lets the user control the ANC and choose from eight equalizer settings to change the sound of the music. Note that you can’t set the equalizer levels yourself — you can only pick from the eight presets.
After trying all the presets, I found myself returning to the default setting for most songs.
The Apollo Air+ earbuds offer a lot for the price. They have four sets of ear tips for customizing the fit. They pair easily and sound great when you’re listening to music.
I made a phone call to my wife and she said the buds sounded clear, but I sounded a little far away.
Tronsmart tells me the buds should be for sale on Amazon soon, but for now you can buy them here.
Pros: Good fit, great sound, low latency.
Cons: Can’t create your own EQ presets. Voice on calls seems a bit distant.
Bottom line: Nice-looking midpriced wireless buds that sound good and fit my ears.
House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC Wireless Headphones
I’ve been a fan of House of Marley headphones for years.
The company’s focus is on building great sounding headphones using sustainable materials. I’ve been testing its Positive Vibration XL ANC Wireless Headphones ($149.99) that are made of recyclable aluminum, natural eco-friendly fabrics and a bit of wood. It all comes in packaging that’s 100% recyclable.
The Positive Vibrations are over-the-ear headphones that seal around your ears, which is important for the active noise canceling.
I have a pretty big head, and they fit me just fine. They are a bit snug, but not uncomfortably so.
The ANC is very noticeable, and the rechargeable battery will let the user listen to 26 hours of music with ANC on or 32 hours with it off.
A voice in the headphones announces when you press the button to turn ANC off or on. There is also a button to toggle Ambient mode that uses a microphone to allow outside noise in so you can hear people talking to you without having to remove the headphones.
Sound is delivered through 40mm high-definition drivers that bring plenty of bass.
Connection to your music source can be through Bluetooth or you can attach a 3.5mm wire to plug into a headphone jack.
You can also use the wired mode even if the headphones’ battery is dead.
There is an onboard microphone for making calls, but in my testing my voice was muffled badly. Because the mic is on the ear cup, I wasn’t surprised with the poor voice quality.
But I did enjoy listening to music.
In fact, I’ve reviewed and used so many types of earbuds, I’d really forgotten how good my favorite songs sounded through nice over-the-ear headphones.
So buy these for the stellar music playback, not to wear on conference calls with the boss.
Pros: Great sound, ANC is above average, wired option.
Cons: The microphone for voice calls is not very good.
Bottom line: For the price, these cancel noise better than most.
Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He can be reached at email@example.com.