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Tom's Guide Ultimate Home Office Awards

Ultimate Home Office Awards
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The past year has brought a lot of challenges, not the least of which has been finding the kind of gear that lets you be as productive working at home as you were in the office. Fortunately, there are PCs, peripherals and other gadgets ideal for remote work. And that’s what our inaugural Ultimate Home Office Awards look to recognize.

We evaluated more than 90 products that were submitted for our Ultimate Home Office awards, which involved an entrance fee. And we judged based on several criteria, including quality, performance and what kind of value they delivered to the work-from-home experience. In the end, we decided on 23 winners that can turn any home office into a lean, mean productivity machine.

If your work schedule has you working from home these days, these are the products you need to get more done. Meet our Ultimate Home Office Award winners.

Best webcam: Logitech Brio

Tom's Guide Ultimate Home Office Awards

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The Logitech Brio ($199) is the ultimate webcam for any home office, allowing your colleagues to see you so clearly, you might as well be in the room with them. This powerful camera allows up to 4K video capture at 30 frames per second, delivering a bright, crisp picture that will make you fully present during important meetings. There’s also an option to capture at a smoother 60 fps at 1080p, should you need to do some on-camera content creation for work.

With up to a 90-degree field of view and Rightlight 3 with HDR technology built in, the Brio can easily capture your entire home office while delivering a clear picture even in low light. Other key features include up to 5x digital zoom, built-in noise cancelling mics and infrared support for instant Windows Hello logins. Thanks to the robust Logitech Capture software, you can fine tune exactly how you want to look on screen with a variety of filters and customization options for zoom and field of view. With its superb image quality and rich feature set, the Logitech Brio is the ultimate home office webcam, and well worth its price. — Mike Andronico

Best mouse: Logitech MX Anywhere 3

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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If you want to work quickly, efficiently and just about anyplace you can imagine, the Logitech MX Anywhere 3 ($79) is the right mouse for the job. This $80 office peripheral combines the comfortable design of a gaming mouse with the straightforward functionality of an office mouse. Small and sleek, the MX Anywhere 3 lives up to its name. Not only is it easy to transport, but you can also connect it to four different devices at once: three over Bluetooth and one via wireless USB dongle.

In addition to textured grips on each side,the MX Anywhere 3 features two programmable thumb buttons, a rigid scroll wheel and even a button to adjust its dots-per-inch (DPI) sensitivity — a rarity in office mice. With three available colors, six buttons and up to 70 days of battery life on a charge (via USB-C, naturally), productivity mice don't get much better than this. — Marshall Honorof

Best keyboard: Logitech MX Keys

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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Logitech has been making best-in-class keyboards since 2001, so it's no surprise that the Logitech MX Keys ($100) is currently the best office keyboard on the market. This full-size keyboard features robust membrane keys with comfortable spacing, two kinds of wireless connectivity (Bluetooth and USB dongle), and shortcuts for both PC and Mac applications. From a physical perspective, there's a tilted design for touch typists, and a metal plate in the chassis for a solid base.

Using the Logitech Options software, you can reprogram buttons, control individual app settings and monitor your battery status. Granted, you won't need to monitor the battery often, as you can get up to five months on a charge with the backlighting off. (With the backlighting on, you still get about 10 days, and recharging via USB-C takes only a few hours.) 

If you need a high-end keyboard and mechanical models aren't your thing, the MX Keys is about as good as they get. — Marshall Honorof

Best USB-C dock: Plugable USBC-7IN1

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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Let's be honest — even the best laptops lack all the ports you need, which is why USB-C docks have become so popular. The Plugable USBC-7IN1 is a straightforward USB expansion hub that doesn't mess around. For $35, you get a USB-C hub with three USB 3.0 ports, and HDMI port, an SD card reader, and a microSD card reader. The USB ports are all 5Gbps with smooth transfer speed and the HDMI 1.4 port will drive an external monitor up to 4K@30Hz with no problem!

The hub also has a USB-C pass-through changing port, so you can plug in your laptop's USB-C charger to keep the power flowing without losing all those extra ports. And it's completely plug-n-play with Windows, Mac and Linux system — no drivers to install or worry about. You get all that in a light, sturdy aluminum shell that can slide right into your pocket. — Mike Williams

Best microphone: Shure MV5C 

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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The Shure MV5C ($99) is a killer value, ensuring that you’ll be heard loud and clear during conference calls without having to pay up for the privilege. This quality condenser microphone is compact as it is powerful, with a neat spherical design that comes with an attachable base. Shure’s microphone is also extremely portable for when you need to switch locations. 

While the Shure MV5C is tiny, this mic will capture your voice with plenty of volume and detail, complete with a Speech Enhancement Mode that will boost your audio while dampening any unwanted background noise.

With both USB-A and USB-C cables included, the MV5C will work instantly with just about any PC or Mac. Its sleek, simple and small design will fit seamlessly into any home office setup, and it includes a headphone jack for better hearing your calls. Plus, at $79, it’s one of the more affordable USB microphones out there at this quality level. If you want a clear, no-nonsense mic for being heard during important meetings, the Shure MV5C is the best value out there. — Mike Andronico

Best standing desk: Vari Electric Standing Desk

Tom's Guide Ultimate Home Office Awards

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It’s entirely too easy to sit at a desk all day and only get up for lunch and when the day is done. But that’s definitely bad for your health. The Vari Electric Standing Desk ($550) is a cinch to assemble and comes with four presets so you can go from your favorite custom sitting position to standing with just the push of a button. The build quality is incredibly sturdy, and the lifting and lowering motion is smooth and fairly quiet. 

The Vari desk gives you a wide range of heights to choose from, ranging from 25 inches all the way up to 50.5 inches. Everything on your desk will stay exactly where it is while in motion — my MacBook Pro, keyboard, mouse, mic, docking station and monitor with webcam attached never moved when I adjusted the desk. I’m partial to the butcher block laminated finish, but you can also choose from reclaimed wood, white, black and dark wood. The only thing missing is drawers, but the optional cable management tray comes in really handy for storing a surge protector and other cards. — Mark Spoonauer

Best overall laptop: Dell XPS 13

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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When it's time to build the ultimate home office, you start with the heart — which in most cases is a great laptop. And those who want a great overall laptop (we've got four other picks for other kinds of great laptops to organize your desk around) should start with the Dell XPS 13 ($999). Newly updated with 11th Gen Tiger Lake CPUs, the best overall laptop got better in 2020. No matter if you connect your laptop to an external monitor or not, you'll love the XPS 13's InfinityEdge display, which shed the chunky bottom bezel down for a 91.5% screen-to-body ratio. 

Those thin bezels play an important role — they allow the XPS 13's super-bright (469 nits) panel to really stand out. But after you're done streaming Netflix on the XPS 13 during your lunch break and it's time to get down to business, you'll be glad you chose this laptop: as we found in our Dell XPS 13 (2020, 11th Gen) review, it’s got a great keyboard. Oh, and since you're not going to be living entirely out of that home office forever, you'll be happy to hear it's got pretty good battery life — lasting 11 hours and 7 minutes on our battery test. — Henry T. Casey

Best business laptop: HP Elite Dragonfly

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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Execs and ladder-climbing workaholics alike will feel good about their decision to pick up the HP Elite Dragonfly ($1,779). Start with the unique blue magnesium chassis, which will draw eyes and make you feel like you've invested well. The HP Elite Dragonfly has a durable design that passed 19 of the MIL-STD-810 ruggedness tests — that means it will withstand plenty of things that would normally do some damage, including drops, blasts of sand and other small particles and even endure extreme temperatures. So when your dog tackles you as you're carrying the Dragonfly from the living room to your home office, you won't need to worry about the laptop landing on your floor. 

MIL-STD approval is found in plenty of laptops, but we have to give HP credit for putting that durability in such a light laptop: the Elite Dragonfly weighs a mere 2.5 pounds. And somehow inside of this thin and light laptop, HP managed to put a big enough battery that lasts almost 12.5 hours on a single charge. 

Speaking of big things in small packages, our HP Elite Dragonfly review raves about the laptop’s screen, thanks to its solid color output (117%) and brightness (373 nits) numbers. On top of that, you get a speedy vPro-equipped Intel Core i3 to i7 processors, a must for many corporate workers, as vPro enables your IT team to remotely log into your laptop. And for that day in the hopefully-near future when travel is the norm and not a rarity, the Elite Dragonfly's support for 5G and Tile tracking will help you stay mobile and stop yourself from losing this luxurious laptop. — Henry T. Casey

Best Chromebook: Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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It's finally time to throw away your preconceived notions that Chromebooks are just for kids. If your work can live in Chrome (and benefit from Android app support), the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 ($629)  is a great pick for the next brain of your home office. It starts with its elegant 2-in-1 design that looks far more adult than your kid's rubber-bumper-clad school-issued laptop. And the Spin 713’s 10th Gen Core i5 processor means you're going to be blazing through work, and not worrying about going back to Windows 10 or macOS. Plus, the Chromebook’s 13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504-pixel screen gets pretty bright, so all of your work will be crystal clear. 

And, yes, we're recommending Chromebooks for the home office for one big reason. They let you just focus on your work. ChromeOS handles updates so quietly in the background, and has stellar antivirus protection, that you won't ever need to worry about a bad update, or if you're protected or not. — Henry T. Casey

Best laptop for creators: Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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You've probably never seen a laptop quite like the Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel. It's the kind of unique laptop that may confuse you at first, but once you get it in your hands, the ConceptD 7 Ezel makes perfect sense. Touchscreen display laptops are cool, but their screens are so far away that it's hard to naturally feel creative. That's where creators will love the easel-based hinge that allows you to bring the display closer to you. This strong hinge doesn't flex under pressure, and the laptop’s display hides a stylus quite subtly, for easy access. For anyone who's going to use a stylus a lot in their work, this nimble laptop's hinged display will be a godsend. 

You’ll pay a pretty penny for the Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel, which is $1,279. (The model I tested rocks an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, 2TB of NVMe storage and an octo-core Intel i7-10875H processor, which brings its price to around $3,999.) There's a reason why we call this the Ultimate Home Office Awards, though. — Henry T. Casey

Best 2-in-1 laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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When you shop for a fantastic convertible laptop, you’re looking for two things: a fast performing laptop and a great screen worthy of being a giant tablet. For performance, get the 5th-gen ThinkPad X1 Yoga with a Core i7 processor ($1,377), which brings the thunder for all the productivity you need. 

The X1 Yoga’s PCIe SSD will also impress, as it did on our file transfer test, posting speeds of 759.6 MBps. You get long battery life no matter if you choose the 4K model, which posted a respectable time of 7 hours and 28 minutes, or the 1080p X1 (11:30). And the X1 Yoga's got a great keyboard, with bouncy, responsive keys that will enable tons of speedy, comfortable typing.

Then, there's the display. Both the 1080p (404 nits) and 4K (488 nits) Yoga screens get plenty bright, and their sRGB color spectrum scores (1080p: 102%, 4K: 133%) are also impressive. No matter which position you put the ThinkPad X1 Yoga in, you're gonna get a great laptop that adjusts for you. It's even got a hidden stylus that stows in its side, for when it's time to draw on its touchscreen display. — Henry T. Casey

Home office must-have: WeBoost Home MultiRoom signal booster

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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Staying productive means staying connected, and if your home office lacks a reliable, consistent connection to your cellular provider’s network, that can hamper your ability to get things done. The ultimate fix to that problem is the WeBoost Home MultiRoom signal booster ($549), which can provide a stable cellular connection with just a little bit of DIY know-how.

You install the WeBoost MultiRoom yourself, and it’s a fairly straightforward process if you know your way around a drill and you’re willing to take the time to properly adjust the device’s outdoor antenna for the best signal. Because the WeBoost MultiRoom is carrier agnostic, you can get a better signal from multiple carriers — ideal if your home office hosts multiple workers all with their own cellular service.

Don’t expect a dramatic increase in the speed of your wireless connection, but you will see a noticeably more stable connection if you had trouble getting cellular bars before turning to the WeBoost MultiRoom. If you’re happy with your cellular connectivity, this is one piece of gear you can skip, but if your home office is off the beaten path, WeBoost’s cell signal booster can be your lifeline back to the rest of the world. — Jeffery Battersby

Home office must-have: Fluidstance The Level 

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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I personally can’t get on board with the whole cycling-under-your-desk thing, but I can get on board with the FluidStance Level ($249). This balance board for standing desks is designed to help you burn nearly 20% more calories than sitting while also increasing your heart rate. Because The Level is designed to help you make micro-movements throughout the day, which not only keeps you more alert but helps you burn calories while potentially alleviating stiff joints or back pain. 

If you want to take things to the next (ahem) level, there’s an included Challenge Cap that attaches to the bottom of the board to increase the balance point and give you more of a workout. It’s really like skateboarding without the need for a helmet, which can help break up your day while making you a little bit healthier. — Mark Spoonauer

Best 4K monitor: BenQ EW3280U

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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There are a lot of things to consider in a home office monitor, but the two most essential requirements are screen size and resolution. With a 32-inch 4K IPS panel offering 10-bit color and HDR support, the BenQ EW3280U ($799) fits the bill while bringing much more to the table. 

We were especially impressed by the BenQ's superb color quality, which combines high accuracy with a huge color gamut that exceeds some of the most premium competitors for color range and quality. And BenQ’s 4K display offers one-cable connectivity over USB-C for dead-simple use with current laptops.

Features like built-in speakers and a subwoofer provide great sound for everything from movies to Zoom calls, and a bundled IR remote control is a great inclusion when you want to kick back and enjoy a show. Intelligent brightness control and HDRi track the ambient brightness of the room, adjusting the color and backlight intensity on the display for the best view at all times. For a 4K monitor that gives you plenty of screen real estate for work and entertainment-friendly features for when the day is done, the BenQ EW3280U is the clear pick as the best home office 4K monitor we've seen. — Brian Westover

Best display for graphics pros: Acer ConceptD CP7271K

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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If you're a graphics professional outfitting your home office now that your office is closed, you’ve noticed that color accuracy on even the best consumer monitors can be hit-and-miss. For reference-level color accuracy and a ton of built-in features purely for professionals, the Acer ConceptD CP7271K ($2,199) is the best display we've seen for graphics pros.

Aside from 4K resolution, a huge color gamut and expansive HDR support, the Acer ConceptD CP7271K offers some features that only pros will really need, like a built-in sunshade and automatic light sensor that keeps true-to-life colors even as the room's lighting changes. This display is suited to still media and video alike, with 144Hz refresh rate and Pantone-validated color accuracy, along with Nvidia G-Sync Ultimate support for adding HDR capability alongside adaptive refresh rates for tear-free gaming. 

The screen also boasts anti-glare technology that won't disrupt the essential sharpness or color accuracy, and it's in-depth color menu lets you dial in exactly what you need for your projects. It's expensive, to be sure, but if you need professional grade color accuracy and visual support, the Acer ConceptD CP7271K is the best around. — Brian Westover

Best monitor for multitasking: Dell UltraSharp 34 Curved USB-C Monitor U3419W

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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If your main concern with home office monitors is getting stuff done, then it's hard to ignore the Dell UltraSharp 34 Curved USB-C Monitor U3419W ($1,059), which offers an ultrawide WQHD display featuring 3440 x 1440 resolution. You also get a built-in KVM switch for switching between two different systems -- like a laptop and desktop -- without having to disconnect your monitor, keyboard and mouse. The USB-C connectivity is a high-performance convenience, especially thanks to the 90-watts of power it provides for keeping laptop batteries topped up.

The U3419W also has a curved screen, a feature we find indispensable for ultra-wide monitors, since they bring the farthest edges of the screen closer to you for clearer, more immersive viewing. The monitor's 60Hz refresh rate may not appeal to competitive gamers, but the combination of excellent accuracy, decent color gamut and resolution with flicker-free, anti-glare display, will appeal to pretty much everyone else. 

The U3419W is a fantastic all-around monitor, but it's worth recommending this productivity beast for getting serious work done from your home office. — Brian Westover

Best business mini PC: Lenovo ThinkCentre M90n Nano

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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Want a full-featured desktop without all of the space that a full tower takes up? The Lenovo ThinkCentre M90n Nano ($447) is the work system for you, with a compact design that's smaller than just about anything. Measuring 7.1 x 3.5 x 0.87 inches, the aptly named M90n Nano may be small, but with an Intel Core i5-8365U inside along with 8GB of RAM and 500GB of HDD storage, you get a powerful desktop that's small enough to slip into a pocket. 

The little PC can be stashed in a drawer, mounted under a desk or table, and even docked on the back of a monitor. Great for bringing your work system home with you, the tiny footprint of the ThinkCentre M90n Nano gives you your full work PC in a size that won't take over your home office. And with plenty of ports – from full-size DisplayPort to HDMI over USB-C, and five USB ports for connecting storage and peripherals – you'll never feel like the feature set falls short. — Brian Westover

Best business all-in-one desktop: Lenovo ThinkCentre M90 All-in-One

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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Designed for both business HQ and the home office, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M90a ($839) is an all-in-one desktop that blends solid performance with features so professional, they'll make you feel like putting on a tie. The PC has the usual collection of components, with an Intel Core i5-10500 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and it comes with a very good wired keyboard and mouse. From the performance to the design, it's a system designed to let you get things done.

But it's in the details that the Lenovo ThinkCentre M90a shines as an office desktop, with built-in cable management that routes cables through its stand and a cover that pivots out of the way for connecting power and peripherals, then locks into place to hide all those unsightly connectors. Smart USB ports help keep out unauthorized uploads, and an optional PrivacyGuard display panel not only keeps those next to you from reading your screen on the sly, it can even blur the screen when your eyes leave the monitor, ensuring that only you see sensitive data. Combine all of this with excellent security from names like McAfee and Norton as well as Intel's TPM security module, and you've got a capable business machine that protects your data and lets you get a ton done. — Brian Westover

Best home office printer: Canon Pixma G6020 MegaTank

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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The Canon Pixma G6020 ($270) is a great value for a printer with refillable ink tanks — especially considering that it comes with two extra bottles of black ink ($18 each), rated to print an additional 7,700 pages each. The ink tanks keep printing costs extremely low, at just 0.2 cents for text and 0.8 cents for color pages.

Well-suited to a home office, the G6020 has a compact body and offers two paper trays that can hold a total of 350 sheets. This allows you to keep two media types at the ready. The G6020 delivers solid performance, including fast black-and-white copying. It also delivers competitive print and scanning speeds. Outfitted with a duplexer for making two-sided prints, the G6020’s output is just as sharp as its one-sided prints (a drawback for some rival printers). With really low ink costs and top-of-the-line print, copy and scan quality, you win big with the G6020. — Eric Butterfield

Best home office mesh kit: Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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In a world awash in mesh router kits, the Asus ZenWiFi AX XT8 ($450) stands out as an excellent value that not only delivers good performance but can protect your home office from malware and hackers. And it looks good in the process — available in black or white, the ZenWiFi’s oval towers are the rare pieces of networking gear that you won’t want to hide.

Based on the Wi-Fi 6 protocol, the XT8 uses a streamlined tri-band design with a dedicated backhaul channel to efficiently move data back and forth. Rated at covering up to 5,500 square feet, the kit’s two mesh devices should be plenty for filling even the largest home office with wireless data. It’s not the fastest mesh router around, though its 701.0 Mbps of throughput at 15-feet should be plenty. 

The XT8’s two-year warranty is double what routers provide and the XT8’s AiProtection Pro software can provide a home office with extra layers of security. In addition to blocking malicious Web sites and stopping viral infections, the XT8 defends your data. — Brian Nadel

Best antivirus software: Norton 360 Deluxe

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Norton 360 Deluxe ($104 annually) excels at defending your PCs, Macs and smartphones against malware, with unbeaten scores in third-party malware-detection tests. But it's so much more than antivirus software: Norton 360 Deluxe also includes an unlimited password manager, unlimited VPN service for up to five devices, top-notch parental controls, backup software and 50 GB of online storage.

Norton 360 Deluxe also monitors the "dark web" for signs that your identity may have been stolen. For full-fledged identity-theft protection, you can bundle in any of three different tiers of LifeLock for an additional discounted fee. Each LifeLock plan gives you credit monitoring, extra online storage and reimbursement of lost funds and expenses if your identity is stolen. — Paul Wagenseil

Best password manager: LastPass Premium

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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LastPass ($36 annually) offers everything you'd want from a password manager at an affordable price. Its free version is the best password manager you can get for nothing, with syncing across all your devices, no matter what the operating system, support for face and fingerprint logins, and an unlimited storage vault. For many people, the free version of LastPass will be all the password manager they'll need.

Paying the $3 monthly fee (or $4 for a family plan of up to six users) gets you professional services: premium tech support, a Windows desktop application that can save passwords for other apps (the Mac one is available to free users), the ability to use physical two-factor-authentication keys and monitoring of cybercrime marketplaces to see if your usernames and passwords are up for sale. — Paul Wagenseil

Best headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Ultimate Home Office Awards

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We may not be flying on airplanes or commuting in noisy public transportation, but a pair of noise-cancelling headphones is still an essential part of any home office setup to block out noisy kids and other in-home distractions. The Sony WH-1000XM4 are the best at this, with 20 levels of ambient sound detection and an NC optimizer that measures your head size to create the best listening environment. The WH-1000XM4 can connect to two devices at the same time, so you can switch between voice calls on your phone to Zoom calls on your laptop with ease. Bluetooth 5.0 gives you an excellent range, and the headphone can last up to 30 hours with active noise cancellation turned on. 

Just as important, these headphones were comfortable to wear for hours on end, which is just as critical if you’re working all day in a noisy environment. Other niceties include touch controls, Atmospheric Pressure Optimization, and advanced audio signal processing. Oh, and they sound awesome, too. — Mike Prospero