CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
Right now ahead of Black Friday, a number of the best products we tested in 2020 are seeing steep discounts.
We loved these cans during our testing — so much so they took top-honors in both our noise-canceling headphones and over-ear headphones testing. Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but they have phenomenal noise-canceling ability as well. Whether it was noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. And you can get them today at an all-time low price of $278, down from their usual $349.99.
Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set of linen sheets we tested. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury. During the brand’s Black Friday sale, the sheets are now starting at $119, down from their usual $149 starting price.
Truly the absolute softest sheets we tested, the Brooklinen sheets offered an immersive, delectable sleep experience. Simultaneously high-end and already perfectly worn in, these felt like a second skin from the first touch. For the brand’s Black Friday sale, you can get them for the discounted starting price of $207.20, down from the usual $259.
We named the Greenpan our best eco-friendly pan in our testing. Free of materials that may pose long-term health risks, the pan is also incredibly nonstick: eggs, pancakes and even a sticky peanut sauce glided across the surface like they were Kristi Yamaguchi. After cooking, close to zero residue remained on the pan, which led to a very speedy cleanup consisting of wiping, rinsing and going on with our business. Score a set (a 10-inch and 12-inch pan) for 42% off (plus an extra 20% off at checkout with promo code SCORE), bringing the duo down to $63.99 (originally $139.99).
Our pick for best overall streaming device, the Roku Ultra has support for Dolby Vision HDR support and improved Wi-Fi performance — and is the fastest streaming device Roku has released. The Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K. While all of our top picks meet the 4K threshold, the Ultra does so at a noticeably quicker rate, so you’ll never experience content that skips or appears blurry for a few frames. At $99.99 (now down to an all-time low price of $69), the Roku Ultra undercuts other big hitters like the Fire TV Cube and Apple TV 4K. While it’s not as full-featured as the latter (namely, Roku doesn’t offer HBO Max), you’re not sacrificing much, if anything, in terms of everyday streaming quality.
A close runner up in our testing of drip coffee makers, the Cuisinart was, to our eye, the most handsome and minimally designed of the straightforward auto-brewers, delivering a clean, tasty cup. It lost first place only because the touchscreen may not be for every consumer, and brew time is significantly longer than the other machines we tried out — and for many users, especially on a busy morning, a faster cup is a better one. Right now, you can get it for just $103.99, down from its usual $235 price point.
Winning the spot for best budget pick in our roundup of hand mixers, the Hamilton Beach 6-Speed Electric Hand Mixer is a simple, hard-working mixer that gets the job done for less. It’s very easy to maneuver and aptly tackles all of the basic functions — mixing, whisking, beating — though it does lack a kneading attachment and was a bit slower on certain tasks compared to the higher-end hand mixers we tested. It was also the only lower-priced mixer we tested that came with a storage case and attachments. It’s currently 50% off.
Named the best budget pick in our roundup of ergonomic keyboards, we found that the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard compromises little despite its affordability. It’s a split keyboard, with a curvature that brings the center of the keyboard off your desk and a palm rest along the bottom edge. Not only is it heaps more comfortable than a traditional keyboard, you can customize function keys and create custom macros to simplify otherwise complex tasks as well. It’s currently $38.99, down from the original price of $53.99.
The most comfortable of all the true wireless earbuds we tested, these bean-shaped earbuds don’t protrude far into the ear like others we tested — instead sitting rather flush with the ear — so there was no added pressure to any part of the ear. Because they don’t seal the ear quite as much as AirPods Pro, though, you do give up a bit in terms of sound quality. But at such a discounted price (currently $119.99, originally $169.99), you’re getting earbuds that, in terms of comfort, you’ll forget are even in your ear, and ones that pack pretty hefty bass in a small package.
At the relatively affordable price of $199.95 (now even lower at $99.95), JBL’s Live 650TNC shined as our value pick in our testing of over-ear headphones. They may not be the flashiest, but the JBL cans held our attention with clear playback of vocals (no artifacts like crackling), punchy drums and an impressive three-dimensional soundstage.
For the fitness fiend, the Jabra Elite 85h ($149.99, originally $249.99) were the best headphones for working out during our testing of over-ear headphones. Though they’re on the bulkier side, they have a great control scheme for exercise, featuring large, easy-to-locate buttons on the right cup. They also hold well on your head, which we confirmed during a 45-minute run — there was no slippage or shifting of the headphones.