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How-to: Build a $35 retro game console, Part 2 – Top 7 add-ons

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Yesterday, part 1 of how-to: build a $35 retro video game console with Raspberry Pi 3 + RetroPie discussed the “must-haves” – the Raspberry Pi 3 board, the free RetroPie emulation software, and a handful of necessary additional components you might well already have at home.

Today, we’re looking at the top 7 optional but useful RetroPie add-ons: things I’ve found particularly worthwhile during my personal testing. Some of these items overlap the “bare basics” recommendations in part 1, replacing them with fancier or more functional alternatives, while others are completely new. Once you’ve finished reading this, you’ll have my full list of best picks, and it’ll be time to start ordering the parts you want…

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How-to: Build a $35 retro video game console with Raspberry Pi 3 + RetroPie

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The word “revolutionary” is used too casually these days. Real revolutions aren’t fast or frequent; they’re the product of many small changes slowly coming together to make a gigantic shift possible.

But thanks to declining prices and ever-shrinking mobile processors, computers are on the edge of an actual revolution. It’s now possible to buy a sub-$50 PC that requires little space or energy, yet does something highly useful (or fun) very well – comparable to a larger and more expensive machine from decades past. One prime example: retro gaming, which is taking a big leap forward thanks to a tiny $35 quad-core 1.2GHz computer and free software.

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Jaybird slates Freedom, X3 Bluetooth 4.0 athletic headphones for Q2 2016

Jaybird, maker of the popular sweatproof X and X2 Bluetooth headphones, has announced two new models planned for release in the second quarter of this year. Designed to appeal to athletes, the X3 ($150) and Freedom ($200) have both been redesigned from earlier, similarly-named models, and now use power-efficient Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology for full compatibility with the latest Apple and Android devices. Each will be available in five colors, and work with Jaybird’s MySound app to create user-defined equalizer settings…

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Shop Apple’s holiday gift guide, save up to $350: great 9to5 deals on every device + accessory

Every year, Apple puts together a beautiful-looking holiday gift guide on Apple.com, packed with the latest iOS devices, Macs, and accessories people would love to receive as gifts. The hitch is that Apple’s prices are almost always full retail, with no discounting, so it’s easy to spend anywhere from $5 to $300 more per item than if you just shopped around.

This year, 9to5Toys and 9to5Mac have done the bargain hunting for you. We’ve found savings on virtually every item on Apple’s holiday shopping list, which this year is organized into 6 sections: Gaming, Photography, Music, Fitness, Learning and Travel. Using the links below, you can save up to $350 on a new 12″ MacBook, between $20 and $80 on many third-party accessories, and up to $130 on a pair of Beats headphones

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Kitchen Tech: Does the Homping Grill deliver on its promise of healthy, smokeless + portable BBQ?

Portable grills are not a new thing, nor are they especially complex: if you’re looking to do basic tailgate-quality BBQing or Japanese-style yakitori grilling, you can achieve either goal for around $50 plus the $10 cost of charcoal, ignition fluid, and matches. What that will get you is a little fireproof box with a basic wire top, passive cooking features such as “adjustable air vents,” and no style.

Importing an award-winning design from Korea, a company called Homping USA is trying to change the face of portable grilling. Rather than selling a plain box with disposable parts, the Homping Grill ($199) is a 13″ circular grill with a washable 11.5″-diameter cooking surface. Available in silver with a black or orange base, it’s claimed to be “smokeless,” safe to touch, and easy to clean. A fan is built into the base so you can actively control the power of the charcoal fire inside, and a carrying bag is included for portability. After testing the Homping Grill, I had mixed feelings about its performance relative to much cheaper or peer-priced Weber portable grills, but some people may prefer its design regardless…

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Beats Studio Wireless headphones: Titanium $230 (Reg. $380), Blue $264 (Reg. $380)

Amazon is offering the titanium-colored version of Apple’s Beats Studio Wireless headphones for only $229.99 shipped. That’s around 40% off of the original $380 price, and the best we’ve ever seen for this particular premium metallic colorway. Seven other colors are currently available for $255 and up, with gold at $255 and metallic sky at $275.

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Samsung’s new 15TB SSD fits world’s highest-capacity hard drive in 2.5″ enclosure

From 9to5Mac:

If you’ve been waiting for someone to release a giant-sized SSD to replace your computer’s mechanical hard drive, great news: Samsung’s just announced an SSD with more storage capacity than any spinning platter hard disk. The PM1633a is a 15.36TB SSD that’s being marketed as the world’s highest-capacity hard drive. As Ars Technica notes, that incredible capacity — over 120 times the storage of an entry-level MacBook Air or MacBook Pro — fits within a compact 2.5″ hard drive enclosure.

By comparison, Samsung just began to sell 2.5-inch 2TB SSDs for $800 (consumer) to $1000 (professional) last month. Read more on the PM1633a below…

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9to5Toys’ Lunch Break and Last Call newsletters bring every day’s best deals to your inbox

Redesigned for easier reading and smaller download sizes, the 9to5Toys Lunch Break and 9to5 Last Call newsletters are great ways to get a roundup of every day’s top deals and gear in your inbox! We typically post a dozen or more deals every day, so it can be hard to keep up with all of the great bargains and products we cover. Our Lunch…

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Kitchen Tech: AeroPress lets you make fancy coffee and espresso at budget prices

“Great coffee” is a moving target. Thanks mostly to Starbucks, the typical coffee drinker today laughs off Sanka and other instant coffees that were considered great three decades ago. But at the same time, “third-wave” and “fourth-wave” coffee shops consider Starbucks to be a purveyor of mediocre coffee, and serious coffee drinkers agree. Independent coffee shops have continued to push coffee quality and variety forward, dragging donut shops, Starbucks, and home coffee makers to make better-tasting beverages in the process.

My Kitchen Tech column has previously explored the highest end of fancy at-home coffee with Chemex’s $250 Ottomatic pour-over coffee machine, and yesterday we covered KitchenAid’s announcement of a $250 deluxe coffee siphon brewer. But most people don’t want to spend that much money just to pour hot water on coffee grounds. So this week’s column takes a quick look at an option that’s around 90% less expensive, extremely popular, and capable of achieving excellent results: the $26 AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker. With an average Amazon user rating of 4.6/5 stars after nearly 3,700 Amazon reviews, the AeroPress requires a little more manual involvement, but pumps out great-tasting individual cups of coffee. Read on…

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Kitchenaid’s new Siphon Coffee Brewer brings flame-free fancy gourmet coffee to your kitchen

While creating a perfectly-decorated latte requires creativity and talent, producing excellent-tasting coffee is less art than science. You need to heat water to the right temperature to extract flavor from – and not further burn – fresh coffee beans, then push the water through the beans and a filter into a vessel. You can do this manually with an Aeropress for under $30, upgrade to a traditional open-flame coffee siphon for under $50, or hold off for KitchenAid’s upcoming Siphon Coffee Brewer ($250), which uses a modern design to make siphoning kitchen-safe…

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As Apple Watch approaches, these top-rated iPhone 6 fitness armbands start at only $10 Prime shipped

As the Apple Watch gets its long-awaited pricing and availability details today, millions of iPhone users — especially health-conscious people eying the entry-level Apple Watch Sport — will start making plans to preorder or line up for Apple’s new wearable. But the $349 price point means that many other people will keep using their iPhones during workouts and runs.

Today, I’ve rounded up some of the most affordable and best user-reviewed iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus armbands out there. The most basic option is only $10 with Amazon Prime shipping, while more protective solutions are in the $15 to $20 range. Some are complete standalone armbands, while others leverage your existing iPhone case for protection.

Do you want your iPhone armband to be fully sweatproof and weather-resistant, or is a basic lightweight alternative better for your needs? Here are some of the best choices…

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Elgato’s Game Capture HD60 records and streams PS4, Xbox + Wii U games for $150 shipped (Reg. $180)

Update (3/13 8:10am): Amazon offers the Elgato Game Capture HD60 at $149.99 shipped.

Update (3/8 11:00am): Best Buy drops the Elgato Game Capture HD60 down to $149.99 shipped.

Thanks to a promo code, Elgato’s professional-class video game recorder, streamer, and screenshot maker Game Capture HD60 can now be had for $152.99 shipped, within $3 of the lowest price we’ve seen for the normally $180 accessory. Apply promo code PE0315P22 for 15% off Newegg’s $169.99 price to get the savings, which is $5 under Amazon’s current price of $157.99. The HD60 works with the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Wii U, as well as both Macs and PCs.

Capable of recording at full 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second, Game Capture HD60 includes an HDMI cable to connect to your TV and a USB cable to connect to your computer. A free Elgato app can record or livestream video from your console to YouTube or Twitch, as well as saving files directly on your computer. You can continue to play your games through your TV with smooth pass-through video, and either share full in-game audio or add live commentary with your computer’s microphone. Basic editing tools are also included in the app.

With a 4.4/5-star Amazon rating across over 1,600 customers, Game Capture HD60 has become the recorder of choice for serious video gamers. It gives console gamers better recording, streaming, editing, and screenshot-making options than are found in current-generation consoles. Be sure to check out other great gaming deals from 9to5Toys, as well as our Gaming For Couples columns featuring top console games to play with your family.

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Kitchen Tech: Using Nitrous Oxide to make fresh whipped cream, airy waffles, and foam

Back in my January Kitchen Tech column on bar tools, I briefly mentioned that certain restaurants are using liquid nitrogen to make frozen cocktails that resemble sorbets — a magic trick that for all intents and purposes is impossible to replicate at home. But when nitrogen comes together with oxygen to form nitrous oxide (N2O), the result is a gas with unique powers. Nitrous oxide can supercharge engines, work as a “laughing gas” anesthetic, and… create whipped cream, ultra-fluffy pancakes like the ones shown above, and super-crispy waffles. You can probably guess which of these applications I’m exploring in today’s Kitchen Tech.

The iSi Gourmet Whip Plus has made guest appearances in two prior Kitchen Tech columns: column 3 on pro-caliber modernist cookbooks, and last week’s column on carbonating tools. It is the only modern kitchen tool Ferran Adrià recommends to home cooks in The Family Meal, and made the top 5 tools recommended by Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine at Home (alongside sous vide water baths and pressure cookers, which Kitchen Tech has already covered).

Why hasn’t it received its own column before now? Because it typically needs to be used with something else in order to make a special product. So for this week’s Kitchen Tech, I’m going to show you how to make the lightest, crispiest waffles you’ve ever had by combining an iSi Whip with a Belgian Waffle Maker. Read on for all the details…

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Treat yourself to sharper, better kitchen knives from Henckels and Wusthof for $20 and up

Ginsu. Cuisinart. A thousand brands you’ve never heard of. With so many options out there, how can you choose a truly great (but reasonably priced) set of kitchen knives?

Knives are so important that many professional chefs bring their own blades to work, each hand-picked for durability, weight, sharpness, and shape. Even if you’re not a cook, your dinner knives could be so dull that you’ll struggle to carve up steak. Today, rather than covering exotic knives, I’m focusing on some great mainstream picks that anyone can afford and enjoy, starting with awesome steak knives from leading knife brand J.A. Henckels, which runs neck-and-neck with longtime rival Wüsthof in offering truly excellent cutting tools. Unlike the Ginsus, Sunbeams, and other mediocre brands out there, Henckels and Wüsthof knives have decades-long reputations for durability, long-term sharpness, and great design.

As Amazon’s #1 best-selling steak knife (with a 4.4/5-star user rating), a four-knife version of the J.A. Henckels set above has composite handles rather than steel, and sells for only $20. For $40, you can get eight Henckels knives with steel handles, a version that has an even higher 4.6/5-star Amazon rating. Having used both types of Henckels steak knives, I can tell you that the all-steel ones feel especially great in the hand and slice meat with superb precision; both versions use serrated blades that legitimately never need sharpening. Our steak knives are every bit as sharp now as they were when we bought them years ago.

More great steak and kitchen knife picks are below…

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Best Buy cuts Gamers Club Unlocked to $30 starting March 8, 20% off new games and amiibo

Update (3/9 7:25am): After a delay, Best Buy has officially launched the new $30 pricing online.

I’ve previously told you about the fantastic savings gamers can achieve through Best Buy’s Gamers Club Unlocked (GCU), which offers 20% discounts on new games (and a bunch of other benefits) for two full years. Today, Best Buy announced that it’s officially dropping the price of GCU from $100 to $30 starting March 8, with membership to be available online and in stores. That matches the lowest GCU price Best Buy has offered.

Best Buy notes that Nintendo’s amiibo are also part of the deal: just like new games, 20% off an Amiibo on day one is probably the best deal you’ll find anywhere. See our amiibo guide for a list of the current and upcoming toys you’ll be able to get discounts on.

Many gamers will find that the $30 Unlocked membership pays for itself in one month, with 23 months of additional great deals. You save $12 every time you purchase a $60 game, and can get an additional $10 pre-order bonus for upcoming games including Batman: Arkham KnightHalo 5: Guardians, and Mortal Kombat X, chopping their prices to $38 each. Read on for the other benefits of the Gamers Club Unlocked deal…

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Pioneer’s SPH-DA120 adds Apple CarPlay iPhone integration to your car for $445 shipped (Reg. $600)

There are two ways to get Apple’s official iPhone integration in a car: buy a brand new vehicle with CarPlay support, or add an aftermarket head unit such as Pioneer’s SPH-DA120 — currently the most affordable in-dash solution with CarPlay. Normally sold for $600, the SPH-DA120 is currently on sale for $445 including free Amazon Prime shipping, or $444 shipped direct from DiscountCentralOnline (97% positive Amazon seller ratings), the best prices we’ve seen for this model. It currently has a 3.9/5-star rating from 24 Amazon customers.

Featuring the latest version (4) of Pioneer’s well-known AppRadio software, the SPH-DA120’s star feature is CarPlay (read our 9to5Mac review of CarPlay here), which leverages an iPhone for in-car navigation, phone calling, and text messaging. CarPlay begins with Bluetooth support for pairing with Apple’s Phone and Music apps. Additionally, a Siri Eyes Free voice command mode is completely integrated with the iPhone’s Maps and Messages apps, letting you get driving directions and communicate even without using the unit’s 6.2″ built-in touchscreen. It also has an FM radio and limited support for Android phones.

The SPH-DA120 is a double-DIN unit designed to fit in the standard 4″ dash openings found in many cars. It comes with a GPS antenna, a Pioneer wiring harness, USB and audio cables, as well as mounting hardware. 

Free Xbox Live Gold/PS Plus Games for March: Rayman Legends, Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite + Oddworld

Update (3/3 2:37pm): Sony has just announced its free PlayStation Plus titles for March, which we’ve added below. The PlayStation Plus games will be available on the service later today.

Each month, Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold and Sony’s PlayStation Plus services give away a handful of free games to subscribers, adding value to each company’s multi-console online gaming service. Here are the titles from both services:

For PlayStation Plus, Sony is giving away two PlayStation 4-only games: Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee — New ‘n’ Tasty! (normally $30), the updated version of the classic side-scroller, as well as the cartoony World War 1-inspired game Valiant Hearts: The Great War (normally $15). It’s also offering two PlayStation 3-only titles, the adventure-puzzlers Papo & Yo (normally $10) and Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments (normally $50). PS Vita owners get the skateboard game OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood (normally $15) and the adventure game CounterSpy (normally $15), both of which are also available for the PS4; CounterSpy is also free for the PS3. The total value of this month’s games alone is in excess of $130, and with new free games every month, a one-year PlayStation Plus membership ($50) or $18 three-month membership gives you a lot to play for a comparatively small amount of money.

This will be a great month for Xbox Live Gold members. Microsoft is giving away the 2D action-platformer Rayman Legends (normally $40) to Xbox One players all month long. From March 1 to the 15th, Xbox 360 players get the phenomenal 3D adventure game Tomb Raider (reg. $20) — topic of one of our Gaming For Couples articles — then the incredible first-person shooter Bioshock Infinite (normally $30) from the 16th to the 31st. A one-year Xbox Live Gold membership is normally $60, but there’s a “Limited Time Offer” direct from Microsoft: $39.99. Given the value of games given away each month, and the other benefits it offers (other discounted games, online multiplayer), Xbox Live Gold is now a no-brainer purchase for Xbox owners.

Full descriptions of this month’s titles are below.

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Radically upgrade your PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Wii U hard drive for $100 or less

The prices of high-capacity hard drives have dropped so much recently that it makes sense to upgrade everything from desktop computers to laptops and game consoles. For iMacs, Mac Pros and MacBooks, my strong recommendation has been Solid State Drives (SSDs), which combine increasingly attractive capacities with super-fast speeds, but for game consoles, traditional hard disks are the right choice. Nintendo actively warns Wii U owners against using SSDs, while Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 provide little reason to prefer them.

Why the difference? Unlike Macs, where solid state drives deliver huge speed increases across OS X and apps, game consoles tend to achieve only modestly better loading times with SSDs — a few seconds here or there. Traditional hard drives also deliver much higher storage capacities, fixing an obvious issue with game consoles where 40-50GB patch downloads are becoming the new normal. A 500GB PlayStation 4 arrives with only around 400GB of free space, versus 360GB on a 500GB Xbox One, and a mere 25GB on a 32GB Wii U. Whether you’re updating Halo or downloading DLC for Mario Kart 8, you’re eating up a big chunk of your hard drive’s space.

What are the best hard drives for your console? Most of my top picks are currently available for $100 or less, and I tend to focus on great value for the dollar rather than cheap picks that will break quickly. I’ll run through the options below.

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Kitchen Tech: Carbonating tools turn water into soda, fruit and desserts into fizzy magic

I realized the other day that my first exposure to carbonation – the little carbon dioxide bubbles found in soda — came so early in life that I couldn’t possibly remember it. My kids will eventually say the same thing. Despite warning parents that sugary drinks are unhealthy, doctors still recommend fizzy ginger ale to settle kids’ upset stomachs, and no one’s likely to give up Pepsi, Coke, or Red Bull any time soon.

But carbonation isn’t just for sodas. It’s also the bubble power behind beer and champagne, as well as some avant garde culinary tricks that are both surprising and compelling. This week’s edition of Kitchen Tech looks at three different and affordable ways to bring carbonation to your drinks — and food (!) — at home.

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Gaming For Couples: Catch up on 9 great video game columns!

We created the weekly column Gaming For Couples to help you find excellent games to play with your significant other — someone who might not yet be into gaming as much as you, but could be won over with the right game picks. Here’s a roundup of our past nine columns, which contain a bunch of great…

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Gaming For Couples: Captain Toad Treasure Tracker and Kirby & The Rainbow Curse

As I’ve said in a prior Gaming For Couples column, Nintendo’s Wii U is “the best current-generation console for couples and families, hands-down.” If you’re trying to convince your significant other to pick up a controller, the games that are most likely to make that happen are on the Wii U, and many of them come from Nintendo itself.

Today’s Gaming For Couples looks at two affordable Nintendo releases, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and Kirby & The Rainbow Curse. Each one features one of Nintendo’s cutest characters, and is designed to appeal to casual gamers with bunches of easily digestible levels. Rather than selling them for $60 each and then discounting them, Nintendo launched both games at $40 — bargain day-one pricing for current-generation console games — and plans to keep them there. Below, I’ll discuss the games, the Amiibo figures that work with them, and some earlier titles featuring the same great characters.

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Kitchen Tech: Spherification lets you make your own caviar from fruit juice, cheese, or vegetables

Spheres were the subject of my very first Kitchen Tech column, and in celebration of today’s 11th Kitchen Tech, I’m returning to the theme again — with a twist.

There are many magic tricks in the world of avant garde food and beverages, but only a few that are marquee-quality. Spherification — the science of turning liquids into delicate, caviar-like balls — is probably my favorite. If you’ve ever had salmon roe, the bright orange fish eggs popularly used in Ikura sushi, you already know the “burst in your mouth” sensation that makes gel-coated spheres amazing.

But until you’ve tried liquid balls in other flavors, such as white sangria (above), cherry, mozzarella cheese, or olives, you haven’t experienced the full potential of spherification. Drinks can be turned into snacks, solids into liquids, and liquids into solids or semi-solids. Best of all, these spheres are easy and inexpensive enough to make at home! Here’s what you need to know…

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Make awesome ice spheres, cubes, Death Stars, diamonds and more for only $10

Ice is one of the most important — yet underappreciated — components of any drink. Our Kitchen Tech guide to magical ice ball makers focused on high-end spheres for fancy beverages, so today we’re looking at some fun, affordable alternatives. Almost every ice mold in this collection sells for $10 or less, letting you easily bring some excitement to your favorite drinking glass.

For instance, check out this Death Star Silicone Tray ($10 shipped) from Japanese mold maker Kotobukiya, which creates an incredibly detailed 60mm ice version of the original Death Star from Star Wars: A New Hope. If you’re looking for something less ominous and more rebellious, there’s ThinkGeek’s Han Solo in Carbonite Ice Cube Tray ($10), which makes 7 cubes based on the frozen Solo from Empire Strikes Back — one 3.5″ block and 1.75″ block.

We have plenty of other cool (yes, cool) options below, including ice shot glasses, Star Trek insignias, diamonds, hearts, skulls, cubes, and spheres. Read on!

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Kitchen Tech: Catch up on 10 great food and drink tool columns!

This week, 9to5Toys is celebrating the tenth edition of my Kitchen Tech column, which is designed to help you create professional-caliber food and drinks at home. Every week, Kitchen Tech spotlights at least one cool modern tool that’s worth knowing about, ranging from delicious premium coffee makers to state-of-the-art sous vide machines, ultra-durable blenders, and high-quality bar tools.

9to5Toys readers have told us that they’ve “thoroughly enjoyed” Kitchen Tech, praising it as “very well written” with “great” book recommendations. Here’s what I’ve covered so far:

Column 1: Learn how to up your drinking game with magical ice ball makers, which transform everyday drinks into classics – recently updated with a great affordable pick!

Column 2: Radically improve meats, poultry, and fish with Sous Vide water baths, which turn plain pieces of meat into succulent, restaurant-caliber steaks, ribs, and more.

Column 3: Learn about avant garde cooking with incredible modernist cookbooks, which bring professional, modern recipes and techniques home.

Column 4: Explore part one of the world of bar tools, starting with fundamental items needed for preparing cocktails, then continuing with “good idea” tools that will make your drinks even cooler.

Column 5: Part two of the world of bar tools, including the “fancy stuff” that makes restaurant-caliber cocktails possible.

Column 6: Chemex’s new Ottomatic pour-over coffee machine, Wilfa’s Precision Coffee Maker, and the world of premium coffee makers.

Column 7: Explore home- and restaurant-caliber wine and champagne tools, including the Coravin wine preservation system and much more.

Column 8: Create restaurant-caliber rotisserie beef, pork, and poultry with the Showtime Rotisserie Oven, one of my favorite easy-to-use home cooking tools.

Column 9: Use a pressure cooker to create incredible fried chicken, sandwiches, crisped meats, soft beans, and rice in record time.

Column 10: Puree fruits, vegetables, and nuts into silky smooth smoothies and soups with a Vitamix blender, and create foamy cocktails with a hand immersion blender.

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Gaming For Couples: Last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts for gamers

Most of my earlier Gaming For Couples articles have focused mostly on specific game recommendations to bring gamers and non-gamers closer together. Since Valentine’s Day is only two days away, I’m changing it up and focusing on some fun (and safe) gaming-related gifts for your significant other.

I’ve kept all of the options super-affordable, but if you like several of them, you can bundle them together as a big treat for the gamer (or soon-to-be-gamer) in your life. There are individual selections for people with Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft consoles, as well as some picks that overlap all of the platforms (and others). Read on for some great gifts!

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Kitchen Tech: Vitamix and hand immersion blenders make silky soups, foamy drinks

If a luxury product isn’t already mainstream, the surest way to create national awareness is appearing in a Saturday Night Live skit — buckle your seatbelt before clicking if you haven’t seen this famously NSFW Moët & Chandon infomercial. Last year, SNL gave the 94-year-old deluxe blender company Vitamix its moment in the spotlight: an infomercial spoof where two friends discussed Vitamix-made smoothies, only to devolve into an argument over their comparative financial status and priorities.

The spoof was funny, but it also raised a serious question I’m tackling in this week’s Kitchen Tech: is a fancy countertop blender worth ten times as much as a basic model? Professional chefs have repeatedly told me “yes,” praising the power and long-term durability of Vitamix’s entry-level $350 blenders compared with essentially disposable consumer models: a Vitamix can chop pretty much anything to your preferred texture, notably producing silky-smooth soups and drinks, and operate continuously in commercial-grade settings without the need for repairs. I’ve used and loved a Vitamix for years, but there are also some inexpensive blenders that can produce impressive results using lesser-known magic tricks. Let’s dive right in…

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Preorder Canon’s new Spring lineup of DSLRs and pocket cameras today

This is a big week for Canon fans and camera enthusiasts everywhere. Canon has announced two ultra-high-resolution premium full-frame DSLRs, two powerful entry-level DSLRs, and two pocket-sized zoom cameras, all of which are now available for preorder. Since their release dates are staggered across Spring, and demand is likely to be high, this is a great time to get in line for these big releases. What’s new?

The Canon EOS 5DS ($3,699) and EOS 5DS R ($3,899) are the world’s highest-megapixel full-frame cameras, each with a brand-new 50.6-Megapixel sensor. Optimized for commercial, studio, portrait, landscape and architectural photography, these DSLRs capture over twice the detail of the already amazing 5D Mark 3, shooting at up to 5FPS and using advanced autofocus and image stabilization systems to capture fine detail. The R version eliminates the low-pass filter found in Canon’s other cameras, increasing image sharpness for natural and architectural images. Ritz Camera is offering preorders of the 5DS here and the 5DS R here for June delivery. There are also new entry-level DSLRs and pocket cameras to check out below the fold…

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Super Smash Bros. GameCube Controllers $25, Controller Adapters for Wii U $30

UPDATED! Ever since Nintendo released the hit game Super Smash. Bros for the Wii U, demand for Nintendo’s classic GameCube controllers (and adapters to use them) has surged. Nintendo’s official GameCube to Wii U controller adapter remains hard to find and subject to price-gouging at $70-$100 through resellers, so third-party options have popped up at more reasonable prices. Since our readers and editors alike are Smash Bros. fans, we wanted to quickly point out some of the most popular GameCube adapters and controllers that are currently available, and much more affordable at $25-$30…

Update February 17, 2015: Gamestop is currently offering a $50 bundle of a Wii U GameCube Adapter and one GameCube controller, to ship May 1. If you’re holding out for the official Adapter, this is the easiest way to guarantee you’ll get one.

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Kitchen Tech: Pressure Cookers make the perfect chicken sandwich, and much more

In prior Kitchen Tech columns, I’ve shown you succulence-creating sous vide water baths, and discussed the joys of rotisserie roasting. This week’s column discusses another restaurant-quality cooking tool that home chefs can easily use: pressure cookers. Similar in appearance to regular lidded pots, pressure cookers rely on a bit of science — specifically, the higher the pressure, the quicker things cook — to create finished dishes up to 70% faster than normal.

This is the key secret behind Chick Fil A’s renowned original chicken sandwich, as well as some of the country’s best fried chicken — pressure cookers can rapidly make food that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, or entirely soft, depending on your needs. They’re also the #3-ranked “invaluable modernist tool” in the next-generation cookbook Modernist Cuisine at Home, notably placed one spot ahead of sous vide water baths. But they’re not (yet) ubiquitous in the United States. Below, I’ll explain why a pressure cooker should have a place in your kitchen.

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Gaming For Couples: Tomb Raider Definitive Edition and NES Remix Pack

Over the last few weeks, Gaming For Couples has spotlighted the best PlayStation 4 bundles, best Wii U bundles, and best Xbox One bundles — now we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming, looking at great games for couples (including gamers and non-gamers) to play together. This week, we’re featuring two very different titles: a retro game that even casual players will enjoy actively exploring, and the other a modern game more impressively cinematic than the movies that share its name. Each can be had for under $30.

Our Gaming For Couples selections are Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and NES Remix Pack / Ultimate NES Remix for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. Here’s why we think they’re worth your time…

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Club Nintendo posts final Rewards Catalog with 100+ games, use your coins soon or lose them forever

Club Nintendo, the rewards program for Nintendo Wii U, Wii, and 3DS users, today posted its final Rewards Catalog to let members redeem coins collected before March 31, 2015. There are 42 Wii U titles, 28 Wii titles, and 48 3DS downloads to choose from with coin values ranging from 150 to 850 coins, plus a collection of 13 physical items ranging from greeting cards and posters to t-shirts and bags. Additional final gifts not requiring additional coins will be announced for Gold and Platinum “Elite” members on April 1, and redemption of coins will end on June 30, 2015.

Coins for the Club Nintendo program primarily stacked up with 16-digit codes found inside Nintendo game packages, but also came from eShop downloads, Nintendo console registrations, and completing Nintendo surveys. If you haven’t yet checked your Nintendo Wii U, Wii, or 3DS titles for these codes, now would be a good time to look for them inside the front lids of game boxes, and redeem them at club.nintendo.com.

Some of the numerous downloads now available can be seen below…

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Free Xbox Live Gold/PS Plus Games for February: Yakuza 4, Thief, Brothers, Sniper Elite V2 + More

Each month, Sony’s PlayStation Plus and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold services give away a handful of free games to subscribers, adding value to each company’s multi-console online gaming service. February’s games have been announced, including the following free titles:

For PlayStation Plus, Sony is offering the futuristic PS4 action/strategy RPG Transistor and PS4 ancient Greece-themed action-platformer Apotheon. PS3 owners get the Japanese sandbox action/RPG Yakuza 4 and first-person action/stealth game Thief. PS Vita users get Rogue Legacy and Kick & Fennick; Rogue Legacy is also available for the PS3 and PS4. All of the titles become free to PS Plus users on February 3. Transistor regularly sells for $20, Thief for $40, and Yakuza 4 for $50, making a one-year PlayStation Plus membership ($50) or $18 three-month membership a no-brainer alternative.

For Xbox Live Gold members, Microsoft is giving away the 8-bit-inspired future arena ball game #IDARB (reg. $15) for the Xbox One, as well as the action/RPG/puzzler Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (reg. $15) and Sniper Elite V2 (shown above, reg. $30) for the Xbox 360. A one-year Xbox Live Gold membership is normally $60 and a three-month membership is normally $25, but you can grab the biggie for only $40 on Amazon right now!

New games are typically offered at the beginning of each month, with old games disappearing from the “free” lists above. Full descriptions of this month’s titles are below.

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Nintendo Throwback Sale 3: Metroid Prime: Trilogy $10 for Wii U, Mario Kart 8 $45, Mario Golf + more

The third week offerings for Nintendo’s Throwback Sale have just gone public, after last week’s release of Punch-Out!! for Wii U and the prior week’s deal on Super Mario Galaxy 2 for Wii U. Once again, you only have one week to grab a single steeply-discounted Wii U title from Nintendo’s eShop, plus smaller discounts on several Wii U and 3DS releases.…

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Gaming For Couples: The best PlayStation 4 bundles, games, demos and accessories

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve looked at the best bundles, games, demos and accessories for Nintendo’s Wii U and Microsoft’s Xbox One. Today, it’s Sony’s turn. Everyone agrees that the PlayStation 4 is the most powerful game console on the market, with a great collection of exclusive and cross-platform games, and a bright future ahead. Nearly 20 million PS4s have already been sold around the world, giving developers confidence that they can reach a large audience with anything they release.

The PlayStation 4 officially sells for $399.99, but the 9to5Toys team is here to save you money on the console — including free games — and show you the best couple-friendly titles, demos, and accessories out there. Read on!

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Kitchen Tech: Showtime Rotisserie Oven brings restaurant-quality chicken and roasts home

Eight years ago, the Showtime Rotisserie Oven went from being the punchline of a joke to one of the best tools in my kitchen. Aggressively pitched in late-night Ron Popeil infomercials with the tagline “set it and forget it” — a catchy phrase that quickly made its way into the popular lexicon — the Rotisserie’s value as a cooking tool didn’t get as much attention as its marketing.

I’d like to fix that in this week’s edition of Kitchen Tech. As the pitch suggests, the Showtime Rotisserie is a dead-simple cooking tool, and as we learned after receiving one as a gift from my mother-in-law, it also happens to make outstanding, restaurant-quality roasts and poultry. Much larger versions are used to prepare large quantities of poultry and meats in restaurant kitchens; the countertop-sized Showtime is designed for four- to six-person meals. It’s even easier to use than the sous vide machines we’ve covered, and over nearly a decade of use, we’ve never had to replace a single part. Read on for how it works, and why it continues to be a favorite tool in our kitchen.

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Gaming For Couples: The best Xbox One bundles, games, demos and accessories

Our last Gaming For Couples article looked at Nintendo’s Wii U as a complete package — it’s arguably the easiest console to recommend to casual gamers, lapsed players, and young families. But Microsoft’s Xbox One has started to surge as an alternative. For only $50 more than the Wii U, you get a much more powerful console, and unlike Nintendo, Microsoft has the support of a huge number of third-party developers.

There’s another big difference: even top-selling Xbox One games are discounted, which makes this console a great choice to play both Microsoft exclusives and cross-platform releases. In this week’s Gaming For Couples, we walk through the best Xbox One bundle options, as well as the top couple-friendly games, demos, and accessories out there.

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Nintendo Throwback Sale 2: Punch-Out!! $10 for Wii U, NES Remix 2, Zelda, Kid Icarus deals

Following last week’s mega-sale on Super Mario Galaxy 2 for Wii U, Nintendo has just launched round two of its Throwback Sale for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. As before, you have one week to grab one steeply-discounted Wii U title from Nintendo’s eShop, plus smaller discounts on several Wii U and 3DS releases. The star attraction is Nintendo’s Wii U version…

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Kitchen Tech: The best wine tools and restaurant-class champagne accessories

As the last few Kitchen Tech columns on bar tools (part 1part 2) and high-end coffee makers probably demonstrated, I’m a beverage obsessive — over the years, I’ve learned that great dining experiences are as much about what you drink as what you eat. The right beverage can actually improve your entire meal, and if it’s served in the right way, something as seemingly simple as wine or champagne can become the most memorable part of a night. There are great reasons to bring that sort of restaurant-quality experience home.

Today’s Kitchen Tech focuses on Wine Tools, including eight categories of items that range from mandatory to optional. Where appropriate, I’ll explain the benefits and issues of a bargain or higher-end option. To kick things off, I’m starting with something that’s highly optional and just starting to appear in some U.S. restaurants, a Spanish wine tool called a porrón. Read on…

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Review: Chemex’s new Ottomatic vs. Wilfa’s Precision Coffee Maker – does premium coffee have a new king?

At a time when people are increasingly buying “natural” and “organic” foods, the word “Chemex” mightn’t sound like an ideal name for a maker of coffee brewing gear. Yet Chemex’s 1941-vintage Coffee Maker has spent decades as a gold standard for pour-over coffee: featured in the MoMA collection, this Bauhaus-inspired design combines an hourglass-shaped glass pitcher with leather-bound wooden grips and special paper filters, producing delicious coffee.

The Chemex process involves placing freshly ground coffee beans inside a Chemex-brand filter atop the Chemex-brand pitcher, then “pouring-over” hot water in a manner that guarantees optimal extraction of coffee from the grounds. Following Chemex’s instructions, identical coffee beans and water produce a noticeably better cup of coffee than the typical home coffee machine – the reason many coffee shops offer Chemex-brewed coffee at a premium.

But traditional Chemex brewing requires learning, takes time, and demands a lot of user interaction: everything from hitting the right water temperature to the multi-step pouring process requires a lot more attention than just pressing the “start” button on a Keurig. While Chemex isn’t catering to the exact same audience, the company has acknowledged the value of a streamlined brewing process with this week’s release of Ottomatic ($350). Priced above top-ranked established coffee makers such as the single-cup Keurig K75 and small pot Bonavita BV1800, Ottomatic is designed to compete against premium metal and glass models such as the Wilfa Precision Coffee Maker — machines that are equal parts art and science. Chemex designed Ottomatic to look beautiful and radically simplify the fussy pour-over process. That’s exactly what it does. Read on for all the details.

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Nintendo Throwback Sale: Super Mario Galaxy 2 $10 for Wii U, Mario 3D World $45, Yoshi + Pushmo deals

Announced this morning during its Nintendo Direct video series, Nintendo has launched a new Throwback Sale in its eShop for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. While most of Nintendo’s discounts aren’t particularly newsworthy, this one is a better deal than most, because each week includes a steeply-discounted Wii U title, plus smaller discounts on several Wii U and 3DS…

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New Nintendo 3DS XL arrives Feb. 13 for $200-$230, Super Mario Series + Wave 4 Amiibo coming

Following a successful launch in Japan and Australia last year, Nintendo today officially announced the New Nintendo 3DS XL for a North American release on February 13, 2015. The New 3DS XL has a faster processor than the original 3DS XL, integrated NFC support for Amiibo figurines, a second analog joystick with extra shoulder buttons, and fixes the original models’ 3-D display problems by using a new face-tracking camera.

Pre-orders for the portable will likely begin today, with four color options:

Nintendo notably declined to announce the smaller New Nintendo 3DS, which was released in Japan and Australia alongside the New 3DS XL last year. Expect to see many closeout deals on the older models on 9to5Toys starting today. We’ll update this post with additional preorder links as they become available.

Also announced today were two new collections of Amiibo figurines (see our Guide, here):

  • Super Mario Series: Due March 20, this lineup will include new versions of Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi and Bowser, plus an all-new Toad figure that will work with the Captain Toad Treasure Tracker game. All of these characters, as well as Rosalina, Donkey Kong and Wario, will work with Mario Party 10 for Wii U, which will be released on the same day.
  • Wave 4 Amiibos: Compatible with Super Smash Bros., new Charizard, Robin, Lucina, Pac-Man, Wario, and Ness figurines will be released later in spring.
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Kitchen Tech: The best bar tools for making amazing home cocktails (Part 2)

Some wonderful things can be made entirely with your hands. Others — including fantastic cocktails — require tools. This week, we’re continuing our prior edition of Kitchen Tech on bar tools, focusing on items that will help you serve restaurant-caliber drinks at home. Last week’s column looked at “fundamental” tools and “good ideas.” Now we’re looking at “the fancy stuff,” special little items used by leading restaurants across the world.

Most of the tools in this week’s column aren’t expensive, even though many of them are being used by top bartenders inside and outside the United States. Below, you’ll find a collection of optional but seriously cool tools I’ve personally tested and found worthy of recommending, as well as details on why some are more optional than others.

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Gaming For Couples: The best Wii U bundle, games, demos and accessories

Nintendo’s Wii U will likely be remembered as the most misunderstood major game console ever released. As the sequel to Wii – which sold over 100 million consoles – the Wii U is a true 1080p HD console, plays all of the Wii’s games, and even includes a screen on its packed-in controller. It’s also the best current-generation console for couples and families, hands-down. But it had a slow start due to weak early software support, only getting mega-hit games in mid-2014, and many people didn’t realize that it was actually an all-new console.

 

Today, a bunch of great Nintendo exclusives are available, and more are on the way – it’s finally a great time to buy a Wii U. That’s what we just did, so for this week’s edition of Gaming For Couples, we’re going to walk you through the best titles, accessories, and deals we’ve found, helping you to do the same.

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Gaming For Couples: Monopoly Plus, or, if at first you don’t succeed, try again

Our prior Gaming For Couples articles have focused on “slam dunk” titles – games that are highly likely to appeal to both people in a couple for various reasons. But for this week’s column, I decided to try something different: picking a niche, relatively unknown game that seemed on the surface to be a really good fit for my murder mystery-loving spouse, but didn’t wind up working out. I’m sharing the story because it was a valuable learning experience, and how we handled it might help you get out of a similar jam.

We wound up buying a classic board game she liked, instead. And in retrospect, just doing that in the first place would have been a lot easier. Read on for the story.

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Kitchen Tech: The best bar tools for making amazing home cocktails (Part 1)

Some wonderful things can be made entirely with your hands. Others — including fantastic cocktails — require tools. The topic for this week’s edition of Kitchen Tech is bar tools, specifically the ones necessary to make restaurant-caliber cocktails at home. Not just any restaurant and cocktails, mind you: we’re talking about making the very best cocktails from leading restaurants across the world.

Ready for the surprise? These tools aren’t crazy expensive. They’re actually some of the most affordable we’ve covered in Kitchen Tech, even though most of our choices are endorsed by top bartenders inside and outside the United States. Inside, you’ll find over a dozen different types of tools I’ve personally tested and found worthy of recommending, along with a few tips on why I didn’t pick some other options.

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Free Xbox Live Gold/PS Plus Games for January: D4, Worms, Infamous FL, Swapper, DuckTales + more

Each month, Sony’s PlayStation Plus and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold services give away a handful of free games to subscribers, adding value to each company’s multi-console online gaming service. January’s games are now available for download, including the following free titles:

For PlayStation Plus, Sony is offering inFAMOUS: First Light, The Swapper, Prototype 2, DuckTales Remastered, Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition, and Whoa Dave. All of these titles are available now, spread out across PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PS Vita. By comparison, a digital copy of inFAMOUS: First Light alone sells for $15 on Amazon, only $3 less than the cost of a three-month PlayStation Plus membership with three months of free games.

For Xbox Live Gold, Microsoft is giving away D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die (shown above), Worms Battlegrounds, MX vs ATV Alive, and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (starting January 16). The first two titles are available for Xbox One, and the latter two are for Xbox 360. For reference, Microsoft sells a digital copy of D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die for $15 alone, which is only $5 under a three-month Xbox Live Gold membership.

Descriptions of each game are inside.

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Gaming For Couples: The Room, The Room Pocket, and The Room 2

Welcome to our second edition of Gaming For Couples! There are many couples with a gaming imbalance — one person loves games, but the other (often a girlfriend or wife) doesn’t. So we’ve created this column to focus on games that two people can enjoy together, fostering a shared sense of interaction and fun. Gaming For Couples picks need to be reasonably priced, made for both girls and guys, and widely available.

Today, we’re looking at three games from the same series: Fireproof Games’ The Room, The Room Pocket, and The Room Two, recipients of numerous best of the year awards. The first two games are actually the same title, formatted for the iPad and iPhone respectively, while The Room Two is a true sequel. It’s a perfect time to play through these games, as they’re currently being discounted below their original $5 asking prices, and The Room Three is expected to be released in Spring 2015.

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It’s time to catch up on Kitchen Tech, 9to5 Toys’ amazing food + drink column

9to5 Toys is very excited about our latest column, Kitchen Tech, which spotlights modern kitchen tools that bring restaurant-quality food and drinks into your home. If you haven’t yet seen the amazing photographs and topics in our first three Kitchen Tech editions, this would be a great time to check them out. Column 1: Up your…

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