Consumer Reports: Wireless speakers, eco-friendly paper plates

July 11, 2013


More and more people are using their tablets and smart phones to watch video and listen to music. Until recently, the sound hasn't been very good unless you use headphones. But now Consumer Reports has tested portable wireless speakers that are supposed to help. Some models are being heavily advertised.

Consumer Reports has tested almost 20 portable wireless speakers with rechargeable batteries. They use Bluetooth, so you can play audio from a smart phone or tablet without having to plug it in.

Testers evaluated sound quality in a specially designed lab. Some speakers sounded pretty good, but others didn't perform as well, with the worst delivering distorted audio. The Jambox from Jawbone was the lowest-rated speaker, and Beats by Dr. Dre fell somewhere in the middle.

Testers also looked at how easy the speakers are to use and the features each one offers. You want to be able to set up the speakers without too much trouble, and you want controls that work well. A USB port is also helpful so that you can charge your devices.

In the end, the TDK Life on Record Wireless Weatherproof Speaker topped the ratings with top-quality sound. It comes with a USB port and can also be used as a speakerphone for phone calls, all for about $150.

Consumer Reports says that its tests show sound quality is improving on mobile devices such as tablets and phones. But none has reached a level that can compete with what you'll get from a set of speakers.


Paper plates are perfect for a no-fuss party or barbecue. But the tossed plates do add up. What about those plates that claim they'll break down right in your compost? Consumer Reports checked out two, Chinet Classic White Plates and Hefty Basic Plates.

Hefty says its plates are "biodegradable in home composting" and have "no inks or coatings." Chinet says its eco-friendly plates are made from "recycled materials" and are also compostable.

Testers composted the plates at Consumer Reports' headquarters. They put one of each plate in a separate compost bin and went back each week to check on the progress.

Consumer Reports also composted two regular types of paper plates, the Dixie Ultra and America's Choice, for comparison.

Of course, you don't want your plates breaking down while you're eating, so staffers checked out the plates at a company picnic.

Then there was the chili test. Testers scooped 1 cup of chili onto each plate, and the plates were left on a lab counter to see whether chili leaked through. It didn't. But all of the plates did let some steam through. The driest? The regular Dixie Ultras.

As for the composting, the Hefty plates disintegrated after three weeks. The Chinet, five weeks. It took longer, but both of the regular plates broke down, in about three months.

Consumer Reports' take: If going green is important, the Chinet or the Hefty Basics plates can get the job done the fastest, and they don't cost a lot more.

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