Entries by Mindy Fischer

Keep Leaves and Debris out with the Top 7 Best Pool Covers

Now that summer's over, it's time to start thinking about closing down your pool for the winter. There are a few tasks that you must perform to make sure that your pool remains healthy even during the off-season. You should clean the pool water and add winter chemicals. But you have to cover your pool too. So let's take a look at some of the best pool covers you can get this year.

Types of Pool Covers

While you're searching for the best pool covers, there are a few types that you should know about.

Solar pool covers

Automatic pool covers

Thermal pool covers

Winter pool covers

Hidden swimming pool covers

How We Revied

Our goal is to help you find the best pool covers to meet your needs. In our review process, we took a look at top-selling covers. We then narrowed down our list by researching professional and consumer reviews. We also compared the features and price of each cover. All of the covers on our list meet our standards for top quality products.

The Top 3 Best Pool Covers for Above Ground Pools

Here are our top three picks for the best pool covers for above ground pools this year.

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1. Pool Mate 351632RPM Heavy-Duty Blue Winter Pool Cover


Pool Mate 351632RPM Heavy-Duty Blue Winter Pool Cover for In-Ground...

  • Heavy-duty, polyethylene
  • Stops algae growth
  • 5-Foot overlap for easy installation

Our first contender for the best pool covers for above ground pools comes from Pool Mate. This cover will protect your pool during harsh winter conditions.

One of the things that we love about this cover is that its heavy-duty polyethylene material stops algae growth. It does this by preventing UV rays from entering the pool.

This is a solid pool cover, so it will block out dirt and debris.

If you use this cover and close your pool with proper winterizing chemicals, you will have an easy time opening a clean pool in the spring. We recommend opening your pool by mid-May to prevent algae growth.

This cover is available in many different sizes. And it features a 5-foot overlap. It should float comfortably on the water.

The Pool Mate cover comes with water tube loops. You should use the loops with water tubes, which you can purchase separately.

We also love the lightweight material that is more durable than other covers because all of the seams are heat-sealed for optimal performance.

This cover also comes with a 10-year warranty.

PROS

  • Comes with a long warranty

  • Great entry-level cover

  • Easy to install and remove

  • Easy to store

CONS

  • The cover can leak

  • Not as durable as some of the others

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2. Blue Wave NS110 8-mil Solar Blanket


Blue Wave NS110 8-mil Solar Blanket for Round Above-Ground Pools,...

  • RETAINS HEAT - Insulating thermal cells trap heat and retain warmth on cool cloudy days allowing you to swim in warmer...
  • LONG-LASTING - Created with UV-protected polymer, our solar blankets are resistant to the deterioration caused by...
  • EXTENDS THE SEASON - This high-quality 8-mil solar blanket uses passive heating to raise your swimming pool’s...

The next spot on our list of the best pool covers goes to Blue Wave. The first thing that we love about this one is that it retains heat. This cover features insulating thermal cells that trap heat and retain warmth even on cool cloudy days.

This solar blanket uses UV-protected polymer, which means that the cover is resistant to deterioration caused by pool chemicals and UV radiation.

This cover's innovative technology can raise the temperature of your pool by up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

And the thermal bubbles will retain the warmth even after the sun goes down. That means that you can swim comfortably even at night or on cloudy days.

The Blue Wave cover optimizes heat retention thanks to the opaque, blue color, which allows the most sunlight to reach your pool.

It also reduces evaporation. This cover will prevent up to 95 percent of chemical and pool water evaporation. This means that it's not only environmentally friendly, but it will also save you time and money.

This cover is available in many different sizes, and it comes with a three-year manufacturer warranty.

PROS

  • Circle shape

  • Warms the water and keeps the pool warm

  • Very durable

  • Lightweight

CONS

  • The bubbles can burst over time

  • The cover may be too thin for some people

3

3. Intex Solar Cover for Easy Set and Frame Pools


Intex Solar Cover for 16ft Diameter Easy Set and Frame Pools

  • Pool cover helps keep pool water warmer
  • Helps protect pool from debris
  • Designed with central drainage holes to prevent rainwater from pooling on cover

No conversation about the best pool covers would be complete without mentioning Intex. This solar pool cover will help to keep your pool water warmer.

The Intex cover is solid and will protect your pool from dirt, leaves, and debris.

One unique thing about this cover is that it is designed with central drainage holes. This is especially nice because it keeps rainwater from pooling on the cover.

Another thing that we love about the Intex solar cover is that it is lightweight and super easy to use. You just place the cover inside the walls of your pool and let it float to the surface.

When it comes to sizing, this one comes in many different options, but they are all circular and meant to fit Easy Set and framed pools.

This cover will also reduce evaporation by up to 95 percent.

We also love that this cover comes with a convenient carrying bag, which makes storing and transporting a breeze. You should always make sure that you dry the cover before putting it in the carrying bag.

PROS

  • Circle shape

  • Solar blanket

  • Comes with a carrying bag

  • Lightweight and easy to install

CONS

  • Not as high of quality as some of the others

  • Not as durable as some of the others

  • The holes in the cover can let some debris in

The Top 4 Best Pool Covers for In-Ground Pools

Here are our top four picks for the best pool covers for in-ground pools this year.

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1. Blue Wave Rectangular In-Ground Pool Safety Cover


Blue Wave 20-ft x 40-ft Rectangular In Ground Pool Safety Cover - Blue

  • Select cover based on your pool size. Actual cover measures approximately 2-ft wider and 2-ft longer
  • Comes complete with all hardware to install on concrete decking
  • Includes: brass anchors, stainless-steel springs, buckles, installation tools, and storage bag

When it comes to the best pool covers for in-ground pools, you should consider this one by Blue Wave. This cover is durable and strong enough to support your whole family. However, it's light enough to install or remove in about five minutes.

Blue Wave makes this premium cover out of super-strong two-ply mesh that has a break strength of more than 4,000 pounds.

Another thing that we love about this one is the safety features. When this cover is in use, it's held in place with brass anchors that lay flush with the pool deck when you're not using the cover.

The drill and tamp style brass anchoring system will permanently secure the anchors to the concrete.

This cover also offers great winter protection for your pool.

Multi-seamed stitching not only ensures safety, but it also prevents wear and tear. The reinforced wear strips on the underside of the cover guard against fraying and abrasion.

The mesh on this cover will allow rainwater through, but it will stop leaves and other debris. It also makes spring clean up a breeze because no water collects on the cover.

The Blue Wave cover also comes with a storage bag. And it is backed with an incredible 18-year warranty.

PROS

  • One of the most durable on the market

  • Looks great

  • Comes with a long warranty

  • High quality

CONS

  • The mesh will allow some debris in

  • Some complained that they received missing parts

  • Expensive

2

2. Loop-Loc Safety Pool Cover


20 x 40 Rectangle Loop-Loc Safety Pool Cover

  • 20 x 40 Rectangle Loop-Loc Safety Pool Cover
  • Size Listed is Pool Size - Cover will be 2' larger
  • All hardware for cement installation included

Loop-Loc is the next contender on our list of the best pool covers this year. This cover will fit a 20-foot by 40-foot pool. The cover will be slightly larger.

All of the hardware required for cement installation comes with this cover.

One of the things that we love about this cover is that it is made of a new, thicker weave, which blocks nearly all of the sun's rays from reaching your pool water.

But even as it blocks out the sun, it will still let in rainwater and snow, so you don't have to worry about the cover breaking. You should consider this cover if you're looking for less light and debris getting into your pool.

This cover system is strong enough to support the weight of your whole family.

The Loop-Loc cover is one of the strongest and most durable on the market this year. It's also one of the safest.

PROS

  • Comes with all of the installation hardware

  • Super strong mesh that blocks the sun

  • Can hold a lot of weight

CONS

  • Only available in one size

  • You may need a pump to drain excess water

3

3. Water Warden Pool Safety Cover


Intex Solar Cover for 16ft Diameter Easy Set and Frame Pools

  • Pool cover helps keep pool water warmer
  • Helps protect pool from debris
  • Designed with central drainage holes to prevent rainwater from pooling on cover

Water Warden makes another of the best pool covers this year. The first thing that we love about this cover is that it is super safe. It's triple-stitched and double-strapped on the top and bottom. That double strapping adds a second layer of durability and protection.

We love that this cover protects your in-ground pool from harsh winter conditions in just one step.

This cover features a lightweight mesh along with two-ply webbing. That means that it will trap all twigs, leaves, and other debris, while still allowing rainwater to seep through.

Another thing that we love about this cover is that it comes with a heavy-duty hardware kit. The hardware comes from finely crafted materials, including stainless steel, solid brass, and heavy-duty aluminum.

Water Warden designed the D-ring springs to eliminate the need for buckles.

You'll also love that this pool safety cover can block out almost 100 percent of the sunlight. That means that you won't get algae growth in your swimming pool. You'll be very happy about that when you open your pool in the spring!

This cover will fit a pool that measures 20 feet by 40 feet.

PROS

  • Easy to remove and install

  • Comes with all of the needed hardware like springs and hooks

  • Easy to store

CONS

  • Only available in one size

  • It could require new anchors to be drilled into your pool

  • On the pricey side

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4. Yard Guard Green Mesh Inground Safety Pool Cover


YARD GUARD 18'x36' Green Mesh - CES Rectangle Inground Safety Pool...

  • High-quality in-ground pool safety cover with porous, tight mesh that keeps out silt and debris
  • Resistant to rot, mildew, UV, and damage caused by pool water
  • White thread is triple-stitched at all perimeter stress points

Last up on our list of the best pool covers this year is the cover by Yard Guard.

This high-quality in-ground pool safety cover features porous, tight mesh that keeps out all debris and silt, while still allowing rainwater and snow to seep through.

One of the things that we love about this one is that it is resistant to mildew, rot,

UV, and damage that can be caused by your pool water.

This cover also features triple-stitched white thread at all of the perimeter stress points. For added strength, straps run on both the top and bottom of the cover.

And on top of that, reinforced webbing on the top and bottom of every seam assure that it is super safe and strong. The rub strips on the seams will also protect your pool's surface.

This cover is built to withstand many years of wear and tear.

Another thing that we love about this cover is that it features modern cover technology with a computerized shaping and cutting system that assures the best quality.

This cover also comes with a 15-year warranty.

PROS

  • Easy to install and remove

  • Comes with a 15-year warranty

  • Instructions are easy to follow

CONS

  • Straps can stretch a bit

  • Not as durable as some of the more expensive covers

The Bottom Line on the Best Pool Covers

That's not all, here are a couple tips for those of you with above ground pools!

Hopefully, we've helped you narrow down your search for the best pool covers today. We highly recommend all seven of the covers on our list this year. We especially love the four in-ground pool cover options.

Now we want to hear from you! Let us know in the comments section below what you think about our list this year. Do you have any great tips for finding the best pool covers? Share those with our readers too!

What Is Racquetball? The Origins and History of the Court Sport

What Is Racquetball?

Racquetball, sometimes called paddleball, is a super fun racquet sport played on an indoor court with a hollow rubber ball. Unlike most racquet sports, racquetball is played without a net or out of bounds areas. All four of the court’s walls along with the floor and ceiling are all legal playing surfaces in racquetball.

​The Origins and History of Racquetball

​While we’re answering the question of what is racquetball, it is important that we talk a bit about the origins and history of the sport.

Racquetball is a relatively new sport. It was created early in the 1900s by combining several popular sports like handball, tennis, squash, and jai alai. The game first appeared in the United States in the 1920s.

A professional handball, tennis, and squash player from Greenwich, Connecticut named Joseph G. Sobek has been credited with the invention of modern-day racquetball. He was working at a rubber factory in the 1940s when he designed the first rubber ball used in the sport today.

In 1952 Sobek founded the Paddle Racquet Association. From there he distributed rules for the game to all of the YMCAs in America. Racquetball quickly gained in popularity. In fact, by 1969 racquetball had become so popular around the world that a man named Robert Kendler founded the International Racquetball Association. That’s when the name of the sport was officially changed to racquetball.

Racquet and the blue ball

                                                      Image Source: Flickr

​Today there are more than 20 million people worldwide competing in the sport.

There has been a world championship held every year for the sport since 1981. And in 1995, the International Olympic Committee approved racquetball as an official Pan American Games sport.

Racquetball enthusiasts have high hopes that one day it will be an official Olympic sport too.

The rules of racquetball are established now but they can vary slightly by region or country. Australia, for example, plays the game in a standard international squash court which measures 32 feet by 21 feet. But Americans play in a court that measures 40 feet by 20 feet. The Australians also consider the ceiling to be out of bounds. In America, the ceiling is legally in play.

​The Objective of the Game

As we answer the question of what is racquetball, let’s talk a little about the game’s objective.

In racquetball, your objective is to win rallies by returning the ball or by serving so that your opponent can no longer keep the ball in play.

A rally will be over when a hinder is called. A rally is also over when a player or team doesn’t hit the ball before it bounces twice or when a player or team is unable to return a ball in a way that it hits the front wall before it hits the floor.

​Types of Racquetball Games

You can play racquetball with either two players (singles) or four players (doubles). There is also a variation of the game that you can play with three players called cut-throat.

When you play cut-throat, one of the players serves to the other two opponents. If the server wins a rally, they earn a point. However, if they lose the rally, then one of the other players becomes the server.

​Points and Outs

You score points in racquetball only when you are serving. A point is earned when you serve an irretrievable shot, called an ace, or when you win a rally.

If you are playing doubles, then when the first server loses his serve, the second player on the team will then serve. It’s side out when the second server loses his serve.

​Match, Game, Tiebreaker

You win a match in racquetball by winning two games.

In racquetball, you play the first two games of the match to 15 points. You only need to win the game by one point. If each player wins one game then you will need to play a tiebreaking game. The tiebreaking game goes to 11 points, and you need to win by at least 1 point.

​Equipment You Need for Racquetball

While we’re discussing what is racquetball, you should be aware of the equipment required. One of the things that we love about this sport is that it doesn’t require a bunch of expensive gear and equipment.

Basically you just need four things:

​Health and Fitness Benefits of Playing Racquetball

While we’re talking about what is racquetball, it’s important that you know that there are many health benefits to playing the game.

For one thing, it burns a ton of calories. On average you will burn between 640 and 822 calories per hour of play.

Another thing that we love about the game is that it works nearly every muscle in your body. Because you are using large muscle groups for sustained repetitive motion, you will burn more fat and calories.

Throughout a typical game, each player works at a constant rate of 75 to 85 percent of their maximum heart rate.

An average racquetball game takes about 20 minutes. And in that 20 minutes each player will run a distance of around 3,650 feet. That means you’ll run more than two miles in one hour!

You will get both aerobic and anaerobic benefits from playing racquetball. You will benefit from the sustained high-level heart rate along with the quick bursts of energy.

​Racquetball Tips for Beginners

Here are a few tips to get you started.

Take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses

In order to be successful at racquetball, you are going to have to learn how to diagnose your partner. Take time during your warm-up to find out your opponent’s weaknesses. Are they weak in backhand shots? Do they have trouble with low shots?

During the warm-up make sure that you offer a wide variety of shots and speeds so that you can find where your partner’s weaknesses are. Then take advantage of those weaknesses during gameplay.

​Try to stay in the center of the court

​Avoid your opponent

​Hit to the back court

​But avoid the back wall

​Stop hitting balls into the ground

​​Learn from experienced players and videos

​What Is Racquetball? The Bottom Line

Now that we’ve answered the question, “what is racquetball,” hopefully you have a better understanding of this exciting sport.

Before you start practicing you should read through all of the rules of the game. It’s also a good idea to pair up with a more experienced player so that you can learn the proper techniques from the beginning. It’s a lot easier to learn how to hit the right way than to later have to unlearn bad habits.

Now we want to hear from you! Let us know in the comments section below what you think about racquetball. Are you new to the sport? Do you have any great tips for other newbies? Share those with our readers too.

Best of luck with your game!

​Featured Image Source: Unsplash

Best Gaming Laptop Under $600

LOOKING FOR THE BEST GAMING LAPTOP UNDER $600?

Laptops have advanced rapidly in the past few years! They are no longer just scaled-down, portable machines that are only good for running Microsoft Office; many are fully fledged gaming machines with high-end graphics cards, fast CPUs, and lots of RAM. These specific devices can handle downloading and running games with fewer struggles compared to regular laptops.

Gaming laptops are typically a little thicker and heavier than standard laptops because they contain a more powerful hardware. But despite this additional weight, they are still relatively light and easy to transport.

This article will take a look at the best gaming laptops under $600 to help you choose a fantastic gaming machine with all the features you need to have fun while gaming.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A GAMING LAPTOP

There are certain features that gaming laptops must contain to run modern games well. Here’s a breakdown of what each feature means and elements to look for to suit your preferences and budget.

A POWERFUL CENTRAL PROCESSING UNIT (CPU)

The CPU is the component of the computer that performs calculations and controls input/output operations.  Modern computer games typically require a fast and responsive CPU that can perform calculations for the game.

If you play online multiplayer games, a fast CPU is particularly important because it is used to accurately track the locations of dozens of players and process data packets from remote servers.  For a budget of $600, Core i5 is a great option for gamers, and you’ll find that this can handle intensive tasks such as gaming and playing multimedia simultaneously. If you choose a lower specification of CPU, this will reduce the game’s speed. If your CPU is not fast enough to process the incoming data correctly, you may begin to lag.

AN EXTREMELY POWERFUL GRAPHICS PROCESSING UNIT (GPU)

For modern games, the graphics card is usually the most important component of a gaming laptop.  It is the device that processes the game’s graphics to make them look more stunning.  The GPU handles most of those high-fidelity textures, particle effects, animations, and physics effects. Essentially, the more powerful your GPU is, the better the game will look!

If you are playing older or less graphically intensive games, a GPU is less important.  However, if you are playing a graphically intensive game like a first-person shooter (Battlefield, Far Cry, Titanfall), having a high-end GPU is essential.

The amount of VRAM on the graphics card is also important in a gaming laptop and an extension of GPU.  The VRAM provides temporary storage space for the graphics card works such as frames, textures, and other graphics data.  If there is insufficient VRAM on the graphics card, it will have to wait for space to store files, which causes the game to stutter.  You should look for a graphics card with at least 2GB of VRAM considering the budget we’re looking at. However, you’ll need at least 1080P resolution on your gaming laptop for this to maintain the different frames for your monitor.

HIGH-RESOLUTION SCREEN

There is no point having a high-end graphics card that delivers beautiful graphics if the screen cannot render them well!  Ideally, a gaming laptop should have a screen of 1920 x 1080). This data allows you to view fine details on the screen without any blurriness, making it perfect for gaming.  If possible, get one with an in-plane switching (IPS) LED screen with a fast refresh rate.  An LED screen also improves the screen’s vibrancy no matter what angle you view your laptop screen at. This technology also improves the color quality of your images.

However, a higher-resolution screen doesn’t come without its disadvantages. As the images and videos are sharper and clearer, this uses more of your laptop’s battery life which can be an inconvenience.

A GOOD AMOUNT OF MEMORY (RAM)

RAM works similarly to VRAM: it is a temporary location for the computer to store information.  However, instead of being used by the GPU, the computer’s RAM is used by the CPU.

RAM is one of the most important factors when purchasing a laptop. This is a computer memory system which temporarily saves your laptop’s information, but it’s not to be confused with a hard drive which stores information for long periods. Without sufficient RAM, your device will run much slower and could even make gaming almost impossible. However, just having RAM isn’t enough as you need to have a sufficient amount for your games to download efficiently and not lag.

If you do not have enough RAM, your laptop cannot quickly store the information it uses when making calculations.  When this happens, the CPU resorts to storing data on the hard drive, leading to in-game lag and a less responsive computer.

In recent years, the price of RAM has dramatically dropped so you can now easily obtain 4 or 8 GB of RAM for your laptop.  This is the minimum amount of RAM you should have in your laptop for gaming, so your games load quickly, and the information is saved promptly. However, all games come in different sizes and require a different RAM size, so check the manufacturer guide on your chosen game for the minimum requirement. You might find that you can also watch YouTube videos or video call your friends while playing games. Consider if you ordinarily multitask while playing games, otherwise a large size isn’t essential for you.

A FAST AND SPACIOUS HARD DRIVE

Your hard drive is a permanent storage location for your computer’s data and game files.  Games can be quite large and require as much as 50 or 60 GB of storage space.  If you intend to play a variety of different games, a large hard drive will be required.

The two most common types of hard drives found in gaming laptops are Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and Solid State Drives (SSD).   HDDs use rapidly rotating metal discs coated with a magnetic material to store data. The platters have to spin while you are storing or accessing data constantly.  SSD uses integrated circuit assemblies as memory. They have no spinning parts, and they don’t have to scan a spinning disk to find data, so they can retrieve and store data very quickly.

Typically, for the same amount of money, the HDD will have more storage space while the SSD will be much faster.  A 1TB HDD (1000GB) costs about the same as a 256GB SSD. However, the SSD will increase substantially faster which means the computer boots up faster, games will open faster, and games can write data to the drive faster. On average, an SSD takes 10 to 13 seconds to load a laptop while a HDD takes 30 to 40 seconds. An SSD also runs a lot quieter and smoother with no audible clicks, spinning or vibrating parts that could distract you from gaming.

BATTERY

The laptop’s battery is also important if you are gaming while traveling or somewhere without access to power. Gaming laptops use larger amounts of power than regular laptops to improve the graphics and create high-definition results. As a result, your device can quickly run out of battery even after very little use. This might not be an issue if you intend to play games with the charger plugged in, but if you wish to travel and play, you need to consider what power source will be available.

It’s a fact that the best gaming laptops only last a couple of hours without needing to be charged since they have to generate such high-quality images and refresh constantly. Although you’ll likely want a good battery life, consider that this will mean reducing the picture quality, so ask yourself if this is really essential to your gaming.

Acer Aspire E 15 ASUS F556UA-AS54 Dell Inspiron 7000 Series 15.6 Touchscreen Pro Laptop Lenovo G70 Premium High Performance 17.3-inch HD+ Laptop
Rating: 4.8/5 Rating: 4.3/5 Rating: 3.5/5 Rating: 5/5
CPU: Intel Core i5-6200U Processor CPU: Intel i5-6200U 2.3 GHz Processor CPU: Intel Core i5-5200U Processor CPU: Intel Core i5-5200U processor
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 940MX with 2GB DDR5 VRAM GPU: Integrated Intel HD 520 GPU: Intel HD Graphics 5500 GPU: Intel HD Graphics 5500
Display: 15.6-inch HD 1920*1080 pixels Display: 15.6-Inch Full-HD Display 1920*1080 pixels Display: 15.6-inch High resolution LED backlight, HD touchscreen Display: 17.3-inch HD 1600×900 display
RAM: 8GB RAM: 8GB RAM: 8GB RAM: 8GB
Hard Drive: 256GB Hard Drive 256GB Hard Drive: 1TB SATA hard drive Hard Drive: 1TB 5400 rpm hard drive
Price: $$$ Price: $$$ Price: $$$ Price: $$
  • Acer Aspire E 15
  • Rating: 4.8/5
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-6200U Processor
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 940MX with 2GB DDR5 VRAM
  • Display: 15.6-inch HD 1920*1080 pixels
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Hard Drive: 256GB
  • Price: $$$
  • ASUS F556UA-AS54
  • Rating: 4.3/5
  • CPU: Intel i5-6200U 2.3 GHz Processor
  • GPU: Integrated Intel HD 520
  • Display: 15.6-Inch Full-HD Display 1920*1080 pixels
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Hard Drive 256GB
  • Price: $$$
  • Dell Inspiron 7000 Series 15.6 Touchscreen Pro Laptop
  • Rating: 3.5/5
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-5200U Processor
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics 5500
  • Display: 15.6-inch High resolution LED backlight, HD touchscreen
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Hard Drive: 1TB SATA hard drive
  • Price: $$$
  • Lenovo G70 Premium High Performance 17.3-inch HD+ Laptop
  • Rating: 5/5
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-5200U processor
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics 5500
  • Display: 17.3-inch HD 1600×900 display
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Hard Drive: 1TB 5400 rpm hard drive
  • Price: $$

What to Look For in a Gaming Laptop

There are certain features that gaming laptops must contain to run modern games well.

A powerful central processing unit (CPU)

The CPU is the component of the computer that performs calculations and controls input/output operations.  Modern computer games typically require a very fast CPU that can perform calculations for the game.

If you play online multiplayer games, a fast CPU is particularly important because it is used to accurately track the locations of dozens of players and process data packets from remote servers.  If your CPU is not fast enough to process the incoming data correctly, you may begin to lag.

An extremely powerful graphics processing unit (GPU)

For modern games, the graphics card is usually the most important component of a gaming laptop.  It is the device that processes the game’s graphics and makes the game look beautiful.  Most of those high fidelity textures, particle effects, animations and physics effects are handled by the GPU.  Essentially, the more powerful your GPU is, the better the game will look!

If you are playing older or less graphically intensive games, a GPU is less important.  However, if you are playing a graphically intensive game like a first person shooter (Battlefield, Far Cry, Titanfall), having a high-end GPU is essential.

The amount of VRAM on the graphics card is also important in a gaming laptop.  The VRAM provides temporary storage space for the elements that the graphics card works with — frames, textures, and other graphics data.  If there is insufficient VRAM on the graphics card, it will have to wait for space to store files, which causes the game to stutter.  You should look for a graphics card with at least 2GB of VRAM.

High-resolution screen

There is no point having a high-end graphics card that delivers beautiful graphics if the screen cannot render them well!  Ideally, a gaming laptop should have a 1080P screen.  If possible, get one with an in-plane switching (IPS) LED screen with a fast refresh rate.

A good amount of memory (RAM)

RAM works in a similar way to VRAM — it is a temporary location for the computer to store information.  However, instead of being used by the GPU, the computer’s RAM is used by the CPU.

If you do not have enough RAM, your CPU cannot quickly store the information it uses when making calculations.  When this happens, the CPU resorts to storing data on the hard drive, leading to in-game lag and a less responsive computer.

In recent years, the price of RAM has dropped dramatically so you can now easily obtain 4 or 8 GB of RAM for your laptop.  You can also upgrade your RAM at a later point.

A fast and spacious hard drive

Your hard drive is a permanent storage location for your computer’s data and game files.  Games can be quite large and require as much as 50 or 60 Gigabytes of storage space.  If you intend to play a variety of different games, a large hard drive will be required.

The two most common types of hard drives found in gaming laptops are Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and Solid State Drives (SSD).   HDDs use rapidly rotating metal discs coated with a  magnetic material to store data.  The platters have to constantly spin while you are storing or accessing data.  SSD uses an integrated circuit assemblies as memory.  They have no spinning parts and they don’t have to scan a spinning disk to find data, so they can retrieve and store data very quickly.

Typically, for the same amount of money, the HDD will have more storage space while the SSD will be much faster.  A 1TB HDD (1000GB) costs about the same as a 256GB SSD.  However, the SSD will substantially faster which means the computer boots up faster, games will open faster and games can write data to the drive faster.

Battery

The laptop’s battery is also important if you are gaming while traveling or somewhere without access to power.

Some of the best gaming laptops under $600

These laptops are all excellent choices for gaming!  They all have excellent GPUs, plenty of RAM and beautiful displays required for gaming.

Acer Aspire E15

Acer-Aspire-E15Price: $549

CPU: 6th Generation Intel Core i5-6200U Processor (Up to 2.8GHz)

GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 940MX with 2GB DDR5 VRAM

Display: 15.6-inch Full HD Display 1920*1080 pixels

RAM: 8GB DDR4 Memory

Hard Drive: 256GB SSD

Battery: 6-cell Li-Ion (2800 mAh) Battery with up to 12-hours Battery Life

The Acer E15 is the best of the laptops reviewed, with a super-fast Intel Core i5-6200U Processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1080p display and a 256GB SSD.  It boots up quickly, is responsive and a real pleasure to use. It has a large 6-cell Li-ion battery that is capable of an astonishing 12 hours of battery life — more than the other laptops reviewed.

This is the only laptop reviewed here that has a dedicated graphics card, the GeForce 940MX — making it ideal for games with more advanced graphics.  Of the laptops reviewed, this is the one most likely to run a game like Battlefield or Titanfall at high frames per second (fps). With an average of loading 30 fps, this Acer laptop might struggle loading games such as Black Ops 4, but it’ll present graphics in high definition.

With many gaming laptops, cooling can be a huge issue, but we’re pleased that this Acer laptop doesn’t overheat meaning you can comfortably sit it on your legs while continuing play. This is all down to the CPU and GPU to keep the laptop running efficiently while downloading graphics.

The graphics card, SSD drive, and outstanding display are the major selling points of this laptop.  It is a substantial offering from Acer and incredible value for money.

ASUS F556

ASUS-F556Price: $529

CPU: Intel i5-6200U 2.3 GHz Processor (Turbo to 2.8 GHz)

GPU: Integrated Intel HD 520

Display: 15.6-Inch Full-HD Display 1920*1080 pixels

RAM: 8GB DDR3

Hard Drive: 256GB SSD

Battery: 38 Watt/hr Li-polymer battery (2.5 times the lifespan of standard Li-ion)

This ASUS shares some similar specifications to the Acer Aspire E15, with the same Intel i5-6200U process and an incredibly fast 256GB SSD.  It has a stunning 1080p screen that renders games beautifully.

The long-lasting Li-Polymer battery can provide more than 700 charge cycles, which is more than 2.5 time what a standard Li-ion provides.  It is also highly efficient at retaining its charge capacity, keeping up to 80% of the full charge of a new battery.

It is a very attractive laptop that is only 1-inch high.  If you are frequently traveling, you can fit it into your rucksack or bag very easily as it only weighs 2.3kg!  The high-quality battery means you will get plenty of gaming from the laptop before you need to recharge.

The only downside to having such a low-profile laptop is that it doesn’t have enough room for a stand-alone graphics card. It uses an integrated Intel HD 520.  This card may be fine for older games and less graphically intensive games. So you could run Starcraft, League of Legends or CS:GO well, but it might struggle with the latest Battlefield or Titanfall game.

Dell Inspiron 7000

Dell-Inspiron-7000Price: $587

CPU: Intel Core i5-5200U Processor (3M Cache, up to 2.70 GHz)

GPU: Intel HD Graphics 5500

Display: 15.6″ High Resolution LED Backlight, HD (1366 x 768) Truelife Touchscreen Display

RAM: 8GB DDR3L SDRAM

Hard Drive: 1TB SATA hard drive

Battery: 3-cell battery with up to 8 hours of battery life

Dell offers an excellent range of value-for-money laptops that often come with innovative features.  This Dell Inspiron is no exception, coming with a 15.6″ touchscreen display. It has a beautiful display to use, and Windows 10 Home comes with excellent touch screen support. This easy-to-use touch screen makes gaming more accessible to everyone, and you can quickly navigate through levels without having to click the mouse.

While games look fantastic on this display, it does not run on 1920×1080, instead only reaching 1366×768.  This only becomes an issue if you intend on playing games with advanced graphics (Battlefield and Titanfall).  If you are playing something like The Sims, CS:GO orStarcraft, the game render beautifully.

It comes with a huge 1TB SATA HDD, which is large enough to store hundreds of movies or thousands of videos.  It has plenty of RAM, and the Intel Core i5 is a solid processor. The battery life is great also, coming in at 8-hours, which makes it one of the best gaming laptops on the market right now.  This laptop is a great choice if you want one with a touchscreen and sufficient RAM.

Lenovo G70

Lenovo-G70Price: $517

CPU: 5th Gen Intel Core i5-5200U processor (3M Cache, 2.2 GHz base frequency, up to 2.70 GHz),

GPU: Intel HD Graphics 5500

Display: 17.3-inch diagonal HD+ BrightView WLED-backlit (1600 x 900) display

RAM: 8GB DDR3L 1600 MHz RAM

Hard Drive: 1TB 5400rpm hard drive 

Battery: Li-Ion with up to 5 hours battery life

Lenovo has a reputation for making reliable and affordable gaming laptops.  The G70 combines some great components in a sleek shell. The display is a huge 17.3 inch BrightView WLED display that looks absolutely gorgeous.  Although the resolution has been scaled down slightly, the larger screen makes gaming more immersive.

This laptop has plenty of CPU power and RAM, providing a very fast user experience, so you can spend more time playing games than waiting for images to load.  The Boot-up and game loading are slightly slower than the other laptops because it is runs a HDD instead of an SSD, but you will have plenty of storage space available.

The only downside with this laptop is the low battery life (probably due to the larger display), and limited screen resolution that isn’t 1080p and an integrated graphics card.  However, it provides a very affordable, budget-conscious gaming laptop nonetheless!

HAVE ANY OF THESE LAPTOPS CAUGHT YOUR EYE?

Choosing a gaming laptop isn’t easy when there are so many factors to consider and an array of products, but the above selections show a variety of resolutions, battery life, storage and more. Also, refer back to the amount of RAM and storage space you need to play your favorite games, or you risk choosing a laptop which isn’t suitable for your specific needs.

If we had to recommend only one gaming laptop, it would be the Dell Inspiron 7000 model since this offers a sleek and streamlined design. The device is comfortable and ergonomically designed for hours of use thanks to the keyboard’s shallow feel. The buttons are soft, and the touchpad is responsive so you can enjoy playing games. But from the remaining gaming laptops, have any caught your eye? Share your thoughts or further recommendations in the comments.

Best 10 Electric Bike Options You Can Buy Right Now: Buyer’s Guide

Cycling is not only good for your health, but also environmentally friendly and cost-effective than using vehicles.

Even more advantageous, is using electric bikes. E-riders cover greater distances using much less energy.

E-bikes have smooth pedaling assistance that really come in handy when you travel with luggage.

But to enjoy all these benefits, you need the best electric bike in the market. Considering a mix of range, power, and performance, here are the top 10 electric bikes you can buy:

Best Electric Bikes to Buy

1. Haibike Xduro Cross 4.0

This is a sporty e-bike. It is equipped with disk aluminum brakes that are responsive and require very little maintenance. It has one of the best Bosch lithium-ion battery with a range of up to 140 miles and provides excellent pedal assistance.

Its state-of-the-art drive system makes it a seamless, fun ride on all types of terrains at top speeds of 20 mph.

Cube-Reaction-HPA-Pro-400-img

This German hybrid e-bike is just powerful. It has a 400wh Bosch battery that can run up to 50 miles on a full charge at a top speed of 15 mph. Its 10 gears offer easy control, stability, and balance.

It also features a Bosch display, a Bosch drive unit, and a quite powerful motor that outputs 250W.

Coboc-ONE-eCycle-img

The design and start system of this e-bike is great. It features an aluminum frame and a carbon fiber fork to enhance easy drivability while minimizing its weight. Its 36V battery takes only 2 hours to charge fully and this can take you up to 50 miles.

It also has a brilliant black gloss finish.

Ancheer-Power-Plus-img

The Power Plus e-bike is made from a mixture of a durable carbon steel and aluminum alloy and features a fully adjustable seat to increase comfort.

It also has a removable lithium-ion battery that can last up to 30 miles. To ensure easy customization, it has a 21-speed transmission system that enhances control.


NCM Prague Electric Mountain Bike 468Wh 36V/13AH Matte White 27.5"

  • Sturdy, light weight, easy handling: With a lightweight but sturdy aluminium alloy frame, the NCM Prague weighs in at...
  • Optimized electric system: The Das-Kit 350W rear-drive motor, 468Wh DeHawk battery and Das-Kit L6B LCD display and...
  • Smooth trail riding with Suntour and Schwalbe: One of the biggest names in MTB fork design, the Suntour XCT comes with a...

The NCM has a top speed of up to 20 mph, quick enough to ensure easy and secure traffic maneuvers.

It is ideal for a wide variety of terrain and has a Panasonic lithium battery that can run up to 60 miles.

Ridge-Electron-Plus-img

This e-bike can conquer any hill you throw its way. It features a new Shimano STEPS system, front and rear Shimano T4000 brakes, adjustable stem extension, and an aluminum frame that is heat-treated.

Its battery takes only 4 hours to fully charge and has a range of up to 77 miles. If you live in the hilly countryside, the Ridgeback Electron Plus will serve you just right.

Turbo-Levo-FSR-Comp-6Fattie-img

This is a very compact e-bike with a bouncy nature, making it a fun and hip ride.

While it’s relatively new in the market, it has one of the most powerful motors. It also comes with a reliable battery for long distances and a light aluminum frame which gives it a sleek, classy look.

The Turbo Levo is the perfect blend of durability, performance, and technology.

Infineum-Extreme-img

This innovative and high-performing electric bike has an exceptional stackable battery structure – the Infineum LPX. It has no particular range limit as you can attach more batteries at your convenience. Each battery gives a range of up to 33 miles.

It also features an aluminum frame, Rock Shox forks, 24 gears, as well as front and rear Shimano Alivio V-brakes and handlebars. Additionally, its backlit display shows the battery strength, speed, and general condition of the bike.

DiamondBack-Ranger-img

This electric mountain bike is ideal for hill climbers.

From its torque control to its efficient gears, DiamondBack Ranger boasts of a very compact and solid drive system, making it ideal for steep areas. The rear suspensions and shock absorbers will enable you to enjoy fun and comfortable rides even in bumpy situations.

The battery can last up to 75 miles on a full charge and the chunky tires are suitable for both tarmac and off-road terrain.


SWAGTRON Swagcycle EB5 Lightweight & Aluminum Folding Ebike with...

  • Pre-assembled; the electric bike already comes pre-assembled so you won't have to waste time with complicated assembly...
  • Height adjustable for adults and teens; easily adjust the bicycle seat and handlebar to find the perfect position for a...
  • 14 inch wheels; a pair of air-filled rubber tires with quick-disconnect power lines ensure better traction and easy tire...

Best Electric Bike Comparison Table

Product

Image

Price

Haibike Xduro Cross 4.0

Xduro-Cross-4.0

Cube Reaction HPA Pro 400

Cube Reaction HPA Pro 400

Coboc ONE eCycle

coboc one ecycle

Ancheer Power Plus

Ancheer Power Plus

Ridge Electron Plus

Ridge Electron Plus

Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie

Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie

Infineum Extreme

Infineum Extreme

Get The Best Electric Bike For You

woman riding a bike

The benefits of owning an electric bike are varied – from less pedaling efforts to cost-saving benefits. However, the various models on the market make it hard to decide what you exactly want.

Any of the above 10 e-bikes are great choices. Choose the one that will perfectly suit your needs and preferences.

Best Party Board Games Reviews

Reviews of the Top 9 Best Party Board Games You’ve got drinks, chips, helium balloons, and an amazing playlist. The one thing that is missing is an entertaining board game. That’s where the best party board games come in. Maybe, you might spread out a polka-dotted mat for a game of Twister? Or perhaps test […]

How to Make a Tire Swing: Easy DIY

What You’ll Need

  • A large gently used tire

  • Rope

  • Power Drill

  • A large, stable tree with a branch at least 9 feet from the ground

Choosing Your Rope

Rope

Image by Christoph Schütz from Pixabay

One of the most important safety considerations, other than selecting a tree branch that can support the weight, is the type of rope you use for your tire swing. Let’s dive into the different aspects of types, fibers, sizes, and safety to ensure you choose the best one for your project.

Rope Types

Fiber Types

Rope Size

Rope Safety Tips

Step By Step Guide to Make a Tire Swing

Now that we’ve covered the basics of materials let’s dive into the simple, nine-step process of hanging a single-rope swing in your yard. 

Step 1

Find the Perfect Tire

Swing Tire

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Start by finding an old tire that’s ready for its second life.  You’ll want to make sure that it’s in relatively good condition and doesn’t have any splits or cracks that could compromise its integrity under the weight of a person.

Generally, larger tires are better because they’ll give your kids lots of room to climb in or on them, but be mindful of the weight of some of the oversized options.  You’ll want to find the right balance of size to the amount of weight your tree branch can support.

Step 2

Clean Off the Tire

Clean tire swing on the playground

Image by Dennis Herzner from Pixabay

Chances are good the unwanted tire won’t be squeaky clean, so you’ll want to give it a good scrub before you let your kids play on it.

You can use a heavy duty detergent and a scrub brush to remove all the mud and grime and rise it thoroughly both inside and out.  It needs a deeper clean, you can use a pressure washer, or take it to a do-it-yourself car wash to use one of their high-pressure nozzles to get all of the dirt off.

If there are any residual grease spots, you can use WD40 or a tire cleaner to remove them.  Be sure to rinse the tire again after using these chemicals so that they don’t end up on your kid’s hands once they play on the swing. 

Step 3

Drill Drainage Holes in the Tire

Once your tire is squeaky clean, it’s time to drill a few holes in the bottom of one side of the tire.  This will prevent water from pooling inside when it rains, which could lead to mold or rot.

Use your power drill to make three holes in the base, and be careful as you push through the material.  Depending on the type of tire you choose, you might hit a layer of metal strands used to reinforce the material, and you’ll need to work through them with your drill bit.

Step 4

Pick the Perfect Branch

Tire Swing in a tree branch

Image by rawbuffalo from Pixabay

It’s time to select a branch that’s suitable for your tire swing.  Start by identifying a mature tree that’s large, healthy, and doesn’t have any signs of decay or weakness.  Favorites are Oak or Maple trees, but any species with established roots can work.

Scope out the tree for a branch that’s around 9 feet off the ground, and that’s at least 10-inches thick.  Thicker branches will be able to support more weight and will be sturdier.

You’ll also want to search for a branch that extends away from the trunk of the tree so that you have room to swing without running into the base.  Although you will still hang the tire swing near to where the branch meets the trunk, give yourself a few feet of from for the best results.

Remember, the higher the branch, the more room you’ll have for the tire to swing.  If you’re building for a small child, a branch lower to the ground might be a better fit to limit the movement and how high they will go.

Step 5

Hang the Rope

Tire Swing in the beach and the rope is tightly hang on the branch of tree

Image by Michelle Maria from Pixabay

This is the most dangerous part of the job, so be sure that you put safety first when it’s time to hang your rope over the sturdy tree branch.  Position your ladder securely and climb carefully to the top. It’s smart to have a partner hold it steady on your way up.

Thread one end of the rope over the branch and let it drop down towards the ground so that you can reach it when standing at the base of the tree.

If you don’t have a ladder, there are other creative ways to get your rope up and over.

Try securing something heavy, like a roll of duct tape or balled up socks to the end of the rope and then throwing it over the branch.  Once it’s looped over, the weight should bring the rope down to ground level.

Step 6

Tie a Slip Knot

Use the ends of your rope to tie a slip knot and pull on it until the knot travels upwards towards the branch.  You should end up with a double rope with ends at two different lengths.

Step 7

Hang the Tire

Using the rope, the tire is tightly hang on the branch of tree

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

Position the tire so that the drainage holes are at the bottom and tie the rope around the top of the tire.  Use a square knot configuration to keep it secure.

Make sure to position the tire so that it’s an appropriate distance from the ground.  You’ll want it high enough so that your kid’s legs don't drag when they swing, but low enough that they can easily climb in or on it without needing assistance. 

Step 8

Create a Play Area on the Ground

Children are enjoying the tire swing at the playground

Image by erge from Pixabay

Although it’s not mandatory, it’s a nice touch to add an area on the ground around the swing of soft surface to make it safer for your children when they play.  Consider adding mulch or digging out a section and filling it with sand to cushion landings when kids jump (or fall) off the swing.

Step 9

Test the Tire Swing

Little girl is enjoying the tire swing

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

The only thing left to do on your list of how to make a tire swing is to test it out.  Have one of the larger, heavier members of your family give it a try to make sure that the knots stay secure that the branch will support the weight.

Fun for the Whole Family

A tire swing is a fun addition to your yard that the whole family can enjoy. This inexpensive, easy to do project is suitable for even the most inexperienced DIYer, and this helpful guide gives you everything you need to get the job done.

Featured Image by Pezibear from Pixabay