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2021 BMW M3 first pressure overview: Redemption thru efficiency

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Look, I hate BMW’s huge new grille as much as the rest of you, but there are way more important things to talk about with this brand-new M3. This is the sport sedan by which all other sport sedans are judged, and once you get past those unfortunate nostrils, I promise there are plenty of redeeming qualities.

In fact, botched nose-job aside, I think the M3 looks pretty hot. It’s 2.4 inches wider than a base 3 Series, evidenced by bulging front and rear fenders, and the big exhaust tips stick out from the diffuser like a freshly polished brass quartet. All M3s get staggered wheels and tires, with standard 18s up front and 19s out back, though my tester has the optional 19-/20-inch setup. Oh, and as for this new Isle of Man paint job, when we’re allowed to be in contact with other humans again, I owe the person who green-lit (heh) this color a high-five.

If the sedan body style isn’t your thing, there’s also the new M4 coupe, which is basically the same car only a little uglier and a little more expensive. Both the M3 and M4 are available in base and Competition specs with rear-wheel drive, and later this year, all-wheel-drive versions of the Competition models will join the party.

Every M3 and M4 uses BMW’s S58 3.0-liter twin-turbo I6, which is a nice upgrade from the old S55 engine. The base tune offers 473 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque and you can get it with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. The Competition upgrade bumps those figures up to 503 hp and 479 lb-ft, though it also locks you into the automatic gearbox.

The vast majority of M3 and M4 buyers will undoubtedly choose the automatic transmission regardless of engine output, but I’m nevertheless glad to see BMW keeping the manual alive. It’s a good transmission, too — the clutch is heavy with a predictable take-up point, and while I’ve heard other people describe the M3’s gearbox as rubbery, I dig the notchy, precise action to the stick. 

The 3.0-liter twin-turbo I6 engine produces 473 hp or 503 hp, depending on spec.


Jonathan Harper/Roadshow

Besides, the more powerful, auto-only Competition cars aren’t that much quicker. Despite their extra oomph and quicker-shifting transmission, both the M3 and M4 Comp will do the 0-to-60-mph dash in 3.8 seconds; the base/manual cars will do the same sprint in 4.1 seconds. The only time you’ll notice that discrepancy is at a drag strip, or as my photographer correctly points out, while ripping between stoplights on Melrose in Hollywood at midnight. 

The manual is nicely paired with this turbo I6, too. The S58 is surprisingly rev-happy for a turbo engine, but because there’s so much low-end torque, you don’t always have to drop a gear or two to call up necessary passing power. Speaking of which, the manual gearbox will automatically rev-match on downshifts, though you can disable this feature if you want. I’m sure the real manly-men drivers will scoff at this, but I actually love the auto rev-matching tech, only because you get guaranteed smooth downshifts 100% of the time, and sometimes I just don’t freaking feel like heel-and-toeing in traffic.

You know what else is great? The chassis. The standard G20 3 Series’ setup is pretty good, and extra braces and an aluminum subframe only make the M3 stiffer and stronger. Every M3 comes with electronically controlled adaptive dampers, which can react instantly and individually at each wheel, providing excellent composure over smooth and nasty road surfaces alike. I can genuinely feel a difference between the suspension’s Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes. And while BMW’s larger M cars are sometimes crashy even in their cushiest settings (lookin’ at you, M5 and X5/X6 M), the M3 is supple enough that I wouldn’t hate driving it every day.


Jonathan Harper/Roadshow

A standard limited-slip differential keeps power managed at the rear, and the 275/35ZR19 front and 285/30ZR20 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires offer plenty of grip. There are 10 different traction control levels to choose from, which is totally overkill, though it means you can really have a greater handle on just how much leeway you have in terms of slip. The M3 will totally pull off controlled slides, too, and there’s even a feature called the M Drift Analyzer, which records the distance, duration and angle of a drift and then scores your performance so you can step up your game. That’s cool, but please don’t be one of the morons who tries to use this on a public road.

Sweet as the chassis is, the M3’s steering is a mixed bag. The speed-sensitive, variable-ratio setup means the M3 turns in quickly and instantly responds to changes in direction, but the whole experience is lifeless. The wheel is nicely weighted yet it’s also flatline numb, and weirdly, bordering on twitchy in its most aggressive Sport setting. It’s a shame to see BMW still struggling with steering after all these years.

Likewise, the brakes are hit or miss. The standard steel brakes have 15.0-inch front discs with six-piston calipers, and 14.6-inch rear discs with single-piston floating calipers. That’s a perfectly robust stopping setup, but the M3 uses a version of the brake-by-wire system that you’ll find in the 8 Series, where you can change between Comfort and Sport settings, neither of which actually feel all that different from one another. BMW says the benefit to this tech is consistent braking feel in all situations, but that isn’t what I experienced on the road. There’s an artificial buildup of weight that doesn’t always correlate to stopping force, and that’s hard to get used to. Credit where credit’s due, however: This is one of the better brake-by-wire systems when it comes to low-speed modulation.

The orange leather looks great against my test car’s green paint.


Jonathan Harper/Roadshow

If you’d prefer stronger, carbon-ceramic brakes, they’re available for $8,150 and are set apart with classy gold-painted calipers. Given how strong the stock setup is, unless you’re using the M3 as your track car, I’d skip the carbon-ceramic option. Eight grand is a ton of money.

The base M3 comes with a decent list of standard driver-assistance features, including parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and more. Unfortunately, things like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and BMW’s Extended Traffic Jam Assist (that combines those aforementioned technologies) are hidden behind a $1,700 package that’s only available on the Competition models. It’s kind of lame to lock that tech into the more expensive Competition trim, though I suppose these are features I could theoretically live without. But you do you.

Every M3 has the same cabin tech: BMW’s iDrive 7 software, with a 10.3-inch center touchscreen and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. This is exactly the same as what you get in the basic 3 Series, as well as pretty much every other new BMW. iDrive 7 has a pretty steep initial learning curve, but I appreciate the screen’s quick responses to inputs and the fact that you can control it via a knob on the center console or through voice commands. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, as well.


Jonathan Harper/Roadshow

Most of the interior touchpoints carry over from the 330i and M340i to the M3, save for some M-specific badges and colors and a thicker-diameter steering wheel. You can add BMW’s wild-looking carbon bucket seats to any version of the M3 or M4 for $3,800, and I hear they’re seriously supportive. My test car has the standard sport seats, which are perfectly fine and look great done up in Kyalami Orange leather. For $2,550, you can extend the leather color to the lower dashboard panel, too, so yeah, go nuts.

The base M3 starts at $70,895 including $995 for destination. All done up with special paint and interior colors, the carbon-ceramic brakes, upgraded wheels and an Executive Package (heated steering wheel, head-up display, wireless charging, those dumb gesture controls, etc.), the M3 pictured here costs $90,295 — again, nearly 10% of that price is just from the brakes. As for the rest of the range, the M3 Competition comes in at $73,795, the M4 starts at $72,795 and the M4 Competition is the most expensive variant at $75,695.

See? It looks great from the rear.


Jonathan Harper/Roadshow

In the same way the normal 3 Series is an improvement over its predecessor, so too is the M3. This sport sedan is better to drive and easier to live with, and the M3 continues to stack up nicely against the well-rounded Audi RS5 and V8-powered Mercedes-AMG C63 in terms of price and performance. Ultimately, deciding which one to get comes down to which brand you like best or which car you think looks the coolest.

Oh, crap. Maybe that grille is more important than I thought.


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Amazon High Video evaluation: An excellent streaming carrier, particularly when you are already paying for it

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Amazon Prime Video tends to come in third in discussions about streaming, behind Netflix and Hulu — maybe even fourth, with the massive growth of Disney Plus. But the tech and retail giant’s streaming arm is muscular in its own right with lots of high-quality original shows and movies, an impressive back catalog of older favorites (and B-movies you haven’t heard of) and NFL on Thursday nights. If you already subscribe to Amazon Prime for the free shipping, the Video offering is a really great included perk. And if you don’t, it may still be worth paying $9 a month for, especially if you’re interested in any of its Amazon Original shows or its large movie selection.

Like

  • Included with Amazon Prime subscription
  • Wide variety of movies and shows, including many critically acclaimed originals
  • Large collection of 4K UHD shows and movies
  • Offline downloads and user profiles
  • Ad-free content

Don’t Like

  • Can’t watch shows as they air on other networks
  • Paid content mixed in with free content
  • Menus can be confusing

On the other hand, Prime Video is more of a companion service to Netflix and Hulu, and weaker overall than both. It can’t replace Netflix’s massive catalog of originals and hit shows, and can’t compete with Hulu’s vast collection of TV both old and newly aired. If you don’t already have a Prime subscription we’d definitely recommend choosing one of those two first — but chances are you already get the video part for free.

Select streaming services compared

Amazon Prime Video Netflix Hulu Disney Plus
Monthly price $9 (or included with $120/year Prime membership) Starts at $9 Basic $7 with ads, Ad-free for $12, Live TV for $65 $7
Ads No No Yes No
Availability Now Now Now Now
Top titles Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Boys, The Expanse, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Stranger Things, The Crown, Breaking Bad, The Queen’s Gambit Handmaid’s Tale, Catch-22, Lost, Bob’s Burgers The Mandalorian, WandaVision, Avengers Endgame, Toy Story, The Simpsons
Mobile downloads Yes Yes Yes (on Ad-free plan only) Yes
4K available Yes Yes (on Premium plan) Yes Yes
HDR available Yes Yes (on Premium plan) No Yes
Number of streams: 2 1 (2 for Standard, 4 on Premium) 2 (Unlimited with Live TV + $10 add-on) 4

Prime 101

Amazon Prime Video — sometimes just called Prime Video — is Amazon’s TV and movie streaming service. Before the Prime Video we know today, Amazon launched Amazon Unbox, an online movie rental and download service, back in 2006 — just before Netflix introduced online streaming. 

In 2011, as a way to boost the Prime subscription service, Amazon created Amazon Instant Video, with access to 5,000 streamed movies and TV shows for Prime subscribers. Unbox officially shuttered in 2015, and Amazon began marketing its streaming service as Amazon Prime Video. It became available as a standalone service outside of Amazon Prime in 2016. 

If you are one of the 150 million-plus people worldwide who subscribes to Amazon Prime for the free two-day shipping ($13 per month or $119 per year), Prime Video is included with the service. If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account, you can still subscribe to Prime Video for $9 a month, the same price as Netflix’s Basic Plan, and a few bucks more than the Hulu Plus Ads plan. Prime Video subscribers can add on subscriptions to HBO, Showtime, Starz, Paramount Plus and several other channels for an extra monthly cost as well.

22-amazon-prime-tv-screens-originals-series-2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

Critically acclaimed TV, and loads of movies that are… less so

Prime Video lists more than 200 Amazon Original Series on the site — larger than Hulu’s 100 or so originals, and smaller than Netflix’s collection of several hundred. Amazon’s Original series stand out for the amount of critical acclaim they’ve received: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Boys, Fleabag, A Very English Scandal, Good Omens, The Man In The High Castle, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle all were nominated for or won Emmy awards in the past few years. These shows are typically made available on the platform a full season at a time. 

And later this year Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel series will debut on Prime Video as well. Amazon reportedly paid nearly $250 million for the rights, which would make it the most expensive TV series ever.

Original movies include Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, The Big Sick, Manchester By the Sea, Late Night and The Report. You’ll also find exclusive original comedy specials, kids’ shows, documentaries and reality shows.

Another area where Prime Video stands out is its selection of kids’ shows. You’ll find favorites like Sesame Street, Spongebob Squarepants, Shaun the Sheep, Thomas and Friends and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, along with originals like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny. 

Prime Video also includes an extensive catalog of B-movies that are pretty terrible and super fun to watch — just not necessarily with the kids. 

While Prime Video is great for binge-watching original shows and older favorites, one downside is that there’s no option to keep up with current shows like you can on Hulu, unless you subscribe to one of the channels for an extra cost. 


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Not everything in Prime is Prime

Unlike Hulu and Netflix, Amazon sells TV shows and movies separately from its Prime subscription content, for rental and/or purchase, including new releases like The Croods: A New Age and Freaky. As the pandemic forced movie theaters to shut down, in March 2020, Amazon also launched Prime Video Cinema — a hub full of movies that would have otherwise been shown in theaters, like Trolls World Tour and Minari. 

These pay-to-rent (or buy) titles can show up on some Prime menus too, mixed in with stuff you can stream “free” as part of your subscription. The mingling of content is confusing and can even seem like another incentive to buy something. But Amazon has since changed the Prime Video layout to make it clearer what’s included in Prime (which typically has a blue Prime tag) and what’s paid for (which has a gold dollar sign tag). But this appears differently across different devices. 

21-amazon-prime-tv-screens-originals-series-2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

Otherwise Prime Video’s interface is pretty similar to those of Netflix and other streaming services. At the top, you’ll see tabs for Search, Home, Originals, Movies, TV, Kids, Purchases & Rentals, Watchlist and Settings. As you scroll, you’ll see personalized categories like Movies based on your viewing, Popular movies and TV shows we think you’ll like, followed by more typical ones like Trending TV and Top-rated movies. 

Prime Video’s nested menus operate similarly to those on Netflix. Click a title and you’ll see a description, an IMDb score and the ability to Watch Now if it’s included with Prime, as well as check out other rental or purchase options. If the title you choose is not included with Prime, this page will show you how much it would cost to rent or buy on the platform. 

You can watch Amazon Prime Video on your Amazon Fire TV ($34 at Amazon), Fire TV Stick, or Fire Tablet, as well as on Apple TV ($180 at Best Buy), Roku, Xfinity X1, smart TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles, iOS devices or Google Chromecast ($15 at eBay)

Prime Video’s best features

One cool feature that differentiates Prime Video from other streaming services is called X-Ray. Thanks to Amazon’s ownership of IMDb, you can scroll up while playing a given show or movie and see information on cast members, the music playing and trivia — helping you avoid “wait, don’t I know that guy from somewhere?” syndrome. 

Another perk: Prime Video is generally ad-free. You may see a short promo for an Amazon Original before a show. But Prime Video doesn’t run regular advertising, so you won’t see ads for things like soda or trucks during any commercial breaks in your programming. The exception is the IMDb TV category, where you’ll find some popular network shows like Lost and Friday Night Lights free with ads

To aid your binge planning, Prime Video does tell you what new shows are coming up for the month, which Hulu does as well but Netflix does not. 

Most Amazon Original movies and shows along with several others are available to stream in 4K Ultra High Definition with HDR. This is great news, since in our experience, HDR actually delivers a more noticeable picture quality improvement, especially on a good TV, than 4K resolution. You’ll need a 4K UHD display and a streaming device that supports the format, including 4K-compatible smart TVs and streaming players like the Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, the Apple TV 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, among others.

Up until recently, Prime hasn’t allowed you to create separate user profiles, like Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus do. But that feature has now rolled out on most devices, with users being able to add up to six different profiles, including kids profiles, on one account. 

You can download Prime Video titles to watch offline if you have a Fire tablet, or the Prime Video app for iOS or Android. 

08-amazon-prime-tv-screens-originals-series-2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

Is paying for Prime Video worth it if you don’t have Amazon Prime? 

Depends on what you’re looking for in a streaming service. If you’re a big fan of movies (good, bad and everything in between), a Prime Video subscription might be worth it for the extensive film catalog — especially if you can use it to replace pricey digital rentals. The growing collection of quality Amazon Originals is also a big draw — especially since there are no ads in any shows. And the large number of 4K HDR offerings is a plus for those with 4K TVs. 

But if you’re more of a TV show binge-watcher and the Amazon Originals don’t spark your interest, you may be just fine with your Netflix or Hulu subscription. Either way, you can try out Prime Video free for 30 days — just make sure you cancel before it auto-renews.



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Denon AVR-S960H AV receiver evaluate: Heavy on options, mild on innovation

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Denon is probably the first name that comes to mind when you think of AV receivers, and with good reason. The brand has been pumping out excellent models with great sound quality for years. Its competitors are slowing their receiver release schedules — Sony hasn’t made a new model since 2017, and Onkyo won’t have a follow-up to its 2019 products until mid-2021 — but not Denon. The AVR-S960H is a recent fresh that brings updated features, including HDMI 2.1 connectivity with eARC and 8K video compatibility, while maintaining the performance Denon is known for.

Like

  • Balanced sound with music and movies
  • Up-to-date feature set and connections

Don’t Like

  • Design is getting pretty long in the tooth.
  • Yamaha RX-V6A offers more for less.
  • No Chromecast

While Yamaha seemingly went back to the drawing board for its futuristic RX-V6A, the Denon AVR-S960’s updates are more incremental. Comparing the two receivers head-to-head, the Denon sounded smoother and yet it also lacked some of the dynamic heft. I found myself reaching for the Yamaha remote more often than the Denon, and it was as much for the sleek new design as for the sound quality. Overall the Yamaha is simply more fun, and that, plus its lower price, make it a better choice overall. 

With their new releases, Denon and Yamaha have shown they are dedicated to the category, and both of the products I’ve tested have been very strong. If you don’t care for the Yamaha’s whizz-bangery and forward sound, the Denon AVR-S960H is a solid alternative.

What’s in the big black box?

The Denon AVR-S960H looks pretty much the same as every other receiver: black color scheme, LED display, selection/volume knobs and a handful of shortcut buttons for the most-used inputs. It’s fine, but it pales in comparison to the sleek futurism of the Yamaha RX-V6A.

denon-avr-960h-2

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Denon is a Dolby Atmos receiver whose main upgrade is the 8K-ready, HDMI 2.1 specification. Given that mainstream 8K TVs are still a few years off, the receiver also adds a bunch of stuff that’s actually useful now. The first is eARC, which is the ability to transmit high-quality audio streams (Atmos in particular) from your TV to the receiver. The other HDMI 2.1 features of note are the gaming-related Variable Refresh Rate (to reduce frame tearing) and Auto Low Latency Mode, both useful for gamers who want to get the most out of the PS5 and Xbox Series X

The receiver has six HDMI inputs (including one with 8K capability) and two outputs (one with eARC). The Denon is able to decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X in addition to upscaling technologies like Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology and DTS Virtual:X. On the video side it also supports Dolby Vision and HDR Plus video codecs.

denon-avr-960h-5

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Seven channels of amplification are on tap. The official rating is 90 watts per channel (stereo, 20Hz-20KHz) which makes it slightly less powerful than the Yamaha RX-V6A (100 watts per channel) though the difference is indistinguishable in real terms. Doubling the power will only get you an extra 3db of volume, which is barely noticeable. The receiver offers the company’s own HEOS multiroom system (but no Chromecast built-in) and a 32-bit AKM DAC. There’s also AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth streaming and the receiver can be voice-controlled with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Josh.ai and Apple Siri.

The remote control is more or less identical to the one Marantz and Denon have used for years. It’s a jolly little clicker with easy-to-read buttons and handy shortcuts to all of your inputs at the top.

What does it sound like?

Denon and its stablemate Marantz have a “house sound” when it comes to receivers, which tends to be more relaxed than the Yamahas and Pioneers of the world. While this usually means they perform better with music, I found the Yamaha RX-V6A was more readily able to get the pulse racing without tipping into harshness. In comparison the Denon offered a workmanlike approach to whatever I was listening to — it didn’t gloss over some details or hype others. It simply presented me with my music or movie, which would make it a great match for brighter speakers. 

I started with the relatively laid-back He Lays In the Reins from Iron and Wine and Calexico. The Denon offered a pleasingly balanced sound, but with the Yamaha I was able to pick up on more hidden details in the song such as the percussive, clicking tongue noises during the bridge. With the more challenging, tambourine-focused You Got Yr Cherry Bomb, the Yamaha again sounded fuller than the Denon, but the Denon arranged the parts in a more logical order — reining in the thrashiness of the tambourine and toning down the bass to set my toes tapping.

It was with movies that the Denon’s knack for setting a scene really came to the fore. Watching Avatar, It presented the jungles of Pandora with plenty of spaciousness — every bug and breath of wind brought the dense atmosphere alive. The footfalls of the monstrous fauna were felt rather than heard, and the bark of Jake’s gun reverberated around the listening space. The Yamaha wasn’t as keen with the details, favoring a more bass-heavy mix but it was just as (excuse the pun) impactful. It’s harder to separate these two models on movies alone, as both did a sterling job. 

Should you buy it?

Yamaha went for something new, leaving Denon as the dependable option. Very little has changed from previous years, but as the saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Denon offers gutsy home theater sound, subtle musicality and chunky, big receiver energy. 

In the end, however, that’s not enough. The Yamaha is not only cheaper than the Denon, but it offers better specification — more power and more HDMI inputs — and sounded more enjoyable as a whole. If you don’t have HEOS multiroom or have some other reason to buy Denon, the Yamaha is a better bet for a modern 8K receiver.



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2021 Hyundai Elantra overview: A tech-filled, sharp-dressed looker

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2021-hyundai-elantra-sel-3

Jon Wong/Roadshow

Like any good compact sedan, the seventh-generation Hyundai Elantra offers something for everyone. If you’re looking for a fuel-sipper, there’s a hybrid model on offer. Those in search of a little more driving excitement can opt for a turbocharged N Line. And for everyone else, there are the standard versions, all of which are armed with standout looks, a ton of technology features and competent on-road manners that make it the most competitive Elantra sedan to date.

Like

  • Distinct exterior design
  • Tons of tech
  • Spacious and quiet cabin

Don’t Like

  • Ho-hum drive character
  • Lacks rear power points
  • Flat seats

Wild style

One thing is for sure, the Elantra isn’t just another underwhelming face in the crowd. Hyundai’s entry is visually out-there with a mammoth grille, slim headlights, fast roofline and prominent sharp lines on the side and rear end. The creases show up particularly well on my Quartz White test car that rides on 17-inch wheels with black-painted insets that are as visually daring as the rest of the sedan. Is it all a bit much? Maybe to some, but it’s a different and cohesive overall design.

Things inside the Elantra aren’t quite as futuristic. The clean, smartly organized layout features a center stack angled towards the driver. Controls for climate and infotainment are all large and clearly marked, making them easy to use while driving. That’s not to say there aren’t some efforts to visually jazz things up, though. The four-spoke steering wheel reminds me of a monster from Space Invaders and a 10.2-inch digital gauge cluster — optional on the Elantra SEL and standard on range-topping Limited — is snazzy with different design themes for each drive mode.

Then there’s the dummy panel to the left side of the Elantra’s gauge cluster. There’s a circular graphic with a horizontal line in the middle making it look like it should be an air vent. In the Elantra N Line this piece of real estate houses the drive mode dial, but in the regular models it’s dead space that doesn’t do anything. Maybe it’s a good place to stick a Post-It note?

As for space, there’s a healthy helping of it inside the Elantra — 99.4 cubic feet of passenger room to be exact, pushing it into the EPA’s midsize classification. Headroom and legroom are generous in front and back, while materials throughout are acceptable. Soft leather wraps the steering wheel, the cloth on the cushy seats is nice and most touchpoints are soft and of high quality. You’ll still bump into hard, but nice-looking plastics on the transmission tunnel and backseat door panels, however.

The Elantra’s interior is nice, but some there’s quite a bit of hard plastic in there.


Jon Wong/Roadshow

Technology-focused

On the tech front, the Elantra SEL comes equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen with large shortcut buttons and knobs for volume and radio tuning. Like the gauge cluster, the screen displays vibrant colors and graphics, but is also responsive to inputs to control the optional eight-speaker Bose audio setup, Bluetooth and wireless integration of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The touchscreen grows to 10.2-inches, but oddly that removes wireless CarPlay and Android Auto capability instead requiring a wired connection for both.

To power-up phones, my SEL sports an available wireless charge pad located in the base of the center console. There you’ll also find a 12-volt outlet and two USB ports. Sadly, no power points are within easy reach of backseat passengers. Android users can also enjoy the benefits of Hyundai Digital Key that lets drivers unlock and start the Elantra through a smartphone app that’s optional on the SEL and standard on Limited cars.

The tech buffet continues with a hearty list of advanced driver-assistant systems onboard the Elantra. Forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, a driver-attention monitor and Safe Exit Alert are all standard issue. My SEL tester is further enhanced with available adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. 

The Elantra’s list of safety technology features is robust.


Jon Wong/Roadshow

Solid daily driver

For anyone looking for a competent commuter, the Elantra is certainly up to the task. Powering this sedan is a 2.0-liter I4 making 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, connected to a continuously variable transmission. Together, they return an EPA-estimated 31 miles per gallon in the city and 41 mpg on the highway, which isn’t shabby.

The Elantra’s engine is smooth but doesn’t feel particularly powerful. It adequately gets the job done romping around town, though response at throttle tip-in is a little lazy even when you have the car in Sport mode. For things like merging onto the freeway, you’ll need to really lean into the right pedal to seamlessly blend in with traffic. Thankfully, the CVT doesn’t sound like a hive of angry bees in Sport mode when booting it and hanging onto ‘gears’ longer. It also offers manual shift capabilities, but you’re better off forgetting about that, ’cause it’s real slow to carry out commands.

The Elantra’s Kumho tires aren’t half bad in light snow.


Jon Wong/Roadshow

Chassis tuning follows the drivetrain’s lead, being respectable for daily-driving duties. Body motions are nicely controlled when rounding corners at a normal clip, but pushing harder results in the front washing out. The Elantra’s ride gets a touch crashy when it encounters consecutive bumps and ruts, and generally doesn’t feel as buttoned-up as competitors like the Honda Civic and Mazda3. The steering has a numb spot on center and lacks feeling, while the brakes are stout, delivering confident muscle and modulation.

So, the Elantra isn’t going to rock your socks off from a driving engagement standpoint, but it’s comfortable for the most part and impressively quiet while rolling down the road. It also handles itself quite well through light snow with the Kumho Majesty Solus all-season tires.

How I’d spec it

When building my Elantra, I’d stick with a mid-grade SEL version like the one pictured here, which starts at $21,905 including $1,005 for destination. In fact, I’ll take the white paint job, too, because of how well it shows off the exterior lines and creases. From there, I’ll check the box for the $950 Convenience Package to get the cool LCD gauge cluster, wireless charge pad and heated front seats. Tossing in $155 for floor mats results in a $23,010 price tag to slide in under my test car’s $25,110 bottom line.

A Quartz White paint job helps show off the Elantra’s body lines.


Jon Wong/Roadshow

Strong compact sedan case

The 2021 Hyundai Elantra starts at $20,655, giving it a lower cost of entry than the $22,245 Civic, $21,645 Mazda3 and $21,020 Toyota Corolla, but higher than the $18,885 Kia Forte and $19,990 Volkswagen Jetta.

Out of that list of compact sedans, the new Elantra is unquestionably the visual standout of the bunch, offering an extensive dose of tech and a reassuring 10-year powertrain warranty to boot. While its drive character is far from thrilling, it’s a competent and comfortable ride for most driving situations. All of that together combines to produce the most compelling Elantra to date.



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2021 Dodge Durango SRT 392 assessment: A large, relaxed, 475-hp sofa

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Think of the Durango SRT 392 as an Extra Large Charger.


Andrew Krok/Roadshow

In theory, there isn’t much that’s actually new in the Detroit-built Dodge Durango. Barring a mild face-lift inside and out, the second refresh in this SUV’s third generation, the 2021 model is a continuation of the one that’s been kicking around since 2011. The 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that carries the 392 designation has been in Chargers and Challengers since 2015. Yet, in combining the two, Dodge has created its own unique beast, one offering fast, family-friendly functionality. What’s more, some recent quality-of-life updates make this a surprisingly well-rounded and very compelling three-row SUV.

Like

  • Effortless motive force
  • Loads of long-range comfort
  • Excellent cabin tech

Don’t Like

  • Touchy gas pedal
  • Absolute thirst machine
  • Needs more standard safety tech

The Durango’s shape should be quite familiar, given its age. But for the 2021 model year, there are a few new aesthetic tricks up this model’s sleeve. The headlights are a bit more aggressive thanks to a rejiggering and the SRT 392 picks up a chin spoiler for a little extra sporting disposition. Whether you opt for the Durango’s standard V6 or something a little spicier, this SUV looks big and tough, its proportions not too far off from the burly Charger sedan.

2021 also graced the Dodge Durango with a sharp new interior. Most of its oldest-looking bits are gone, with a new dashboard that better integrates its infotainment screen. Even though there’s full climate-control functionality built into the display, I really appreciate the full complement of physical buttons just beneath the screen, providing easy access to HVAC settings as well as the heated seats and steering wheel. My tester feels just a bit fancier thanks to cushy and supportive Laguna leather seats ($1,595) and the Premium Interior Group package ($2,495), which adds a suede headliner, fancier materials on the instrument panel and some cool-looking carbon interior accents. The revised center console is swell, too, with more space for a wireless device charger, a decently sized under-armrest cubby and four USB ports (two USB-A, two USB-C).

The beltline is a little on the high side, so the 2021 Durango can occasionally feel a bit visually constricting, but there’s actually loads of space inside. Sitting in the second-row captain’s chairs, I’m not left wanting for headroom or legroom, and the $595 second-row console option adds some nice creature comforts including illuminated cup holders and an extra USB charging port, in addition to the pair provided standard. If two rows isn’t enough, a quick lift of a side handle vaults the middle row forward, offering access to a third row that’s surprisingly roomy for a 6-foot-tall adult, even with a slightly raised floor. That optional console has a reverse hinge that allows way-back occupants to access what’s inside, which is a properly clever touch. No matter the row, every seat is comfortable enough to soak up many, many miles.

That’s a good thing, because the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT is built for cruising. Just pick a direction, wrangle this sufficiently large brute onto any local on-ramp and sit back and relax. The Durango eats up miles and returns comfort in spades, thanks in part to an adaptive suspension that, in its most comfortable Auto mode, more or less eliminates any nastiness underfoot. The steering is just direct enough for a light touch to maintain heading, although in blustery conditions, this slab-sided machine may require a few more minor course corrections. The gas pedal is entirely too touchy, even at its most muted, sending heads bobbing a bit more than I’d like in around-town driving, but the brake pedal is fantastic in its modulation. For an extra $1,295, you can slap on some SRT performance front brakes with two-piece rotors that will scrub speed at an impressive rate, which can spell the difference between overcooking a corner and coming out the other side all squeaky-clean like.

Normally, I wouldn’t so much as mention corner-carving in a three-row family hauler review, but this is no pedestrian sport-ute. The 2021 Durango SRT’s 6.4-liter Hemi V8 produces 475 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to all four wheels by way of a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. That’s a little less than what the engine makes in the Challenger and Charger varieties of the same name, but make no mistake, this is plenty of motive force. Cold starts will probably irk the neighbors. The sound that permeates the cabin is addictive; it’s enough to make you want to goose the throttle at every opportunity, and the sound and fury that results only reinforces that decision as the right one. If, for some reason, this is not enough power to sate your desires, there’s a limited-edition 710-hp Hellcat variant, too. But the joke’s on you, because that one’s already sold out.

With the SRT mode switch set to Sport, body roll diminishes while steering and suspension stiffen, and the throttle response gets even more sensitive. When I’m deep in forest roads, it feels just as comfortable to manhandle as a similarly equipped Charger — just, you know, a little taller. There’s a Track mode, too, but it turns off the traction control, which probably isn’t the greatest idea when it’s 32 degrees Fahrenheit and the vehicle is wearing 295/45ZR20 Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-season tires. It’ll also tow 8,700 pounds right out of the box, which is, frankly, nuts. That’s enough for some larger travel trailers, a decently sized horse trailer — or, hell, another Durango SRT.

When you’re in a Durango, you may or may not resemble your local constabulary’s highway patrol, so expect plenty of drivers to cede their lane position as you cruise by.


Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Of course, there’s always a drawback — beyond the $64,490 window sticker — and in this case, it’s fuel economy. The 5,378-pound Durango SRT 392 is a thirsty fellow, achieving a paltry EPA-estimated 13 miles per gallon city and 19 mpg highway. If you have even a remote enjoyment of what the gas pedal does, and you’re not constantly swapping over to Eco mode, good luck ever reaching those figures. My city economy in end-stage winter is pushing closer to single digits, with highway mileage pegged out around 17ish. Even with its 24.6-gallon fuel tank (with a theoretical max range of about 465 miles if you never leave the highway), you’ll watch the Durango’s needle move in near real time if you’re not delicate on the go-pedal.

The 2021 Dodge Durango also picks up some welcome cabin-tech upgrades. At its heart is the Uconnect 5 infotainment system, Stellantis’ latest. In addition to slick graphics and eager responses, the display (reaching up to 10.1 inches on higher models like this one) is loaded with features, including standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with satellite radio, over-the-air updates, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and Alexa integration. Uconnect has always been a good system, and its freshest iteration only gets better. Six USB ports are standard between the first two rows, with a seventh on offer if you opt for the second-row center console upgrade.

Uconnect 5 runs on the Android Automotive platform now, but sadly, you don’t get access to any cool baked-in Google apps like you do with other AA systems, such as Polestar’s.


Andrew Krok/Roadshow

On the safety front, things are a little sparse to start with: The Durango 392’s standard safety kit just consists of the federally mandated backup camera plus front and rear parking sensors with automatic low-speed emergency braking. For $495 you can add blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while another $2,395 brings the rest of the available features, including advanced automatic emergency braking, full-speed adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning.

While the greater Durango family has plenty of competitors, none can quite match what the SRT brings to the table. The Ford Explorer ST is quite the hustler, but it only (“only”) makes 400 hp and 415 lb-ft — then again, its starting price is some $10,000 lower, too. The Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride lack performance variants, but they can pile on the style and luxury a bit more than the Dodge does. The current-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee has its own SRT variant, but it’s only two rows, and with a newer and way more advanced generation on the horizon, I’d say it’s worth holding out to see how the 2021 model stacks up. If you want more space than the Durango SRT provides, the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon exist, but they don’t have street-performance-oriented models.

The 2021 Dodge Durango, then, is in quite a sweet spot. Throwing a potent V8 into an already solid three-row family SUV creates a special kind of machine that is just flat-out fun all the time, full stop. You’ll love it and your kids will love it, but your poorly packed groceries now scattered all over the trunk might have a different opinion.



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HBO Max assessment: Nice TV and theatrical motion pictures, however now not the most efficient streaming worth

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HBO Max now available on iOS, Apple TV, and Android

Sarah Tew/CNET

HBO Max, HBO’s entry into the streaming wars, is a slick app chock-full of popular TV shows and movies. It’s got HBO’s entire catalog, along with favorites such as Friends, Rick and Morty, Sesame Street, the Lord of the Rings movies and almost every Studio Ghibli film. It’s also the only service to debut first-run movies, including in 2021 Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune and Matrix 4, the same day they’re available in theaters for no extra charge. And HBO Max has a solid streaming collection for children too, with the ability to control ratings on kids’ profiles better than most other services. 

Like

  • Large, varied content catalog that includes all of HBO
  • New theatrical releases from Warner Bros. Studios
  • Simple, easy-to-navigate interface
  • Lots of children’s shows and customizable rating settings

Don’t Like

  • High price
  • Few original series beyond standard HBO
  • Can’t import watch history or personalized recommendations

If you already subscribe to HBO, HBO Max is a no-brainer upgrade that gives you a shiny new interface and loads more content for the same $15 per month. But if you’re a brand-new subscriber, that price is at the high end — especially if you already pay for Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus or all of the above.

At launch HBO Max lacked compatibility with the popular Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices and 4K HDR streaming, but now apps for Roku and Amazon are now easily available and the 2021 Warner Bros. theatrical slate is premiering on the platform in 4K HDR (as are other titles, such as Zack Snyder’s Justice League).

Read more: Everything you need to know about HBO Max

Aside from HBO’s original series, the Max slate of exclusives remains relatively thin, especially with the delay of the highly anticipated Friends reunion special and no breakout hit such as Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian and WandaVision. That shortcoming will likely change over time, but for now, it remains the service’s biggest disadvantage.

If you’re a big fan of HBO, Elmo or Friends, or are simply running out of good stuff to watch during lockdown, HBO Max is probably worth your money. But if you’re looking to save money on streaming, its high monthly fee makes it easier to cut than many of its tough competitors.

Streaming compared

HBO Max Netflix Disney Plus Hulu
Monthly price $15 Starts at $9 $7 Basic $6 with ads, Ad-free for $12, Live TV for $65
Ads No No No Yes, with basic tier
Top titles Entire HBO catalog, Studio Ghibli films, DC films Stranger Things, The Crown, Breaking Bad, The Queen’s Gambit The Mandalorian, WandaVision, Avengers Endgame, Toy Story, The Simpsons Handmaid’s Tale, Catch-22, Lost, Bob’s Burgers
Mobile downloads Yes Yes Yes Yes (on Ad-free plan only)
4K available Yes Yes (on Premium plan) Yes Yes
HDR available Yes Yes (on Premium plan) Yes No
Number of streams 3 1 (2 for Standard, 4 on Premium) 4 2 (Unlimited with Live TV and a $10 add-on)

A high price ripe for sharing

HBO Max costs $15 a month, the same as HBO’s traditional channel when you get it through most pay-TV providers. At some point HBO says the service will expand to include another tier that includes advertising. We don’t know anything about when that would happen or what it would look like, but it would likely be cheaper, or even free. 

Some people who already have a regular HBO subscription or HBO Now will get Max for no extra cost — but not everyone. It’s confusing, but you can check out our full HBO Max FAQ for more information on how it all works. 

007-hbo-max-profiles-parental-controls-and-carousel

Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite the large catalog of movies and shows, HBO Max is at the expensive end of streaming services — Netflix’s basic plan costs $9 a month, Hulu’s plan with ads is $6 a month and Disney Plus costs $7 a month (soon to be $8 per month). Lots of people I know share account access with friends or family members and HBO Max executive Tony Goncalves told CNET that it will take a “fairly balanced approach” to this issue. 

With HBO Max you can have up to three simultaneous streams going at the same time. Plus, the addition of up to five user profiles, a feature not available on the HBO Now or HBO Go apps, makes it easier to share an account. 

HBO Max is available on Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Apple TV). It’s also on gear that runs Google’s Android operating system for phones and tablets, as well as Android TV devices, Chromebooks, Google Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices like Vizio TVs. Xbox and PlayStation consoles and recent Samsung smart TVs are also on board. As mentioned, Amazon Fire TV and Roku apps are now available. 

A strong stable of shows and movies

HBO Max’s biggest strength is its large, varied TV and movie catalog, with content for adults and kids. At launch, it had 10,000 hours of content to stream, including everything on HBO, plus a selection of high-profile TV shows like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Rick and Morty and South Park. 

HBO Max currently has just a handful Max Originals and the biggest are probably the romantic series Love Life starring Anna Kendrick and dark comedy The Flight Attendant starring Kaley Cuoco. Even a year after launch, nothing has stuck out or made the same pop-culture impact as Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit or Disney Plus’s WandaVision. And unlike Netflix, it will typically drop its originals once per week, the way regular cable HBO does. A number of originals — including the Friends reunion special, a spinoff of The Suicide Squad with John Cena called Peacemaker, a reboot of Gossip Girl and a revival of Sex and the City — are among the many titles in the works, so there should be more to choose from later in the year or in early 2022. 

HBO Max

HBO Max has six original series at launch — but the highly anticipated Friends reunion special has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Sarah Tew/CNET

In the meantime, there are lots of movies, some new and many older. HBO Max has the full sets of The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings trilogies (though only two of The Hobbits), DC movies like Joker and Wonder Woman, classic films like The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca, and newer hits like A Star is Born and Crazy Rich Asians. Not to mention almost the entire catalog of Studio Ghibli anime films that have never been released for streaming in the US before. And if you’ve been clamoring for more of 2017’s Justice League, HBO Max will be the home of director Zach Snyder’s cut on March 18.

Though HBO is known for its adult content, Max has a lot to offer kids too, including new Looney Tunes cartoons and Sesame Street episodes, and the Cartoon Network catalog. It’s also home to Doctor Who and the Lego movies. 

Parental controls are robust. You can customize kids’ profiles to decide which rating levels they can access, and create a passcode that locks them into their account, so they can’t jump over to their parents’ to watch anything inappropriate. (Your kid might be savvy enough to figure that passcode out, but it’s something.)

HBO Max

Studio Ghibli films are available to stream in the US for the first time on the platform.


Sarah Tew/CNET

A visually appealing interface…

Scrolling through HBO Max is similar to the experience on Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services. When you open your profile, you’ll find Continue Watching and My List at the top of the page, followed by topics like Featured Series, Featured Movies and HBO Series: Editors’ Picks. 

I like the look of the menus better than many other streaming services. It has a dark purple and black theme that allows the text and images to pop, and shows fewer tiles on the screen at once with more breaks between them, to give your eye a rest. One downside, however, is that it can be tough to figure out at first what text is highlighted in the menus so you can make selections.

In the middle of the page you’ll see a mini hub where you can access movies and shows from each of its properties: HBO, DC, Sesame Workshop, Turner Classic Movies, Studio Ghibli, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, CrunchyRoll and Looney Tunes. It looks kind of like Disney Plus’s hub at the top of its page, but with less familiar names than Disney’s Star Wars and Marvel. 

HBO Max

The HBO Max mini hub, where you can access content from different networks and studios.


Sarah Tew/CNET

You’ll also find curated collections of movies around a theme sprinkled through your homepage, like rom-com favorites and blockbuster franchises. Hit Browse at the top left corner and you’ll have the option to search by categories such as Series, Movies, Originals, Just Added, Last Chance and Coming Soon, along with genres like Action, Comedy, Crime and Documentaries. You’ll also find the mini hubs in this panel, too. 

Unlike on Netflix, you can easily see what’s coming and going on the platform and watch accordingly. Mobile downloads are also available, and the app’s format is largely the same across TVs, phones and tablets. 

When it comes to searching, HBO Max lets you use abbreviations (like “GOT” instead of “Game of Thrones”). On my Apple TV, voice search worked pretty well — when I said, “Watch Rick and Morty,” HBO Max opened the series landing page, giving me the option to choose which episode I want. After starting an episode of Game of Thrones and closing out, when I said, “Watch GOT,” it jumped me back into the episode where I had left off. When I said, “Watch Jaws,” the Apple TV opened all of the different options across other streaming platforms at the bottom of the screen as well. 

Selecting a show will take you to its landing page, where you can find every episode available in a clean format, and have the ability to add it to your list. When you start a show, the rating appears in the upper left corner. 

…but human recommendations are still MIA

One of HBO Max’s promises was that instead of solely using a recommendation engine to surface new content for users, it would also have curated content from celebrities, to bring a more human touch. These recommendations are still not available, however. It does curate content in ways that can be helpful — for example, highlighting the episodes of Friends that track Ross and Rachel’s relationship so you don’t have to go digging for them. 

008-hbo-max-ios-iphone-11-pro

You’ll find every HBO show on HBO Max — but you can’t yet stream them in 4K HDR. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Should you get HBO Max?

If you already subscribe to HBO Now (or, you know, have someone else’s login), the automatic free upgrade to HBO Now is a no-brainer — it’s lots more content for the same monthly price. Plus, you can make your own profiles now, which you couldn’t do on HBO Go or HBO Now. 

For brand-new subscribers, HBO Max is at the pricey end of the streaming service spectrum. But if you have $15 a month to burn and want to binge Friends, Game of Thrones or all of the Studio Ghibli movies, you’ll have plenty to choose from.

First published May 29, 2020.



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Hulu Plus Are living TV overview: Very good catalog however now not the most efficient price

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Victory is fleeting in the fast-changing world of live TV streaming services. Hulu Plus Live TV spent a couple of months in 2020 as CNET’s most recommended premium service, but that brief reign ended when the company raised its prices to $65 per month. That price is the same as YouTube TV, which we like better overall for its superior cloud DVR and channel count. Hulu Live is still an excellent premium cord-cutter choice, however, especially if you like having “regular Hulu” built in for the same price.

Like

  • Solid mix of channels
  • Full access to Hulu’s on-demand content
  • Fun interface and zippy guide

Don’t Like

  • Worse live channel selection than YouTube TV
  • DVR is quite limited without the $10 upgrade

At $6 a month, basic Hulu is one of the best deals in streaming, with gobs of current and past TV shows and movies. The hefty upgrade to Hulu Plus Live TV buys a healthy mix of live sports, news and local channels. That combination of live channels with Hulu’s deep on-demand catalog of network TV shows and original programming is something no other live TV service can match.

Things will inevitably change — they always do — but at the moment YouTube TV ($65 at YouTube TV) is the best service for the money while Hulu remains a solid second place choice for most viewers. If you want to save money though, you should opt for Sling TV Blue ($35).



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Live TV streaming services for cord cutters: How to choose…



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What do you get?

Hulu Plus Live TV expands upon the on-demand service with more than 60 live channels and throws in both a cloud DVR and program guide guide. Live TV is available via Hulu’s standard app on all the major platforms including computer browsers, iOSXbox OnePS4, Android, Apple TV ($180 at Best Buy)Fire TV ($34 at Amazon)Roku and Smart TV systems. 

Hulu’s channel count is solid but has a handful fewer major cable channels than YouTube TV and FuboTV. Important channels missing from Hulu include AMC, BBC America, MTV and Comedy Central, and every one of Hulu’s competitors offer these. Also, in late 2020 Hulu dropped many regional sports networks, which was a further blow for sports fans. Check the channel lineup at the end of the article, to see if the Hulu Plus Live TV’s mix is right for you.

Read more: NBA streaming: Best ways to watch the 2021 basketball season live online without cable

Like its live streaming competitors Hulu has had a number of price increases since it debuted and currently costs $65 a month. On top of this, the service’s biggest gotcha is the $10-a-month charge for the Enhanced DVR. Without it, the standard, non-enhanced DVR on Hulu Plus Live TV lacks the ability to fast-forward and rewind through commercials on recorded content. In addition to allowing you to fast-forward through commercials, paying for the upgrade also increases storage from 50 to 200 hours. But with the DVR add-on, this becomes the most expensive of all of the services at $75.

Premium live TV streaming services compared

Premium services YouTube TV AT&T TV Hulu Plus Live TV FuboTV
Base price $65/month $70/month $65/month $60/month
Total number of top 100 channels 75 61 62 65
ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels Yes Yes Yes Yes
Record shows for later (cloud DVR) Yes (keep for 9 months) Yes (20 hours, unlimited hours for $10/month) Yes (50 hours, 200 hours plus commercial skip for $10/month) Yes (30GB, 500GB for $10 a month)
Step-up packages with more channels No Yes Yes Yes
Simultaneous streams per account 3 20  2 ($10 option for unlimited) 2 ($6 option for 3)

Many people see commercial skipping as a must-have for any DVR. All of the other premium services include cloud DVRs that let you skip commercials as part of their standard functions and the best, YouTube TV, has unlimited storage, too. In short, if you’re a heavy DVR user save yourself some money and get YouTube TV.

Read more: YouTube TV vs. Sling TV vs. Hulu vs. Philo vs. Fubo vs. AT&T TV Now: Live TV channels compared

What’s it like to use?

hulu-plus-live-tv-4

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Hulu has been tweaking the live TV interface since it launched, and the most recent changes have been the best. Previously users could only see four and a half shows at a time in a large font with no descriptions, but this has changed to a large marquee and “cover” art for all the remaining shows now grouped by type. On the main TV streaming devices, the top of the interface has a simplified selection featuring Home, Live TV, My Stuff (favorites and DVR recordings), TV, Movies, Sports and Hubs (essentially “Channels”). In terms of user-friendliness Hulu Plus Live TV is now in line with its biggest competitor, YouTube TV, but even more friendly on the eye. 

Hulu’s program guide was once one of the least usable in the category, but it’s also now eclipsed that of YouTube TV. The traditional grid offers guide data, which goes 14 days out, and scrolling through pages is zippy, especially on an Apple TV. In comparison, YouTube TV’s guide only displays programs up to eight hours in advance on set-top boxes, and though YT’s web interface offers seven days out, we found it painfully slow to navigate.

05-hulu-live-tv

Sarah Tew/CNET

Recording to the Hulu DVR is a little bit of a pain — you can only do it from the guide. If you want to record the show you’re currently watching you need to exit to the guide first. Once there you need to either long-press the middle button (on Apple or Roku) or press the hamburger button and click record. Every other DVR-available service lets you record while you’re still watching a program. 

Should you get it?

If you enjoy the mix of channels and don’t need a DVR with commercial skipping, then Live TV could be what you’re looking for. Its biggest trump card is its tight integration with the Hulu service — if you like Hulu, you’ll like Live TV. The interface is now a dressing on what was already a lovely window, especially with the zippy 14-day guide.

That said, for the same money YouTube offers a better service overall, and if you don’t need as many channels or streaming locals (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox), Sling TV Blue offers a much cheaper rate at $35 per month.

Channel comparison

Below you’ll find a chart that’s a smaller version of this massive channel comparison. It contains the top 100 channels from each service. Some notes:

  • Yes = The channel is available on the cheapest pricing tier.
  • No = The channel isn’t available at all on that service. 
  • $ = The channel is available for an extra fee, either a la carte or as part of a more expensive package or add-on. 
  • Not every channel a service carries is listed, just the “top 100” as determined by CNET’s editors. Minor channels such as AXS TV, CNBC World, Discovery Life, GSN, POP and Universal Kids didn’t make the cut.
  • Regional sports networks — channels devoted to showing regular-season games of particular pro baseball, basketball and hockey teams — are not listed. 

Top 100 channels compared

Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
Total channels: 38 65 75 62 61
ABC No Yes Yes Yes Yes
CBS No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
NBC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
PBS No No Yes No No
CW No Yes Yes Yes Yes
MyNetworkTV No No Yes Yes Yes
Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
A&E Yes Yes No Yes Yes
ACC Network No $ Yes Yes $
AMC Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Animal Planet No Yes Yes Yes Yes
BBC America Yes Yes Yes No Yes
BBC World News $ $ Yes No $
BET Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Big Ten Network $ Yes Yes Yes $
Bloomberg TV Yes No No Yes Yes
Boomerang $ No No Yes Yes
Bravo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
Cartoon Network Yes No Yes Yes Yes
CBS Sports Network No Yes Yes Yes $
Cheddar Yes Yes Yes Yes $
Cinemax No No $ $ $
CMT $ Yes Yes No Yes
CNBC $ Yes Yes Yes Yes
CNN Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Comedy Central Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Cooking Channel $ $ No $ $
Destination America $ $ No $ $
Discovery Channel Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Disney Channel No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Disney Junior No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Disney XD No Yes Yes Yes Yes
DIY $ $ No $ $
E! Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
EPIX $ No $ No $
ESPN No Yes Yes Yes Yes
ESPN 2 No Yes Yes Yes Yes
ESPNEWS No $ Yes Yes $
ESPNU No $ Yes Yes $
Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
Food Network Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Business $ Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox News Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 1 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 2 $ Yes Yes Yes $
Freeform No Yes Yes Yes Yes
FX Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
FX Movies $ $ Yes Yes $
FXX $ Yes Yes Yes Yes
FYI $ Yes No Yes $
Golf Channel $ Yes Yes Yes $
Hallmark $ Yes No No Yes
HBO/HBO Max No No $ $ $
HGTV Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
History Yes Yes No Yes Yes
HLN Yes No Yes Yes Yes
IFC Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Investigation Discovery Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lifetime Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Lifetime Movie Network $ Yes No Yes $
Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
MLB Network $ $ Yes No $
Motor Trend No Yes Yes Yes Yes
MSNBC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
MTV $ Yes Yes No Yes
MTV2 $ $ No No Yes
National Geographic Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nat Geo Wild $ $ Yes Yes $
NBA TV $ $ Yes No $
NBC Sports Network Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Newsy Yes $ Yes No No
NFL Network Yes Yes Yes No No
NFL Red Zone $ $ $ No No
NHL Network $ $ No No $
Nickelodeon No Yes Yes No Yes
Nick Jr. Yes Yes No No $
Nicktoons $ $ No No $
OWN No Yes Yes No $
Oxygen $ Yes Yes Yes $
Paramount Network $ Yes Yes No Yes
Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
Science $ $ No $ $
SEC Network No $ Yes Yes $
Showtime $ $ $ $ $
Smithsonian No Yes Yes Yes $
Starz $ No $ $ $
Sundance TV $ Yes Yes No Yes
Syfy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tastemade $ Yes Yes No $
TBS Yes No Yes Yes Yes
TCM $ No Yes Yes Yes
Telemundo No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tennis Channel $ $ No No $
TLC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
TNT Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Travel Channel Yes Yes Yes Yes $
TruTV Yes No Yes Yes Yes
TV Land $ Yes Yes No Yes
USA Network Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
VH1 $ Yes Yes No Yes
Vice Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Weather Channel No Yes No No $
WE tv $ Yes Yes No Yes



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2021 Honda Accord Hybrid overview: Enhanced potency, no compromises

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This fuel-sipping Honda hybrid’s front end was slightly tweaked for 2021.


Craig Cole/Roadshow

The Honda Accord is like a blue-chip stock: always a smart buy. For 2021, the hybrid variant makes a strong case that it’s the best all-around model in the Accord range, building on the nameplate’s fundamental excellence by offering far greater fuel economy.

Like

  • Good low-speed acceleration
  • Excellent driver aids
  • Quality trimmings
  • Roomy interior

Don’t Like

  • Annoying regenerative braking paddles
  • Real-world efficiency can disappoint
  • Meh infotainment system

To keep the Accord at the top of its game, this venerable Honda was mildly tweaked for 2021. Its grille is wider, and the Honda Sensing system’s front-mounted radar sensor is slightly less prominent. Improved headlamps have greater reach and a wider beam pattern for enhanced visibility at night.

As for the hybrid, not much sets it apart from other Accords, at least visually. A blue-accented Honda badge on the grille hints that something a little different lurks under the hood. There are hybrid badges on the front fenders and trunk, and really, that’s about it. Separating it from more plebeian variants, the top-shelf hybrid Touring model rolls on stylish 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Goodyear all-season tires. Despite a tread pattern that looks optimized for fair-weather use, these rubbers handle ice and snowy slop with ease, though a set of winter tires would certainly increase driving confidence.

The Accord’s interior is as nice as it’s ever been. The 10th-generation Accord has aged extremely well, basically because Honda did such a phenomenal job from the get-go. Aside from the unconvincing simulated wood accents, the textures are rich, its leather is of good quality and all the switches and knobs feel premium. Ergonomics deserve praise, too, as nearly every control is within easy reach and is clearly labeled.

The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid’s front bucket seats are soft and supportive, plus its rear bench offers miles of legroom. Taller folks will pine for a skosh more noggin space, however. You do sit somewhat low in the Accord, not that your butt is on the floor, the car is just very close to the pavement, which can make getting in and out a challenge, especially for older folks.

Spacious, comfortable and beautifully assembled of high-quality materials, the Accord’s cabin is tough to top, especially in the midsize-sedan segment.


Craig Cole/Roadshow

As for amenities, hybrid models come standard with remote start and a multi-angle rearview camera. Push-button ignition and heated side-view mirrors are included at no extra charge as well, while full LED headlights are standard on the EX grade and higher.

One nice upgrade for 2021 is the infotainment display. An 8-inch touchscreen is now standard across the board, complete with Apple CarPlay (which can connect wirelessly on EX Hybrid models and above) as well as Android Auto. Abstain from using either of these smartphone-mirroring systems and you’ll have to contend with the Accord’s embedded infotainment system, which looks pretty dated with its busy interface. Aside from those goodies, the Accord also gains a rear-seat reminder feature to help prevent drivers from forgetting small children, pets or other precious cargo in the back. Low Speed Braking Control is a new feature, too. Standard on Touring models, it’s designed to mitigate or even prevent collisions at lower speeds, such as while parking.

The hybrid powertrain’s small lithium-ion battery pack is mounted underneath the backseat where it eats up no interior space. This means the Accord has the same generous 16.7 cubic feet of trunk volume you get in non-hybrid models, a figure that compares very favorably to the 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid, which offers 15.1 cubes’ worth of room and the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which serves up 16.

This car’s powertrain works well, providing plenty of zip without drawing attention to itself.


Craig Cole/Roadshow

Bringing this comfortable and capacious family hauler to life is a two-motor hybrid system. Doing most of the work is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, one that’s backed up by a propulsion motor in addition to a separate motor that handles starting and generating duties. Total system horsepower measures 212, while peak torque clocks in at 232 pound-feet just off idle, figures that put this hybrid between the base Accord with its 1.5-liter engine and the top-shelf version with the 2.0-liter turbo. The hybrid’s output figures won’t set the world on fire, but in everyday driving they’re more than up to the task. Curiously, this hybrid system doesn’t have a transmission since, in normal driving, the engine powers a generator, which then runs the propulsion motor. An EV mode allows the car to operate solely on battery power, but at higher speeds, the engine directly drives the wheels through a lockup clutch. Voilà, no transmission required.

This Accord’s performance is quite strong; it’s peppier than you might think for something wearing hybrid placards, which is usually shorthand for driving doldrums. Thanks to electric torque, this big sedan scoots around town, pulling with authority when taking off from stoplights and responding nicely when you give it the spurs. Yes, the acceleration does taper off noticeably after about 60 mph where the powertrain gets a bit winded, but it still delivers more than adequate performance. For 2021, small tweaks make the drivetrain more direct and immediate, with the engine better responding to throttle inputs. In fact, aside from a touch of droning at higher speeds when working hard and a bit of that rubber-band effect often associated with continuously variable transmissions, the Accord Hybrid’s powertrain feels totally normal.

These wheels are unique to the Touring model.


Craig Cole/Roadshow

Touring models, which sit at the pinnacle of the Accord Hybrid range, sticker at 44 miles per gallon city, 41 mpg highway and 43 mpg combined, impressive figures to be certain. Unfortunately, in real-world driving, I’ve only managed to coax about 34.8 out of this example, which is stellar for a large sedan, but still pretty disappointing considering it’s off the mark by more than 8 mpg. I suspect the car would do better in warmer weather, since it’s been pretty cold during my week with it. Lower-end versions of the Accord Hybrid are even more economical than the Touring model, stickering at 48 mpg across the board, which is comparable to the most-efficient versions of the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE, both of which return 52 mpg combined.

Mounted to the steering wheel are two paddles, but they’re not for shifting. Instead, they allow you to fine-tune the amount of regenerative braking that happens when you lift your foot off the accelerator, which is a great thing to have — in theory. I like maximum regenerative braking for a one-pedal driving experience, however, whenever you roll to a stop, the system resets. It doesn’t hold the regenerative-braking level you’ve selected and that’s annoying. Another misstep, the paddles seem to be labeled backwards. Clicking on the minus one increases the amount of deceleration while the one labeled plus decreases it. I’m not very good at math, but I’m pretty sure that’s backwards.

The Accord Hybrid’s ride is quite firm, but well controlled. This car’s interior remains hushed at speed, and the chunky steering wheel rim feels great in my hands. This sedan’s weighty-yet-quick steering makes the Accord feel far more agile than you might expect for a car of this size.

The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid is one of the best family sedans you can buy today.


Craig Cole/Roadshow

Honda Sensing is as good as it’s ever been. This suite of advanced driver aids is one of the best in the business: attentive, smooth and very easy to use. The lane-centering system is phenomenal, helping the Accord track as straight as a San Francisco cable car. The adaptive cruise control works effortlessly, collision mitigation braking is waiting in the wings should you make a critical error and traffic-sign recognition is always there to remind you of how much you’re speeding.  EX and higher models also come with blind-spot monitoring, while parking sensors are fitted to EX-L and Touring variants, the latter of which also gains rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Owning a Honda Accord Hybrid is a great way to save money at the pump, but it’s economical in another way, too. The base price is an eminently reasonable $27,565, including $995 in delivery fees. That makes it about $700 less than an entry-level Camry Hybrid and nearly $1,200 more affordable than a comparable Sonata. Even the Touring model I’m reviewing here with all its bells and whistles checks out for $37,590.

With its spacious interior, upscale trimmings, generous equipment and good performance, the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid is an excellent family sedan. But its smooth-running, fuel-sipping drivetrain is what really makes this model the pick of the Accord litter. 



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Hulu evaluate: The most efficient price in streaming if you do not thoughts a couple of advertisements

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Hulu is one of the most popular TV and movie streaming services for good reason. It’s the perfect complement and counterpoint to Netflix, with a huge variety of familiar shows from networks like ABC, Fox and NBC that you can watch soon after they air, as well as a growing catalog of its own critically acclaimed original series. If you have $6 per month to spare and don’t mind trading a few ads for a wealth of TV options, Hulu is a no-brainer.

Like

  • Low monthly fee for base plan.
  • New shows available soon after they air on networks.
  • Excellent selection of familiar TV.
  • Strong slate of original programs.

Don’t Like

  • Fewer original series than Netflix and Amazon Prime.
  • Ad-free experience isn’t as good a value.
  • Complex menus can be confusing.

Netflix has loads more original shows and no commercials, but Hulu has three big advantages over the streaming service giant: 

  • The low $6-per-month cost of its basic plan, which is a tremendous value if you don’t mind watching a few commercials
  • The ability to keep up to date with shows that are currently airing on TV, as opposed to waiting months for the full season to appear
  • The option to add both premium network access and a Hulu Plus Live TV package if you want to fully cut the cord. 

Select streaming services compared

Netflix Peacock HBO Max Disney Plus Apple TV Plus Amazon Prime Video Hulu
Monthly price Starts at $9 Basic free with ads, ad-free for $5 $15 $7 $5 $9 (or included with $120/year Prime membership) Basic $6 with ads, ad-free Premium for $12, Live TV for $65
Ads No Yes No No No No Yes
Availability Now Now Now Now Now Now Now
Top titles The Queen’s Gambit, The Crown, Stranger Things, Breaking Bad, Tiger King The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, early access to Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Game of Thrones, Friends, Big Bang Theory, Rick and Morty, Sesame Street The Mandalorian, WandaVision, Avengers Endgame, Toy Story, The Simpsons Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, Dickinson, For All Mankind Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Hunters, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, The Big Sick Handmaid’s Tale, Palm Springs, PEN15, The Great
Mobile downloads Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
4K HDR available Yes (on Premium plan) No No Yes Yes Yes Yes (4K only, no HDR)
Number of streams: 1 (2 for Standard, 4 on Premium) 3 3 4 6 2 2 (Unlimited with Live TV $10 add-on)

Hulu for beginners

Hulu was founded back in 2007 as a joint venture between News Corporation and NBC Universal. Hulu.com launched a year later as a place to watch ad-supported shows for free. In the years since, Hulu has launched its subscription service Hulu Plus, a commercial-free plan and a Live TV package.

Hulu began streaming original TV shows and movies in 2011 and in 2017 it became the first streaming service to take home the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy Award for its original series The Handmaid’s Tale. Today, it has a catalog of 70,000 episodes of TV, including original TV shows and movies like Little Fires Everywhere, Normal People, Marvel’s Runaways and PEN15. 

The platform is now owned by the Walt Disney Company. As of February, Hulu had 39.4 million paid subscribers (for context, Netflix has over 200 million). The Hulu app can run on Android, iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV ($34 at Amazon), Apple TV ($180 at Best Buy) (4th generation or later), Android TV (certain models), Chromecast, Echo Show, Xbox, PlayStation and the Nintendo Switch. Hulu is only available in the US but Disney plans an international rollout this year.

Hulu April 2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

Loads of TV (and movies too) 

Hulu’s library of Originals is not as extensive as those for Netflix or Amazon Prime — at the time of this writing, there were about 140 listed. However, it does have critically acclaimed shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, PEN15, The Act, The Great, Normal People and Ramy, and original movies such as Palm Springs. The service also produced some high-profile documentaries, including Fyre Fraud, Margaret Atwood: A Word After A Word After A Word Is Power and Hillary. Hulu also picked up shows from other networks, including The Mindy Project and Veronica Mars. 

Hulu’s real strength is the thousands of TV shows, many of which come to the service the day after they air on live TV on networks like ABC, NBC and Comedy Central. (Though NBC launched its own Peacock streaming service last year, you’ll still find NBC shows on Hulu for the time being.) While Hulu has most newer episodes of a given show, it doesn’t always have full past seasons — for example, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy only has its current season available to watch and none of the past ones. However, some shows do have all seasons and episodes available. And others, like the BBC’s Killing Eve, do drop in full seasons after the whole season has aired. 

Hulu has a wide collection of movies as well. Sometimes it gets new releases that other streaming platforms don’t, such as Portrait of a Lady on Fire and 2020 Best Picture winner Parasite

Is paying for ad-free Hulu worth it?

The answer largely depends on, well, how much you hate ads.

Hulu offers two main on-demand subscription plans: the basic Hulu for $6 and Hulu (No Ads) for $12.The two offer the same catalog of shows and movies — with the latter, you’re just paying twice as much to not see any commercials. I tried watching a few shows on both to get a sense of the difference.

With basic, ad-supported Hulu the frequency of ads varied quite a bit. In one 22-minute episode of Bob’s Burgers, in fact, there were no ads at all. In a 23-minute episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine there was one 15-second ad. But while watching an hour-long episode of Saturday Night Live, I saw one 15 second ad at the start, followed by eight more ad breaks throughout — six lasted 90 seconds, one for 60 seconds and one for 45 seconds. This was obviously more disruptive, but similar to how it would have been watching it on regular live TV. 

There appear to be fewer ads during Hulu Originals: Before an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, I saw one 30-second ad. The same was true for an episode of Utopia Falls. In an episode of High Fidelity, I saw one 30-second ad in the middle. 

Hulu April 2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you use Hulu frequently — or if you’ve really gotten used to Netflix’s no-ads model and can’t stand watching commercials — the extra $6 per month is probably worth it to watch shows uninterrupted. It brings the price up to almost that of Netflix’s standard plan ($12 for Hulu vs. $14 for Netflix). 

Another big advantage of the no-ads plan? It’s the only way to download shows to watch offline. Unlike Netflix, you can’t download shows to watch later unless you have the upgraded plan.

But if you’re just checking out a show or movie here or there on your TV — especially a shorter comedy — you can probably spend the extra few seconds watching the ad to save the money. 

Here’s the full breakdown of Hulu’s pricing. 

Hulu pricing plans

Hulu plans Hulu Hulu (No Ads) Hulu Plus Live TV Hulu (No Ads) Plus Live TV
Monthly price $6 $12 $65 $71

For more information about the Live TV plans, which are meant for cord-cutters, check out CNET’s full review. Hulu also offers a bundle with Disney Plus and ESPN Plus for $13 total — which basically amounts to free ESPN Plus. And if you’re a college student you can get Hulu for just $2 per month, or bundle it with Spotify and Showtime for $5 per month total.

Read more: Best streaming deals: Save on Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Paramount Plus, Hulu and more


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Lots of menu options, slightly harder to navigate

Hulu’s menus on the TV apps give you a lot of ways to find what you want but can be confusing to get around. Open the app, open your profile (if you’ve made one), and you’ll see a personalized home page with several categories across the top: TV, Movies, Hulu Picks, Keep Watching, News Shows and Hulu Originals. Keep scrolling across and you’ll see more categories that differ depending on what the service thinks you’ll like, like Feel Good TV, Family TV, Comedy Cartoons, Award-Winning TV Dramas, Kids, and Newly Added TV and Newly Added Movies. 

Save things you want to watch to your My Stuff folder, which you can access at the top of the screen. Browse by categories like Network, TV shows, Movies, Hulu Originals, FX on Hulu, Kids and other genres, or just search for the show you’re looking for. The Hulu app appears very similarly across my Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV Stick, both in content and layout. It’s spread out a bit more on my iPhone and Android phone screens for easier navigation, but is generally the same. 

Hulu April 2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

My major complaint about Hulu’s interface on TV apps could very well be what others enjoy most about it: When you click on a show from anywhere on the home page, it automatically jumps into playing an episode, with no context as to where you are in the season or what the last one you watched was (this isn’t the case on the mobile apps). Personally, I prefer the Netflix model, where you click on a show and are taken to its landing page, with a list of episodes to choose from, even if you’re just looking for the next one you’ve been binging. 

Hulu does let you look at that show landing page if you want to, but finding it requires an extra step, depending on which streaming device you’re using: Click and hold on the Apple TV remote, press the star key on the Roku remote, or the hamburger menu button on Amazon Fire TV Stick. Instructions are at the bottom of the screen, but it’s not the most intuitive. 

When you select a show or movie to watch, you have the option to fast forward or rewind (except through ads). You can click the settings gear and choose to add subtitles, change your audio settings or video quality, and toggle Autoplay on or off. The content you choose will also show up in your My Stuff section at the top of your homepage for easier access. 

Yay: Profiles and a coming soon section
Boo: Not much 4K (and no HDR)

Hulu April 2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

You can add up to six user profiles to your Hulu account to get personalized recommendations and watch lists for different family members or others on a single account. Give shows and movies a thumbs up or thumbs down to improve the service’s recommendation engine. Hulu also tells you what movies and shows are coming in the next month, and which are expiring, right on its site — something Netflix does not do. 

Video quality on Hulu goes up to 4K and varies based on what you’re watching and what device you use. Quality also adjusts based on your available bandwidth. If you want to avoid having Hulu eat up all of your data, you can take steps laid out on its website to adjust your data usage settings

Hulu’s library of 4K Ultra HD content is growing and includes most Hulu Originals, but still falls far short of the 4K libraries of Netflix, Amazon Prime  and Disney Plus. And while those services all stream in 4K with HDR, Hulu currently doesn’t support any high dynamic range format. That’s a shame because in our experience HDR actually delivers a more noticeable picture quality improvement, especially on a good TV, than 4K resolution. Hulu’s 4K stream is available on most major 4K TV streamers from Roku and Amazon Fire TV, as well as the Apple TV 4K, Chromecast Ultra smart TVs from LG, Samsung and Vizio, and the Xbox One.

Should you get Hulu? 

Depending on the plan you choose, Hulu costs between $6 and $12 per month for the streaming service, making it a competitive choice if you’re looking to keep up with new shows and find a solid collection of old and new movies. If you’re curious about trying the streaming service out, you can start a 30-day free trial of Hulu, Hulu (No Ads), or Hulu Plus Live TV. 



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2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line evaluation: Strangely sporty

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The Sonata N Line is more than just a pretty face.


Emme Hall/Roadshow

Some cars just surprise the hell out of you, and nothing in recent memory has taken me aback quite like the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line. What I thought was going to be a nice midsize sedan with a little more power is actually a properly sporty car.

Like

  • Excellent powertrain and chassis
  • Super fun to drive
  • Great style and tech

Don’t Like

  • Some torque steer
  • Rough around town

Real quick, a word about the letter N. The Sonata N Line isn’t a full-bore N, like the Veloster N or upcoming Elantra N and Kona N. Instead, think of this as N-lite, just like the Elantra N Line and the new Kona N Line and Tucson N Line. Got it? Good.

A practiced eye will quickly spot the differences between the Sonata N Line and its more staid counterparts, though the changes are definitely subtle. There’s a new grille up front with larger air intakes, and the Sonata’s awesome daytime running lights remain intact. Around back, the N Line gets quad exhaust pipes and a redesigned bumper and diffuser. New wheels round out the changes, and overall, while these upgrades aren’t major, the N Line looks just as good as any other new Sonata.

The big upgrades start under the hood, where the Sonata N Line gets a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four engine, the same one you’ll find in the Genesis G80 and GV80, as well as the Kia K5 GT and refreshed Stinger. Here, it’s tuned to deliver 290 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to the front wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which you’ll also find in the Veloster N and Elantra N.

The Sonata rips off the line; it’ll do a front-drive burnout without even trying. But strong and powerful as the engine is, the sedan’s chassis is the real star of the show. The N Line dives into corners, and while the suspension keeps the Sonata taut and planted in corners, it’s not so stiff that it results in a choppy ride over broken pavement.

The N Line-specific 19-inch wheels look awesome.


Emme Hall/Roadshow

The steering is direct and communicative, and it’s also nice and heavy, which definitely adds to overall involvement. Yeah, there’s a ton of torque steer because of the front-wheel-drive layout, but it’s easily managed, and honestly, it just makes me laugh.

In Sport Plus mode, the dual-clutch transmission will downshift under braking, though you don’t necessarily need this aggressive shift pattern with how much torque is on tap. Besides, Sport Plus automatically turns off the traction control, which is odd, especially since there’s no limited-slip differential, meaning there’s a lot of wheel spin while cornering if you aren’t careful. Sport mode keeps traction control on and still offers super-quick shifts. It’s the way to go.

My tester is shod with Hyundai’s optional 245/40-series Continental Premium Contact 6 summer tires, wrapped around 19-inch wheels. The summer tire option adds $200 to the Sonata’s bottom line, but it’s money well spent considering the extra grip these rubbers offer.

Nothing wrong with this cabin.


Drew Phillips

I will say, though, great as the Sonata N Line is on a winding road, it can be a little tough around town. It occasionally feels skittish and jumpy, and the brakes are grabby. At least the N Line comes standard with a bunch of great driver-assistance technologies, including Hyundai’s hands-on Highway Assist that centers the car in its lane, navigating around curves and using adaptive cruise control to handle braking and acceleration. It’s not a silky smooth cruiser, but if that’s your priority, just get the standard Sonata.

The N Line’s EPA-estimated fuel economy figures aren’t too shabby, either: 23 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. Good luck achieving those, though. Drive the Sonata N Line with gusto and you’ll regularly see numbers in the low 20s.

Aside from N Line-specific sport seats, this Sonata’s interior is just like any other. Sure, there’s some red contrast stitching and some N badges, but that’s about it. Thankfully, there’s plenty of space up front, the back seat is roomy and the 16 cubic feet of trunk space is more than ample.

The N Line gets the Sonata’s best infotainment tech, with a snappy multimedia system housed on a 10.2-inch touchscreen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard. My colleagues like this system for its ease of use, but I often find that simple commands require extra taps. For example, I can’t cancel my current route directly from the navigation map. I have to dig into the navigation menu to do so. Further, the icons are small and easy to miss when tapping around the screen while driving. But hey, I can listen to the sounds of nature app that includes ambient noise from a snowy day, a beach, a rainstorm, a forest and, curiously, an outdoor cafe. So, bonus I guess?

This is a seriously fun-to-drive sedan.


Emme Hall/Roadshow

There aren’t any option packages for the Sonata N Line, aside from some nicer paint colors and the aforementioned summer tires. With its Quartz White exterior and better tires, my tester comes out to $34,655 including $1,005 for destination. Yes, that’s more than $10,000 above the starting price of a base Sonata, but this car is still a tremendous value.

Think of it this way: The Sonata N Line technically competes with cars like the Toyota Camry TRD and turbocharged Honda Accord and Mazda6, but it’s way better to drive. You’re getting a car that’s closer to Acura TLX and BMW 3 Series levels of enjoyment, and those cars cost a whole lot more. No, the N Line isn’t perfect, but it punches way above its weight and has all of the standard Sonata’s great infotainment and safety tech, to boot. This Hyundai might not immediately come to mind as a solid sport sedan, but trust me, you should drive one. It might surprise you.



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