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The best gear for starting a small business – TechCrunch

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Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions.

When you’re ready to start a small business, having some helpful essentials will make the process a bit easier. Whether you need to print your own business cards or you’re ready to process orders on a reliable laptop, we’ve put together a few of our recommendations that will cover the basics.

Photo: Michael Hession                                                                                   

Business Card Printing Service: Vistaprint

Vistaprint has the best print quality of all the services we tested, and its website offers the best ordering and design experience. If you don’t need a large quantity of business cards, Vistaprint will allow you to order batches as small as 100. You can choose from thousands of templates and a variety of finishes. During printing testing, we were able to read small type and we found that the service’s colors and trimming were accurate.

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Website Builder for Small Businesses: Wix

For an easy-to-use website builder that makes editing, creating, and finding your business’ site manageable, we recommend Wix. Compared to other site builders we tested, Wix’s template-editing tools get a working site up and running fastest. The platform offers a broad range of plug-ins for integrating tools like Google Maps and OpenTable. Adding plug-ins for things like contact forms, menus and reservations is also painless. There aren’t an overwhelming number of website templates, but the ones that are available offer a good mix. Plus Wix has an intuitive editing interface and built-in SEO tools.

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

 Windows Ultrabook: Dell XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13 is a powerful laptop that can be used on the go or with your home office setup. It’s light, has a durable build, plus it’s equipped with an impressive 13.3-inch screen. Previous versions of the XPS 13 have been our top pick for over three years, because it offers the best balance of features and performance of any ultrabook we’ve tested. We like that it’s compact, comes with a good trackpad and keyboard, and that it has a mix of new and old ports. We recommend the configuration that has 8GB of RAM, a 256 GB PCIe solid-state drive, and an Intel Core i7-8550U processor.

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald                                                                                                               

All-in-one Printer: HP OfficeJet Pro 8720

Having your own all-in-one printer will let you print and scan important documents whenever you need to. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8720 offers simple installation and it’s paired with intuitive software and ink that’s affordable. It has a durable build and a large, responsive touchscreen. In addition to handling everyday printing tasks, the OfficeJet Pro can produce colorful graphics and high-quality photos. You can connect to and operate the printer from a computer, tablet, mobile device or the printer control panel. In our tests over Wi-Fi, we didn’t experience any connectivity issues.                          

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

VPN Service: IVPN

A trusted virtual private network provides more online protection beyond device encryption, secure passwords and privacy plug-ins while using a home network or public Wi-Fi. After spending over 130 hours testing 32 VPN services, we chose IVPN as the best VPN provider for most people. It’s easy to set up, has easy-to-use apps, and can be used with most any device running macOS, Windows, iOS or Android. Overall, IVPN offers solid performance and doesn’t cut corners on security nor transparency. You don’t have to worry about your activity or logins being monitored. It’s pricier than competitors but worth the investment because it’s fast, stable, integrates with all major platforms, and comes with features that block data on unsecured connections.

These picks may have been updated by WirecutterWhen readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions.

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OnePlus 9 reveal event with Hasselblad confirmed – but there’s a shadow hanging over it

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Those of you looking for more information on the OnePlus 9 line of devices will want to mark your calendars for later this month, as OnePlus has announced when it will reveal more about the phones. In addition to confirming the OnePlus 9 event reveal date, OnePlus also announced a new three-year partnership with Hasselblad that will presumably bolster the cameras on OnePlus phones.

OnePlus has set its OnePlus 9 reveal event for March 23rd, 2021 – just over two weeks from today. The teaser OnePlus shared today on Twitter suggests that the team up with Hasselblad will be a major focus of the event – as one would expect – so if you’ve used OnePlus phones in the past and found the camera quality to be lacking, this event could be worth tuning into.

As always, we’re expecting OnePlus to reveal multiple phones in the OnePlus 9 lineup, and today’s teaser also seemingly confirms that those phones will support 5G. Beyond those tidbits of information, we don’t have any official details on what the OnePlus 9 series will offer. Of course, there have been plenty of leaks about the OnePlus 9 – some of which outed the Hasselblad partnership before it was formally announced – so we might be able to get an idea of what to expect from those.

OnePlus may not be alone in hosting a device reveal event on March 23rd. Earlier today, we heard a rumor that claimed Apple is also plotting a reveal event of its own for March 23rd, and while we’re not necessarily expecting Apple to reveal new phones (those typically come in the fall), OnePlus may not like having to compete for eyeballs.

We’ll see if that Apple event is indeed confirmed for the 23rd and, if it is, whether or not OnePlus has any kind of response to that. Otherwise, be sure to check back here on the 23rd for all you need to know from the OnePlus 9 reveal event.

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Tesla is secretly preparing to switch on a huge mega battery in Texas

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Tesla has secretly constructed a huge battery facility in Texas, part of what appears to be an attempt to add power storage to the state pummeled with bad weather in February. Texas’ electric grid was reportedly hours from collapse at one point, as freezing temperatures saw electricity demand soar and rolling outages take vast swathes of the state offline for days.

It proved to be a wake-up call for energy provisions in Texas, especially as power companies began passing on ridiculously high peak charges to customers. Electricity bills in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars were reported by some, as power companies found themselves relying on suddenly extortionately expensive natural gas and other energy sources.

Tesla has long positioned its stationary power products as being ideal for situations like those. Exponentially larger than the battery packs found in Tesla vehicles, the units act as a temporary store for electricity. Much as a Tesla Powerwall can save power in a domestic environment – whether from solar or cheaply off-peak from the grid – when it’s plentiful, and then supply it again during outages or periods of peak pricing, Tesla Energy’s large scale installations could do the same for towns or even cities.

Several such projects were known to be underway – including in Los Angeles, CA, and in South Australia – but a new installation has been spotted in Texas. Registered as Gambit Energy Storage LLC, Bloomberg reports, the Tesla Subsidiary is located in Angleton, roughly 40 miles south of Houston. It’s positioned next to a Texas-New Mexico Power substation.

The facility is equipped with more than 100 megawatts of storage, it’s said. Bloomberg estimates that an installation of that size could keep around 20,000 average homes powered up “on a hot summer day.”

According to Ercot, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the Gambit battery could go into commercial operations on June 1. Tesla didn’t begin the project itself, however. It’s believed to have purchased the Gambit facility from Plus Power.

Elon Musk recently relocated to Texas, moving from California as Tesla and SpaceX ramp up business activities in the state. That doesn’t mean he’s been universally positive about his new home, however. Indeed, during the outages he was vocal on Twitter about how poorly Texas’ energy companies were handling the crisis. At the time, Tesla’s involvement in the Gambit facility was not common knowledge.

Battery backup is increasingly common around the grid, as energy companies make provisions for downed cables or unseasonable demand. However most such facilities are significantly smaller than those Tesla Energy is working on. Part of their charm is that they can be electricity-source agnostic, capturing spare power from traditional coal or gas generation, or from green sources like solar and wind. Texas has some installations of the latter, initially erroneously blamed for the state’s energy troubles in February, though it was later identified as primarily issues with fossil fuel power stations that left so many Texans without electricity.

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If this March Apple event leak is true, OnePlus has reason to worry

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Now that March is here, we’re getting into spring reveal event territory, and today we may have learned the date for the next Apple event. Assuming today’s rumor turns out to be true, that event could just be a couple of weeks away. We’re also hearing about the devices Apple might announce during this event, so thanks to think leak, we could already have a very good idea of what to expect from Apple’s next event.

On Twitter today, Youtuber and noted leaker Jon Prosser suggested that Apple’s next event will be happening on March 23rd. Previous leaks suggested a March 16th date for the event, so even though the leaked information seems to agree that the event is happening at some point in March, Prosser’s leak moves the date back a bit.

In a follow-up tweet, Prosser says a “reliable source” told him that AirTags, iPad Pro, AirPods, and Apple TV are all “ready.” We’re told to “take that however you like,” though the suggestions certainly seems to be that any or all of these products could be revealed during Apple’s event.

It’s worth pointing out that, should this date turn out to be correct, Apple won’t be the only company hosting a reveal event on March 23rd. OnePlus has also confirmed that it will be fully revealing the OnePlus 9 lineup on March 23rd, so if Apple is indeed plotting the same date for its own event and neither company reschedules, that will be a packed day in the world of consumer technology.

We’ll see what Apple announces, but if this event is happening at some point in March, then we should get official word of it soon. We’ll let you know when that official word comes down the pipeline, so stay tuned for more.

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