With tech, inexpensive doesn’t have to mean cheap.
In many cases it’s still possible to get a decent take on a particular gadget if you’re on a tight budget. You just have to know where to look.
So let’s help with that. Now that we’re past the halfway point of the year, here’s an updated list of the most worthwhile gadgets available for less than $50.View As: One PageSlidesRoku Streaming StickRoku
The Roku Streaming Stick might be the best media streamer you can buy, period, let alone the best you can buy for less than $50. It runs just about as fast as the larger and much pricier Roku 4, and has the same dead-simple interface and wide-ranging app support.
Its search is great, too, and even though its remote doesn’t have a headphone jack, it does let you listen to shows privately through the Roku app. As long as you don’t need an Ethernet port or 4K support, it’s the one to get.Google Chromecast AudioBusiness Insider/Matt Weinberger
Google’s Chromecast Audio is exactly what it sounds like: a Chromecast, just for audio. You plug it into whatever speaker you have sitting around, and it allows you to stream whatever Google Cast-capable service to it. It’s simple, and it works. A few months back, it also gained the ability to work in harmony with additional Chromecast Audios. That’s not as graceful as a full-on Sonos system, but it is miles cheaper.Logitech X300Logitech
Every affordable Bluetooth speaker has its issues with clarity and bass response, but for personal, less critical use, the Logitech X300 does just fine. Though it won’t win any design awards, it’s easily portable, and its sound is stronger and less prone to distortion than you’d expect from something in this range.
A caveat: If you can shell out another $10, the JBL Clip 2 plays very well for its smaller size, has a convenient little hook for hanging off a bag, and is totally waterproof. If you want something a little more travel- and shower-friendly, it should be worth the upgrade.Koss PortaProInstagram/Koss
Okay, so this one’s especially relative. I’ve adored the Koss PortaPros since I was in high school -- they’re flimsy as all get-out, but they’re comfy, super lightweight, and fitted with a sweet, spacious sound that’s just excellent. Plus, if they do break, Koss backs them with a lifetime warranty. There’s a reason they’ve been a cult favorite for three decades.
That 80s-style look definitely isn’t for everyone, though. If you want something else, I like the RHA S500 as a sharp sounding pair of earphones, and the $15 Monoprice Hi-Fis as an ultra-budget value play.
If you have your eyes set on the next iPhone, though you might want to go Bluetooth — there isn’t much good for under $50, but the Creative Sound Blaster Jam is at least decent.Anker PowerCore 10000Anker
If you use gadgets regularly, you should have some sort of portable battery. It’s really that simple. The next time your “Pokémon GO” hunting — or another smartphone activity that hasn't consumed society — has you scrambling for an outlet late in the day, you’ll be glad you have something like the Anker PowerCore 10000 to back you up.Panasonic Eneloop rechargeable batteriesRafi Letzter/Tech Insider
Likewise, unless the couple extra dollars in upfront cost is really that bad, there’s no reason to buy disposable batteries over rechargeable ones. Panasonic’s Eneloop series is the most popular of the bunch there, but there are others that work just as well. Either way, they work as intended, and should pay themselves off over time.Amazon FireAmazon
The Amazon Fire isn’t a good tablet, but it’s as much tablet as you can get for $50. It’s capable of doing the basic video viewing, web browsing, and game playing, and it doesn’t feel like it’ll fall apart at every touch. You simply have to pay more if you want a sharper screen or faster processor, but for an easy thing you can peruse on the couch, the Fire works.TileTile
No, not everyone needs a Bluetooth tracker. Just about all of us do misplace our keys at some point, though, and it’s in little situations like those where a device like the Tile comes in handy.
You hook the little square to whatever you’re paranoid about losing, and when those fears come true, you use an app to find it. It won’t work outside of Bluetooth range — about 100 feet here — but if you need the peace of mind around the house, it does what it should.Belkin WeMo Insight SwitchBelkin
Part of the appeal with a smart home device like Belkin WeMo Insight Switch is its neatness. You see how it lets you activate your lamp or fan or space heater from your phone, and you say, “huh, that’s neat.”
Beyond that initial curiosity, though, a “smart plug” can still be useful for saving energy -- or at least saving you the trouble of walking downstairs -- when used the right way. Pair it with IFTTT, for instance, and it can shut off a device once it hits a certain energy cost. Just hope your WiFi doesn’t go down.
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