From a $900 tablet that lasts just 4 hours on a charge to a $30 HDMI cable that’s really worth $2.99, the gadget world is filled with overpriced rip-offs. Fortunately, there are also many devices that are actually worth a lot more than their sticker prices, dramatically improving your work and play without costing an arm and a leg. Here are the 10 best bargains in tech today.
For most users, a tablet is still a secondary device that’s great for content consumption, gaming, social media use and light productivity. So why pay more for your slate than you would for a full-fledged laptop? ASUS's 7-inch ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7tablet costs just $150 and comes with a gorgeous 1280 x 800 screen, a quad-core processor that's good enough, 16GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot for expansion, and full featured 5-MP rear camera. Better still, the MeMO Pad HD 7 lasts nearly 10 hours on a charge and comes with a ton of great image editing software.
While it probably won’t replace your main Windows or Mac machine, Samsung’s 11.6-inch Chromebook Series 3 is the ultimate secondary PC. Running Google’s browser-based Chrome OS, the 2.4-pound Series 3 lasts 7.5 hours on a charge, allowing you to edit documents, browse the Web, check your email, update your social media feeds for an hour longer than you’d get on most Ultrabooks. At just $249 ($1,000 less than the Chromebook Pixel), the Chromebook Series 3 makes a great student computer or lightweight mobile workstation for business users on the go. It’s also a great system for older adults who don’t want to deal with Windows 8’s complexity or intrusive security updates. Chrome OS is practically hack-proof, making it unlikely that even your mom, who likes to click on everything, will get a virus.
With a street price of $144, at first glance the Energizer XP18000A seems expensive for a battery. But consider that this 1-pound, 18,000 mAh device has enough power to more than double your notebook’s endurance or quadruple how long your phone lasts on a charge. With this much juice, you can save money on extra notebook or smartphone batteries. If you were thinking of replacing your older notebook because it doesn’t get as much battery life as you need today, you can delay that purchase for a while, saving yourself hundreds of dollars this year. Being able to get work done in areas that don’t have AC power (example: an airplane) also saves you time — and time is money.
You already pay every month for streaming video from Netflix, Amazon or Hulu Plus, but these services are a lot less fun when you can only watch them on your computer or mobile device. Starting at just $49.99, the Roku box lets you play content from any of more than 700 online video channels on your TV, without the hassle of connecting your laptop or tablet to your home theater. With Roku, you can even play audio-streaming services like Pandora or engage in a game of "Angry Birds," right on the big screen. The $79.99 version supports crisper 1080p video.
If your notebook supports it, an mSATA drive like the $117, 128GB Crucial m4 mSATA SSD will give you the best of both worlds: a speedy SSD boot drive for your OS and applications that works alongside your existing hard drive. A 120GB mSATA SSD costs just around $100 and is about the size and weight of a stick of RAM, allowing you to use that 500GB hard drive in place for your data.
Every high-end, groundbreaking smartphone eventually ends up at a discounted price, as long as you're willing to wait a few months. When it launched last fall, the Droid DNA was the first smartphone with a 1080p screen and one of the first U.S. phones with a quad-core CPU. Today, it has some competitors with similar or slightly-better specs, but with its Beats Audio, sharp camera and attractive Sense UI, remains a truly compelling phone. Verizon customers can get it now for just $19.99 via WireFly.
I’ll never forget my first PC, which cost $1,800 in 1986 dollars, took up my entire desk and had a weak 4.77-MHz processor with just enough power to play the original "Flight Simulator." Today, I can buy a computer that’s hundreds of times more powerful, fits in my pocket and costs less than a dinner at Olive Garden. About the size and shape of a USB Flash drive, dual-core Android sticks like the $43 MK808B Android Mini PCare approximately the size and shape of a USB key, but offer enough oomph to play demanding games, stream 1080p movies or make Skype calls from your living room. For this low price, you can carry a workstation in your pocket or turn your TV into a connected entertainment system.
As if your carrier didn’t charge enough for data here in the U.S., the cost of 3G/4G roaming when you go overseas is higher than many people can count. For example, downloading a 500MB file could cost as much as $10,200 at Verizon’s pay-as-you-go rate. Enter Xcom Global, the only company with an affordable, unlimited international data plan. For $15 a day, Xcom rents you a Wi-Fi hotspot or USB modem with a local SIM card inside and unlimited data. A week-long trip to England would cost you just $105, even if you have to download that 1GB demo video from the home office.
In 1999, I paid $499 for a 19-inch, 1280 x 1024 resolution CRT monitor and thought I’d gotten the deal of the century. Today, you can buy a high-quality, full HD (1920 x 1080) screen like the 21.5-inch, LED-backlit Samsung S22C150N for as little as $120 at online retailers like NewEgg and Amazon. By attaching a large monitor to your laptop, you can double your workspace and increase your productivity by up to 50 percent. Whether you put your email on one screen while you write documents on another, keep your Photoshop tools on the right display while the photo is on the left, or just use the second screen to play videos while you work on the main one, a second monitor is well worth its minimal price.
Whether your notebook has a low-capacity 250GB or 320GB hard drive or a measly 128GB SSD, you can add a lot of external storage for very little money. Starting at around $60 for a 500GB unit, USB hard drives weigh as little as 0.4 pounds and draw power directly from your notebook, allowing you to take them anywhere. A 1TB drive like the Western Digital My Passport costs as little as $69when you purchase online, offering automatic backups, password protection for your files and fast USB 3.0 transfer rates.