Cool gear under $50 (February 2020)

    These make great gift ideas or treats for yourself

    Try as we might, there’s simply too much cool technology to keep up with. New products hit the market every day and, as much as we’d love to write extensive reviews about all of them, we just don’t have time. To that end, we’re happy to share bite-sized reviews of technology and gear that we find interesting or worth a closer look.

    SEE: Cool gear you can get for less than $100

    Below you’ll find products that we’re impressed with that all share one thing in common – they’re all under $50. While these aren’t purely electronics or gadgets, we think they’re awesome.

    ANNKE 1080 PT Camera

    We no longer need to spend hundreds of dollars up front, or subscribe to monthly plans, to keep an eye on things. The ANNKE HD Smart Wireless PT Camera is an example of a smart camera that doesn’t cost all that much yet provides the fundamentals of home security.

    A camera capable of recording pictures and video in HD (1280 x 720) resolution, the unit offers up a 60.5-degree wide-angle picture with two-way audio. Users can speak to the camera and have their voice heard or drop in on it to listen or monitor the environment.

    Lightweight to be sure, it can sit flat on any surface or mount to a wall via the included attachment pieces.

    Scenarios where it makes sense to have one of these: using as a baby monitor , check on your elderly parents or grandparents, or to see how your pets are doing while on the go.

    Motion detection is a nice feature that can be enabled if you’re looking to use it as a security camera. In a related note, the infrared/night vision is an extra bit of peace of mind, too. $40 at Amazon

    BESTEK Power Strip with USB

    Look around your house and you might find that open wall outlets tend to come at a premium. Thanks to things like smart speakers, smart displays, and Bluetooth speakers, we’re routinely using outlets that were otherwise unused just a year or two back.

    If outlets are important to you, you might want to check out this cube-like solution from Bestek. It lets you turn one power outlet into three outlets, and adds in another three USB ports. Oh, and a USB Type-C port, too. That’s seven ports in one.

    Given that we tend to use our outlets for charging phones, tablets, watches, and other gadgets, it makes sense to clean up cables and chargers. Put those bricks aside and plug your USB cables directly into the power strip.

    You can mount the charger directly on a wall in most orientations using the included screws and/or two-sided sticky tape. Alternatively, you can disconnect it from the mount and use it freely, too. $27 at Amazon

    Logitech M325C Mouse

    While Chromebooks and laptops have touchpads and displays that register touch, nothing feels as intuitive as an actual mouse. Add a Bluetooth one to your backpack or bag and you’ll find it really helps speed things along.

    Fortunately, we don’t have to spend a bunch of money on a quality optical mouse. Even better, we’re not relegated to boring black or grey mice, either. You can pick up one that speaks to your style and sensibilities on the cheap.

    The Logitech M325c is a wireless mouse that’s compact, stylish, and incredibly accurate. Powered by a single AA battery, you’ll get up to 18 months of usage and not have to worry about plugging in every so often.

    It might look small, but it’s got the goods where it counts. Features include five buttons, tilt wheel with middle clicking, and a range of up to 10 meters. Choose from a whole range of colors and designs. Prices start as low as $13 at Logitech, Amazon, depending on collection. “Color Collection: Himalayan Fern” displayed here.

    MK470 Slim Wireless Keyboard & Mouse Combo

    Take your mobile productivity to new levels with a combination kit that includes a wireless mouse and keyboard. If you have a tablet and spend any amount of time with emails, writing, blogging, or schoolwork, you owe it to yourself to add a physical keyboard.

    This Logitech bundle is a lightweight way of adding a full-sized Bluetooth keyboard with a number pad and an optical mouse. The best part? It’s just priced affordably.

    It’s not only slim and compact, but it’s quiet, too. You’ll be able to blow through emails and homework without drawing unwanted attention in the library.

    The keyboard is powered by a pair of AAA batteries which offers up to 36 months of usage. The mouse relies on a single AA power source which ought to be good enough for up to 18 months. $49 at Logitech and Best Buy

    Catalyst Case

    We spend a lot of money on really fancy and beautiful smartphones so why is it that we’re so quick to hide them behind protective cases? Today’s handsets are gorgeous and often feature stunning colors and gradients. Forget those boring, utilitarian phone cases.

    Grab a Catalyst Case for flagship phones (Apple, Samsung, or Google) and you’ll find that you can get solid protection that doesn’t obscure your beloved device.

    Built precisely with your phone in mind, the protective case allows for drops up to three meters (9.9 feet). There’s a non-slip rubber ring that envelopes the handset that’s really only seen on the outer edge. Other than that, you can see all those sharp colors and design choices.

    The case protects against dirt and debris, but still allows for wireless charging. It’s thin and doesn’t add any unnecessary bulk, and comes with an optional wrist strap. $40 at Catalyst Case

    Braven BRV-MINI

    For years Braven was known primarily as a brand that produced large, waterproof, rugged speakers. And while that was pretty much its bread and butter, the company has evolved and shifted away to other audio products.

    The BRV-MINI, while pint-sized in stature, is a rough and tumble, waterproof Bluetooth speaker that still pushes out an impressive amount of sound.

    With up to 12 hours of playtime per charge, the speaker is a perfect hiking companion. Indeed, it even comes with a lanyard so you can attach it to your hip or backpack.

    We’re also fond of the USB Type-C charging and wireless pairing which let you pair two of these speakers together for a stereo experience. Oh, and it also floats, too. So, not just showers and canoe trips down the river, but it can also hang out in the pool with you. $40 at ZAGG/Braven

    Braven Flye Sport

    Braven has quietly amassed a solid portfolio of earbuds and headphones with prices to suit all budgets. Its Flye Sport is an example of a low-cost and feature-rich pair of earbuds.

    Though not truly wireless, you can drape these behind your head for when hitting the gym or knocking out a few miles. They’ll probably last longer than you do to, thanks to a battery that lasts up to 12 hours per charge.

    They’re offered in three colors and come with three sizes of ear tips for the perfect fit. Like its speakers often are, these Braven earbuds have an IPX7 waterproof rating.

    Other features we’re impressed with include the ability to take hands-free calls, access to your smartphone assistant, and a two-year warranty. $30 at ZAGG/Braven

    Tronsmart Spunky Pro

    The Tronsmart Spunky Pro wireless headphones are more than a catchy name. These Bluetooth earbuds are surprisingly good for the price and should be on your shortlist of audio buys. For the money you get a set of earbuds with a pretty solid spec sheet and modern features.

    A set of Tronsmart Spunky Pro provides you with Bluetooth 5.0, gesture controls for music and Google Assistant, USB-C and Qi charging, IPX5 waterproofing, and up to 18 hours of playtime with the battery case. From our personal use, the battery life is realistic and the audio performance is above average for the segment.

    With a small form factor, good fit, and modern charging capabilities, we’ve enjoyed these earbuds. The name is a mouthful, but Tronsmart has some really nice tech packed into this compact case. While Tronsmart may not be a household name, the Spunky Pros offer another compelling audio device to its lineup that’s worth consideration. $30 at Geekbuying

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