Tech Tools: More Byte for Your Buck
Yes, we know. There’s a brand-new iPhone model tempting you to upgrade, but there always is, and when Apple made the 5c, the company was able to distill what was great about previously pricier models into a good-looking, relatively budget-friendly option. That’s when the 5c was new. Now it’s a year old and priced accordingly ($49.99 for a 16 GB model with a two-year plan), despite still being a strong, relevant performer. The real victory of any iPhone is the operating system and the apps. Throw in an attractive design with a solid camera, and the 5c is easily the best budget smartphone available.
If you’ve read about 3-D printing, you’ve probably noticed some astronomically high prices for the leading models—a Makerbot Replicator Mini, that company’s entry-level printer, costs $1,375. New Matter is here to change things. Not only is the company’s sleek design better-looking than any 3-D printer we’ve seen, but at $249, the MOD-t’s pricing seems like a typo. At press time, the printer’s waiting list was substantial: Early adopters who helped fund the company via Indiegogo will receive the first printers in June 2015. The bottom line is this is the cheapest 3-D printer we’ve seen yet, and it seems well worth the wait.
It seems like everything is offered wirelessly now, so it’s hard to get overly excited about a cord-free mouse. But let’s throw some praise on this little guy anyway: The Sculpt Mobile Mouse, at $29.95, is the cheapest thing of this bunch. This super-portable device has a special button that works as a shortcut to the home screen on Windows 8, and its four-way scroll wheel allows horizontal movement—ideal for those documents that are wider than your screen. Frankly, for the price, this mouse is a steal.
For $99.99, this fun gadget finds a way to make you more productive. The wireless speaker is a sturdy travel companion when you’re taking the party on the road, but it also acts as a Bluetooth speakerphone for your mobile device so you can keep your hands free while you dial in to a conference call. And if you’re lucky enough to have a job that involves listening to music—or just an office that allows it—you won’t be disappointed with the Solemate Mini’s rich, crisp audio.
In the era of smartphones and tablets, it’s easy to forget about Gateway and its bovine-themed boxes that continue to house some of the most affordable work systems on the planet. For those seeking a budget desktop computer, all-in-one models eliminate the need to buy the extras that aren’t always included—namely, a monitor. If you need a powerful PC, you’ll have to spend more money, but if your top priority is a touch-screen system that gets the job done—and relatively quickly—the Gateway ZX series has multiple options that all ship with a screen, mouse and keyboard included. Now under $500, it’s a solid deal.
It’s as if Google and HP are challenging Apple to make their sleek products at a much lower cost. The HP Chromebook 11 looks and feels marvelous, but the best part is that its price tag is as low as $199.99. You get a 16 GB drive, which seems small until you consider the free Google Drive cloud storage space you also receive with your purchase. Beyond that, the laptop has a bright display, strong battery life and a solid operating system in Google’s Chrome OS. We’re not saying it’s a flawless machine, but it’s the best thing out there for a couple of hundred bucks.
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