If there’s one fairly immutable rule of consumer electronics, it’s this: stuff gets cheaper over time. Last year’s hot game console will cost less now, either because there’s a new one out or because they’ve learned how to make the same parts for less. It can be frustrating knowing that your purchases won’t hold much value after a couple years, but it also means you can get some great stuff for very little money.
• 64GB USB flash drives: In April of 2006, I wrote about brand new 64GB USB flash drives just coming on the market. At the time, 64GB was twice the size of my laptop hard drive; now my 500GB drive seems small. But 64GB on a single USB drive is still a fair amount, and it’s come down a lot in price. In 2006, the cheapest 64GB model was priced at $2,800. Today, a quick Internet search turns up several models around $40 — and they’re the cool slidey kind where the USB plug pops out, no cap to lose. I even got an e-mail showcasing a 32GB model on sale for $13.99. Praise be to constantly improving memory manufacturing methods.
• Android tablets: Not top-of-the-line Android tablets by any means, but Android tablets nonetheless. Generic drug store tablets have been hovering at around $99 for a while ($89 on sale), and some of those are now starting to hit the closeout scene. In particular, refurbished Velocity Micro, Maylong, and Pandigital tablets with 7-inch screens show up for $49.99 regularly. And last week, retail store Big Lots briefly had two different 7-inch tablets available for $19.99 each. At $99, the slow, buggy tablets were a disappointment; at $20, complaining would put you thoroughly in the realm of #firstworldproblems.
• E-readers: If full-blown tablets aren’t your thing, maybe you prefer the paper-like display of an e-reader. If you want it cheap, Pandigital again has you covered. Any day of the week, a refurbished Pandigital Novel 6-inch e-reader will run you only $24.99 at online clearance site BensOutlet.com. In some ways it compares quite well with a Kindle or Nook — 2GB internal memory plus an expansion slot, high contrast touchscreen, Wi-Fi — but it only gives you a few hours of battery life and page turns aren’t as speedy as on a name-brand reader. Load up some free classic books and enjoy the stinginess.
• Digital cameras: Again, you are absolutely not getting the cream of the crop for less than 50 bucks, but you can get something decent that you can hand to a kid or take on an impromptu camping trip without clutching your wallet in pain. A few models of Vivitar camera give you 10+ megapixels for about $40, though be prepared for sluggish shutters and shakey pictures if you don’t use the flash. Hunt around a little more and you’ll find Kodak EasyShare models slipping in right under the $50 mark, usually refurbished. These offer optical zoom lenses and slightly snappier performance.
Then again, if you’re truly looking for a camera for a young child, there’s the Fisher-Price Kid-Tough for $35 at Amazon or the Vtech Kidizoom for $29. Neither take stellar pictures, but they do take a (mild) beating. And that’s priceless.
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