There are a lot of tech accessories out there. Some enhance the functionality of your current hardware, while others just complement it.
It’s great that there are so many options out there, but that can also make picking the right product more difficult.
This list is chock full of the best accessories in a wide group of categories, and each one is $50 or less.
A flash drive
The cloud is getting more reliable, but using it to move large files around still requires a very fast internet connection, so it still pays to keep a flash drive handy. This drive from SanDisk should be perfect for most day-to-day tasks.
It’s got 64GB of storage — enough to hold thousands of pictures, songs, and documents, or hours of HD footage. It’s also capable of transferring data at USB 3.0 speeds, so getting stuff onto and off of the drive will be snappier than using older flash drives.
An external hard drive
Flash drives are great for smaller files, but it pays to have a local backup. Should anything happen to your computer’s internal hard drive, it’s nice to know that your data is safe.
At 500gb, this should be more than enough to back up the average person’s photos, documents, music, and movies.
A lock port
If you’ve got tech you want to stay put, then protect it! Kensington lock ports are still available on a wide variety of laptops and are definitely a theft-deterrent.
Most Kensington locks are unlocked using a combo, but this one uses a key; so instead of having to remember a set of numbers, you’ll have to remember to bring your key.
A USB hub with micro and regular SD card readers
A hub with a twist! USB hubs have become a fairly standard accessory, but Cateck ups the ante a little by including a micro and regular SD card reader alongside the three USB 3.0 ports.
What makes the inclusion of the card readers so nice is that this hub puts them at arm’s reach. Even though most laptops and desktops have built-in card readers, they’re typically somewhat inconvenient. This is especially true if you’ve got a laptop in a stand hooked up to a display. This hub eliminates that problem.
A Bluetooth keyboard
I’ve used Anker’s Bluetooth keyboards for over a year, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. They are light, compact, easy to set up, and have pretty solid battery life.
Don’t be put off by the inclusion of iOS-looking glyphs on some of the keys — specifically the home-button key in the upper-left corner. The keyboard works just fine with any desktop or laptop you pair it with. That said, if you’re looking for a keyboard to pair with a tablet, then this is a good choice.
A TV antenna
We’ve already discussed the Mohu Leaf in a previous article, but it deserves inclusion here because it provides solid service for a budget price.
Reception will vary largely depending on where you live, so it would be in your best interest to check out TvFool and AntennaWeb to get a sense of what over-the-air channels are available in your area. If you like what you see and want to dip your toe into the TV-antenna space, then give the Mohu Leaf a try.
A portable battery
Thankfully, smartphone battery life has gotten better over the years, and Android and iOS now have built-in low-power modes. That said, it’s still anxiety-producing to see your battery at 20% halfway through a transatlantic flight.
This external battery by Jackery has enough juice to charge your iPhone or Android phone multiple times before needing to be recharged itself. It’s even got enough juice to be able to recharge a 9.7-inch iPad. The inclusion of two USB ports for simultaneous charging is a nice touch.
A hard-shell laptop case
If you’re looking for a fairly no-frills way to protect any member of the MacBook family, then it’s worth considering these hard-shell cases from Mosiso.
The two-part case will protect the top and bottom of your laptop from scratches, but it probably won’t provide a tremendous amount of shock support if your device suffers a nasty fall. That said, some protection will always be better than no protection. For the form- and fashion-minded, this line of cases comes in a variety of colors and patterns, some of which are device-exclusive.
A pocket-size Bluetooth speaker
Don’t buy this mini speaker if you’re looking for booming bass and audiophile sound — there are plenty of other products to recommend if that’s what you’re after.
Instead, this 1.7-inch cube will provide 12 hours of listening time, connect with Bluetooth, NFC, or a standard 3.5mm audio cable, and fit into your pocket. Think of it more as a kitchen or podcast speaker, and your expectations should be met.
A multi-port USB wall charger
If you’ve ever fought over who gets to use the phone charger, then this multi-port hub from Poweradd will solve that problem forever.
Having the ability to charge your phone and tablet simultaneously makes the night before trips significantly less stressful. If you live with roommates or have a family, then sticking one of these in the kitchen will be a game-changer.
A clip-on car phone mount
If you’re looking for a way to safely use Google Maps while driving, then it’s a good idea to invest in a way to mount your phone on the dashboard.
There are two types of products that accomplish this: mounts that clip onto your car’s air vents, like this Zilu mount, or those that adhere to your dashboard with a suction cup. The Zilu is compact, supports phones up to 6 inches in size, and promises to hug the air vents tight enough not to get loose over bumpy roads.
A suction car phone mount
If you’re dead set on keeping your car’s air vents free of tech, consider buying a suction-baed car mount. They’re light and fully adjustable, so you or other family members driving your car can get its positioning just right.
Still have non-rechargeable devices running around the house? The most cost-effective way to keep them running is to buy rechargeable batteries.
In many cases, the actual batteries and charging cradle are sold separately, but this set from Panasonic bundles them together. The batteries can be fully recharged overnight and hold a majority of their charge for 10 years. They’re also available in AAA size, which is the most common size of batteries for TV remotes.
That people continue to rock the Koss PortaPro, despite it looking entirely like something that was sold alongside the Super Nintendo and Sony Walkman, is a testament to its quality. The PortaPro’s “Back to the Future” aesthetic isn’t for everyone, and that flimsy headband is known to bite hair, but its sweet and spacious sound is much more agreeable. Same goes for the lifetime warranty that comes with every pair. The only major caveat here is that its younger sibling, the Koss SportaPro, brings similar benefits for about $10 less.
A Google Cardboard viewer
Want to dip your toe into the world of VR without shelling out hundreds of dollars? This Google Cardboard-compatible view from Minkanak should be perfect.
I’ve used a Google Cardboard viewer for six months, and I’ve been seriously impressed with the types of experiences you can have at such a low cost. These experiences won’t be as immersive as the ones you can have on more sophisticated hardware like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, but should be enough to help you determine whether or not VR is for you.
A laptop stand
There are a number of stands for those who want to elevate their laptop or use it with an external monitor, but inexpensive stands forsake a feature that this one doesn’t.
Unlike other stand solutions in this price range, the Vivo laptop stand does allow you to tilt it, instead of just being a sedentary piece of plastic or metal. This comes in handy if you’ve got to quickly adjust something on your computer. The vent holes are another nice touch, letting your laptop breathe a little. As a bonus, the stand can also be used to shelve a computer monitor, freeing up the desk space underneath.
A wireless mouse
Unlike Bluetooth keyboards, Bluetooth mice are a pretty pricey proposition. Instead, this Amazon Basics wireless mouse requires the use of a USB port for a little receiver.
There’s not a lot to say about this mouse. It’s not going to win any design awards, but the upshot is that picking one up frees your desk from yet another cable. It also compliments the Anker keyboard quite nicely.
A phone case
Like the MacBook case I recommended, this iPhone case is no-frills and comes with the same advantages and caveats.
While the pictured case is for the iPhone 6 Plus, Sojitek makes the same case for a whole host of Apple and Android devices. There are a lot of cases that are more “life-proof,” but few that are as thin and light — the trade-off is up to you.
An armband phone case
If you’d like to run outside while listening to music, then this armband case is a good bet.
What puts this phone armband case above the rest I’ve seen or used is the inclusion of a slot for your key. That’s one less thing to worry about while trying to beat your longest distance or best time. It’s also not device-specific and can be used with current iPhone models, as well as last year’s Samsung Galaxy phones.
Lightning and Micro USB cables
Everyone can use a spare charging cable, but with so many out there it can be hard to find one that works.
I’ve used an Anker lightning cable daily for over a year and it still holds up. Its case isn’t made out of a fancy material, and I’m not throwing my cables around but I’m not holding them delicately, either.
Regardless, Anker backs all of its products (including cables!) with an 18-month warranty. If something happens, just E-mail them and sort it out.
For a pair of earbuds, this product, from Francois et Mimi, has a couple of nice extras to balance out its budget sound.
The first is that the buds are made of silicone and come with three differently sized tips. Silicone is softer than hard plastic, and having the size options means that this pair of headphones should fit most ears. The second is the inclusion of a mic, so they can be used for phone calls. They won’t be as nice as some other headphones we can recommend, but these should be a pretty good pair for everyday listening or your commute.
A laptop bag
Like it’s mouse, Amazon’s line of laptop bags won’t win any design awards, but its choice of function over form makes them a good budget option.
While the line goes from fitting 7- to 10-inch netbooks to 17-inch mega-laptops, the sweet spot should be the 14- and 15.6-inch versions. They have three slots, so they can accommodate the laptop, chargers, cables, external batteries, or anything else you can throw at them. The basic, non-padded handles will probably become uncomfortable if you hold the bag like a briefcase, but the shoulder strap does have a pad that should spare you from pain.
A phone stand
Lamicall has focused on form and function when designing this stand, which it claims can accommodate anything from a smartphone to an iPad Mini.
I have a stand very similar to this, and having a hole to thread a charging cable through is a nice way to reduce desk clutter. The aluminum build of the stand is meant to match the Apple aesthetic, but should look fine on a desk next to any computer or monitor.
If you’re looking for a cheaper pair of Bluetooth earbuds to take to the gym, we’re going to keep recommending this pair from SoundPEATS. They’re a far cry from audiophile headphones, but they’re sweatproof and don’t sound harsh. If you listen to podcasts, these are especially good. You can read our in-depth thoughts on these headphones here.
A battery phone case
If you want extra battery life but don’t feel like carrying a USB battery around, Anker has you covered. Their slim battery case adds 120% to the iPhone 6/6S life without making you feel like you’re holding a brick. There are certainly battery cases that offer even more juice, but they’re bulkier and more expensive.
An iPhone dock
Once you get used to docking your phone, there’s no going back.
Not only is it convenient to know exactly where your phone is, by putting it on a dock, you’re sure to always have a charge. I’ve been eyeing Apple’s official dock because it’s minimalist and fits the look of the iPhone perfectly.
I’ve written about these outlets in the past, and will probably install a couple of them in my mom’s new place.
Like the multi-USB plug I mentioned earlier, this outlet is meant to solve the problem of multiple people wanting to charge multiple devices at once. But, instead of having to plug and unplug an adapter, two USB ports are built right into the outlet. All you’ll need are some cables and you’ll be ready to charge and have an extra outlet free.
A smart plug
Now that you have a free outlet, why not turn one of your appliances into a smart appliance?
I’ve been using my TP-Link Smart Plug for a couple of months now and still love that I can trigger my tea kettle to boil water with my voice (thanks to an Amazon Echo.) If you’re Echo-less, you can still turn whatever device is plugged into this smart plug on and off through an app. It’s very handy if you leave the house and halfway through your commute realize you left the iron on.
A luggage tracker
If you’ve ever lost a bag while traveling, you know how tedious and nerve-racking it is trying to get it back. Plus there’s the thought that it might never be found and your stuff will just end up in between-airport limbo. Trakdot wants to eliminate that frustration with its palm-sized luggage tracker.
The tracker has a GSM chip inside of it so you can be kept up to date on its newest destination (hopefully you’re at the same one.) When its within 30 feet of you, the Trakdot will send your iOS or Android phone an alert. Reviews of the product seem positive, but there’s one catch: There’s an annual, biannual, or lifetime subscription fee. That makes sense because the GSM chip in the Trakdot is performing the same task as it would in a cell phone, but it’s still something to consider.
A selfie stick
For better or worse, selfie sticks have become a constant companion for many travelers. I’m recommending this one by Fugetek because people seem to like that it pairs with your phone via Bluetooth. Once paired, you can snap a shot or zoom in or out through the buttons on the stick’s base. This model extends out up to 49″ and is compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones, GoPros, and digital cameras.
Reviewers on Amazon are generally happy with this device’s overall design and build quality, although one lamented the fact that it wasn’t strong enough to hold their DSLR despite Fugetek’s claims.
A streaming stick
Roku’s latest streaming stick got our recommendation recently for good reason. Performance is pretty consistent, and any lag was app dependent, not system wide. Video output is limited to 1080P, but unless you’re staying an a very tech-forward hotel, you’re probably not going to have a 4K TV in your room. Best of all, the Roku doesn’t take up too much space, and can be powered by a TV’s USB port.
A smart thermometer
Cooking over an open flame can be tricky business. If you’d like to ensure that your friends and family stay safe and healthy, we recommend picking up this Bluetooth thermometer.
Its mini LED will tell you how done your food is, and you can monitor the internal temperature of your meat via your smartphone from up to 150 feet away. Once your meat meets your temperature requirement, the iGrill Mini will send out an alert, letting you know it’s time to dig in.
An enhanced MagSafe adapter
There are some Mac owners who think the MagSafe cable breaks away too easily. The NewerTech Snuglet aims to fix that — it’s a tiny metal ring that fits inside the MagSafe connector, strengthening its magnetic connection and making it so your cable doesn’t come undone after lighter movements. If you’re sure you’re coordinated, it might spare you some aggravation.
A MacBook charger accessory
Business Insider/Hollis Johnson
The Blockhead is a tiny adapter that allows a MacBook charger to sit flush against a wall outlet. We reviewed it, and found it to do what it sets out to do. (Though its prongs don’t fold up, and it doesn’t do anything about the flimsy cable attached to the whole thing.) It’s a niche device, but if your furniture arrangement doesn’t normally play nice with that awkward white brick (or its chunky charging cord), it should help.
Universal power adapters
Another device that attaches to Apple’s power adapter, the PlugBug World won’t save any space, but it makes things a little more functional. For one, it adds an extra 2.1A USB port, giving you another place to power up a mobile device.
Beyond that, it comes with a five-pack of international wall plugs, allowing you to keep using the charger if you’re traveling around the globe. (Twelve South says it supports outlets in the UK, Continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, and Japan.) It’s worth noting that Apple sells a similar World Travel Adapter Kit for $32, though that doesn’t come with the added USB port.
A laptop stand
The Twelve South BookArc is a tidy, well-built stand for those who tend to connect their MacBooks to external desktop gear. At $50, it’s more of a vanity purchase than anything else, but it looks nice, saves space, and works as it should, with any MacBook model. Its arched design also makes it useful for organizing stray cables.
A power block
If you’re looking for a super convenient multi-purpose plug, you’re in luck.
The Powercube power strip has three outlets and two USB ports built into its cube frame. Small enough to fit into a travel bag, it’s the perfect gadget for multiple people sharing a hotel room or in a conference space.
A Fire tablet
We’ve written about the Fire tablet before. It’s a good value for those looking for an inexpensive tablet for surfing the web, playing some light games, and watching Netflix.
Don’t go in with super high expectations though. If you’re looking for the smoothest Fire experience, you might want to pick up this tablet’s older sibling. Instead, if you want to play Angry Birds on your couch, the base Fire tablet is a solid choice.
The hangup with bringing a portable battery around is that you’ll need to carry a charging cable along with it. Something like the NomadKey lets you keep a USB 2.0 connector on your person. The bendy little accessory clips easily around a key ring, making it so you don’t have to stuff a lengthier wire in your pockets.
If you’re worried you might lose something valuable, throw a Tile on it. The diminutive Bluetooth tracker can talk with (and remotely ring) your phone from over 100 feet away, telling you exactly where you left your particular thing. A nifty “Community Find” feature helps you locate anything beyond that. We’ve taken a closer look before.
A Wi-Fi range extender
If you live in a slightly larger place, getting good Wi-Fi coverage can be difficult. There are a few different ways to approach this problem, but the easiest and most cost effective is to buy a Wi-Fi range extender.
I’ve tried TP-Link’s and it worked wonderfully in my mom’s two floor condo. Areas where Wi-Fi was non-existent now have excellent coverage. It’s not as fast as it is right next to the router, but it is fast enough for video streaming.
A guitar interface
I’ve used the a higher-end iRig product and have really come to love it for creating song demos quickly, and on the go.
What I like the best about all of iRig’s products is how many features they’re able to put in a compact passage. A tactile gain ring and headphone jack for monitoring are my two favorites on here. This won’t replace ahigher-end audio interface, or FX pedals on a stage, but it’s great to have in your guitar case, in case you want to record something quickly.
Printers can be a pain in the butt, and with everything going digital, you might not think you need one.
Even if you don’t use it often, having a printer, scanner, copier combo does come in handy. This printer has my favorite feature: wireless printing. I don’t print a lot, but when I do it’s nice to be able to print from any device I’m using without having to reach for a cable. Wireless printing also gives you the freedom to put this printer in an out of the way spot.
A surge protector
It may be the most boring product on this list, but as someone who fried their computer because of my dorm room’s terrible electricity, I can tell you it’s worth the investment.
I’ve bought a few of these Belkin surge protectors over the years, and I’ve never had a single problem — even when almost every outlet was being used. A $20 investment in your freshman year is way more manageable than having to scramble to replace something expensive two or three years later.
A Raspberry Pi
I’ve written about the usefulness of the Raspberry Pi before. For a small, inexpensive computer, there are tons of different things you can do with it.
It’s not particularly user-friendly — although the newest model does have WiFi and Bluetooth antennas built-in. It’s more for tinkerers than anyone else. Still, if you’ve got a computer problem and are considering an expensive solution, you might want to see if you can accomplish what you’d like to get done with one of these.
A motion detector
This motion detector set is kind of lo-fi, but will come in handy if someone tries to get into your home in the middle of the night. This set has two components: a sensor and receiver. The sensor has a range of 20 feet, and when motion is detected it’ll send a signal to a receiver plugged inside your house. The receiver will sound a chime that will alert you that motion has been detected, so you can act accordingly.
The chime is user configurable with 36 different sounds and three levels of volume. The only recurring complaint I’ve seen is that the motion detector can be a little too sensitive, so you might have to pick the spot and angle the motion sensor carefully.
An ergonomic keyboard
RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome can really hurt, and these conditions can be triggered by repetitive actions like typing.
To cut down on the stress you put your hand muscle through, you should invest in an ergonomic keyboard. It’s shaped and positioned in such a way that your wrists, hands, and fingers won’t be as stressed as they are when using a standard keyboard. It might take you a little while to get used to the different key and hand positions, but once you’ve got those down, you’ll be typing in a healthier way. This set even comes with a mouse, and is totally wireless.
A motion-sensing light
I’m recommending this motion-sensing light from Cleartonics because it runs on batteries and can be placed anywhere using a 3M strip. This allows you pick the perfect place in your hallway for a light source, instead of being beholden to an outlet. This is the perfect gadget for guiding you through the hallway to your bathroom, or having in the bathroom itself, so your eyes aren’t irritated by sudden bright light.
A universal remote
I couldn’t resist throwing in one refurbished item at the end, given me championing them.
It’s hard enough for some people to keep track of one clicker — saddle yourself with a full home theater’s worth, and it might not be long before one goes missing. A good universal remote lessens that risk, and makes it so you don’t have to switch between four different pads just to set up movie night. The Logitech Harmony 650 has been consistently well-reviewed in the past, but if you have newer smart devices like a PlayStation 4 or Amazon Fire TV,the Harmony Home Control should do the job.