must-have tech gadgets under $100
The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.
The world of computer accessories and gadgets is huge. Even if you’ve got brand loyalty, in most cases a single brand has two or three lines of headphones, speakers, or smart devices.
More annoying is that accessories and gadgets vary in price substantially, so it can be difficult to decide whether the step-up to the next tier will be worth it.
This list is full of high-quality tech products, some of which I use regularly, that cost under $100. There are certainly great deals to be had for less than the price of the products here, but these are a little more substantial — and perfect for folks looking to up their tech game.
A Bluetooth speaker
In the arenas of size, sound quality, and price Anker’s Soundcore Sport XL is unmatched. I’ve written about it many times, but it continues to be the speaker I use most on a day-to-day basis.
It doesn’t hurt that this is also a durable speaker; it’s capable of withstanding a dunk in the pool, and exposure to dust and sand. That doesn’t do me a whole lot of good in the winter, but when summer comes I like knowing that I can throw this speaker in a bag before a daylong trip and not worry.
**$48.99 if you use the offer code INSIDER0 at checkout**
The Echo Dot
My feelings about the Amazon Echo are well documented: Long story short, I love it.
The Echo Dot is the least expensive way to get into the Echo ecosystem, and has one great advantage over the other members of its family. Unlike the standard Amazon Echo and Echo Tap, the Echo Dot has an audio-out jack. While this is to compensate for its lackluster internal speaker, it means you can connect to any stereo and instantly have a smart stereo.
Because of all the apps that can hook into the Echo, hearing your favorite song is as easy as saying “Alexa, play ‘America’ by Simon and Garfunkel.” While the Echo Dot will search Amazon Prime music by default, if your favorite song isn’t there, you can ask it to play the song from Spotify. The functionality is so compelling I’m considering picking up a Dot just to have it.
If you’re looking for bassy headphones, buy Beats. If you’re looking for comfortable, luxurious, slightly exaggerated-sounding headphones, buy Bowers and Wilkins. But if you want totally neutral-sounding headphones, buy this pair by Sony.
We’ve recommended them before and will continue to do so until they’re unseated in this category and price point. The only flaw of the Sony MDR7506 is their long and winding cable. It might have been acceptable in 1990, when these headphones were first released and most “serious music listening” took place near a stereo, but it isn’t in 2016. Sonically, however, you’d be hard pressed to find much wrong here. Music from all genres sounds “right” when listening to these headphones, although they might take some getting used to if you’ve grown accustomed to headphones that accentuate bass or treble.
The Pebble Steel
For a year of my life, my Pebble Steel rarely left my wrist. It was my first foray into any sort of “smart” wearable device, and I loved it. The Pebble Steel is certainly not the highest-end smartwatch, either for iOS or Android, but it plays nice with both of those platforms and doesn’t look like a piece of tech.
I say that because for the first six months of going out with friends, on dates, or with family, nobody once asked if I was wearing a smartwatch. The only tell would be if I asked if they were interested in seeing what smartwatches were all about, or they caught me quickly reading a notification. That last bit is important, the reason to own a lower-end smartwatch is for notifications.
The Pebble app ecosystem isn’t particularly rich, but being able to get notifications on your wrist is a game-changer. Suddenly your phone doesn’t have to be out while you’re waiting for a text, email, or calendar notification to pop up. It also helps that the Pebble Steel is both waterproof and has up to a week’s worth of battery life.
I’m very happy with my Apple Watch, but I occasionally miss the battery life and simplicity of my Pebble Steel.
A spare laptop charger
I’ve singled out the MacBook Pro charger because that’s the laptop that I use, but it’s just as applicable to any other laptop: Having a spare charger will inevitably save your bacon. Whether you keep this spare charger in your travel bag at all times, or in a different part of the house, having a spare charger can save you time. This is especially true if you use your laptop in a dock hooked up to a screen as part of a desktop-like setup where everything is arranged just so.
I understand how this can seem indulgent and unnecessary, but it’s been one of the best investments I’ve ever made.
A Blue mic
Like the Pebble Steel, I used a Blue mic for an entire year to create podcasts and voiceovers for video, and it served me really well. While the Blue Yeti, which is what I used, doesn’t adhere to the constraints of this list, its younger sibling does. I’ve never used the Snowball, but I have friends who have used it as their first mic with great results. It’s small, has a built-in stand, and hooks up to your computer through its USB port.
Audio equipment can become an expensive rabbit hole very quickly, so the Snowball’s plug-and-play nature makes it perfect for people who want to create their first podcast without spending an arm and a leg.
An external hard drive
Your data is precious. Back it up! External hard drives have plummeted in price and, in some cases, doubled in storage capacity over the past few years. Most people don’t have 2TB worth of data, but this is more than enough to have a full backup of all your files, and room for extraneous data that you might have running around on other external drives.
Nothing is more precious than family photos and documents. Don’t rely on having just one copy of them on your computer.
A pair of computer speakers
Bluetooth speakers are great for convenience, but if you’re looking for a pair of speakers for your computer, you should consider these from Bose. I’ve used and really like another set of speakers in this line, and reviewers on Amazon seem to like this set for the same reasons. Sound quality seems solid, with no frequencies being overly accentuated over others. One reviewer even commented how he could easily hear the difference between CD and high-resolution audio files when using these. Build construction also seems solid, and they’re a nice looking pair of speakers to boot. While they’re designed for a computer, you can also use them with a TV through its headphone jack for an inexpensive home-theater set-up.
An HD webcam
If you use Skype a lot, pick up this webcam. I’ve been using mine for a couple of years, after discovering one of my favorite journalists used it to achieve sterling quality on video podcasts. I assumed he used a super-high-end camera but was pleasantly surprised when he mentioned he was using this off-the-shelf webcam.
My firsthand experience further impressed me. I’m still somewhat confused at how I can get great 1080p footage without a massive financial investment. Some of my friends have bought this camera for themselves after asking how my Skype video improved so much. The only “problem” with this camera is that it has a super-wide-angle lens, so people are able to see way more of your room than they would with a normal webcam. That’s fine, though, because Logitech has a piece of software for both PC and Mac that lets you zoom in and crop your image, so that’s not a problem for long.
This article was originally published on 6/16/2016.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Business Insider’s Insider Picks team. We aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting, and if you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners, including Amazon. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Have something you think we should know about? Email us at insiderpicks@ .