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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 $A130. 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.
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.
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.
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.
*Note: currently only available through third party sellers*
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.
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.
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-theatre set-up.
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 favourite 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.
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