Samsung Gear VR ($60)
Virtual reality has long been the dream of science fiction. However, after years of failed attempt, innovations, and Johnny Mnemonic, consumer VR finally is poised to make a big splash. The big names in VR — namely the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive — are still wildly unaffordable for the time being; however, some smaller less expensive VR headsets are already a hit with consumers. Samsung’s Gear VR is the best of these, drawing on Oculus’ technology to provide a portable VR experience. The headset uses a smartphone as a screen, so users will need to own one of the four compatible Samsung phones. Those who do will appreciate the headset’s ergonomic design and foam lining, which make the act of wearing a large visor on your face as inconspicuous as possible. Developers are still experimenting with VR, so the quality of games and apps varies greatly. However, early gems like Gunjack and Land’s End show the platform’s promise. Read our full review here.
Aquaovo Alter Ego Personal Water Filter ($65)
In our increasingly tech-based world, hiking and other outdoor activities seem more popular than ever, as people strive to connect with the natural world that seems so far away from us. Of course, nature, like a Greek goddess, can be both magnificent and cruel, and few things are crueler than sipping from a mountain stream only to swallow some nasty protozoa in the process. Thankfully, there exists a portable water purifier, perfect for any expedition or post-apocalyptic scenario. The Aquaovo Alter Ego Personal Water Filter removes harmful urban contaminants from untreated water while allowing beneficial trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium to remain. The Alter Ego conveniently filters up to 750 liters of water without leaving an unsavory aftertaste. And the lightweight, BPA-free, squeezable design is perfect for camping or biking.
Chromecast Ultra ($69+)
With more 4K Tvs on the market, 4K streaming is becoming increasingly more important to consumers. While Google’s original Chromecast is still a viable — and affordable — option for streaming, Google’s created a new device specifically for the higher quality streaming format. The slick and simple Chromecast Ultra is an easy way to stream 4K video in your living room, though if you have a newer 4K TV, you likely already have the apps you need to do so. We’d recommend the Chromecast Ultra for those with older HDR TVs that don’t have too many streaming apps. Like Google’s other Chromecast devices, it’s an affordable option for high quality streaming; the Chromecast Ultra is $30 cheaper than the comparable Roku device. Read our full review.
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Audio Technica AT-LP60 ($89)
The second vinyl renaissance is surely upon us given the rising in record sales and popularity of nationwide events like Record Store Day. While you could easily spend $1,000 on a quality turntable, sometimes you just need something to get you started. Audio Technica’s AT-LP60 is perfect for the amateur audiophile, built with automatic operation in mind and catering to two speeds (33½ and 45 rpm). It additionally features a built-in phono amplifier, a replaceable stylus, and most importantly, smooth performance. All you have to do is place a record on the aluminum platter, press play, and listen to the iconic fuss and pops that defined a generation years before Apple was a tech company.
Amazon Echo Dot ($50)
Life is getting even more connected; Amazon’s Echo Dot is here to help. The compact device can connect to a number of apps, allowing it to control your home’s lights, fans, garage door, and thermostat. Not to mention, it can also play your favorite music and get a pizza delivered straight to your house. All of this is voice-controlled, using far-field voice recognition so it can hear you from across the room, regardless of where it’s placed. Using the Echo Dot helps the device learn your preferences, too — it’ll start to pick up on your speech patterns and vocabulary. For $50, it’s a cheaper alternative than some of its competitors. Read our full review.
Griffin WoodTones ($25)
Griffin’s budget-based, luxury headphones don’t pack the low-rumble punch of Beats. Nonetheless, they still manage to combine style with sound in such a way that’s both pleasing on the eyes and ears. The WoodTones provide accurate midrange sound for the price, with crisp treble and warm overtones, while showcasing a penchant for low-volume sound quality via the equipped 50mm neodymium drivers. They’re perfected for solitude, though not the best for your noisy commute to work, and available in one of three comfortable designs (walnut, sapele, and beech). Unfortauntely, we can’t deny the latter offering doesn’t resemble something you might see atop the shelves at IKEA.
Amazon Kindle ($80+)
It may not come loaded with 10 LEDs or the luxury of page turn buttons like the much anticipated next generation Kindle Oasis; however, if you’re in the market for an e-reader, Kindle is still tops. The most recent version of the company’s classic device boasts 4GB of memory and an updated processor, as well as a fantastic touchscreen display that lets you browse thousands of books with ease. Furthermore, the device’s software includes Goodreads integration and a vocabulary builder, only complimenting its marathon battery life and comfortable design. It’s also lighter than you standard paperback, glare-free, and touts high contrast for visibility in most situations. Plus, it’s a dedicated e-reader, meaning it leaves push notifications and alerts at the door.