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Great tech for $25 or less: affordable-gadget roundup

Go ahead and crack your piggy bank open. These 25 tech gadgets won't bust your budget.

Top Affordable Gadgets

If you have two tens and a five to rub together, an affordable world of tech gadgets is within your reach. From a smartphone-friendly credit card swiper to a tiny Bluetooth 4.0/USB adapter to AA rechargeable batteries that plug into a USB port to get juiced, I've assembled a list of 25 great gadgets priced at $25 or less.

And here's the best part: You'll find no junk here. The following items are useful, innovative, and sometimes offbeat in a geeky way. So go ahead—dig deep between the sofa cushions, and check your change jar. The chances are good that you'll find more than one budget-friendly gadget to buy.

Want to spend more? Check out the companion story, "25 Awesome Gadgets for $50 or Less."

Universal Car Mount for Smartphones

What it is: Accessory Power's Universal Car Mount for Smartphones holds any smartphone and uses a suction cup to adhere to any surface in your car.

Why it’s awesome: Great for those times when you're using your phone’s GPS navigation or speaker while driving, this mount has a flexible neck and a head that can rotate 360 degrees for easy positioning.

Price: $17

Where to buy: Amazon

Arduino Leonardo Microcontroller Board

What it is: The Arduino Leonardo Microcontroller Board is a jumping-off point for DIY hardware geeks looking to start a new project.

Why it’s awesome: An open-source piece of hardware that does not require hacking to be customizable, the Arduino Leonardo provides developers a blank slate for their computing projects. The board also features a Micro-USB port, so it can connect directly to a computer (previous Arduino boards required a secondary processor).

Price: $25

Where to buy: Adafruit

Laser Air Guitar

What it is: The Laser Air Guitar allows you to become the rock god you always knew you were. With lasers.

Why it’s awesome: Just hold the Air Guitar the way you would hold a real one, and then strum to play ten preset songs, or play anything you want in free-play mode. You can even connect the device to an external amplifier if you want to feel like you’re on stage.

Price: $20

Where to buy: ThinkGeek

Iogear Bluetooth 4.0 USB Micro Adapter

What it is: The Iogear Bluetooth 4.0 USB Micro Adapter is a small device that turns any PC with a USB port into a Bluetooth-enabled computer.

Why it’s awesome: This minuscule adapter enables Bluetooth 4.0, the latest and fastest generation of Bluetooth technology. Also, according to Iogear, this adapter’s low power consumption won’t suck the life out of your laptop or other portable device.

Price: $12

Where to buy: B&H Photo

iPod Nano Watch Band

What it is: Assorted iPod Nano watch bands hold the latest-generation iPod Nano securely on your wrist.

Why it’s awesome: Available in a number of colors and styles, these bands turn your iPod Nano into a customizable wristwatch. A band is also great for holding your Nano in place while you're exercising.

Price: $25

Where to buy: Apple

Joystick-It Arcade Stick

What it is: The Joystick-It Arcade Stick is an adhesive joystick for playing games on tablets.

Why it’s awesome: You can attach this joystick to any touchscreen and remove it without damaging your tablet. It will work with any game that has an on-screen control pad, giving you enhanced precision with a retro feel.

Price: $25

Where to buy: ThinkGeek

Kensington International Travel Plug Adapter

What it is: The Kensington International Travel Plug Adapter is a portable power adapter equipped with plugs that work in more than 150 countries.

Why it’s awesome: You won’t have to buy a new adapter every time you travel to a different region, and this small gadget won’t take up much room in your luggage.

Price: $20

Where to buy: Kensington

LaCie DataShare USB Card Reader

What it is: The Lacie Data Share USB Card Reader turns your old SD and MicroSD cards into USB flash drives.

Why it’s awesome: This card reader is actually two devices in one. It splits into two halves, one supporting SD and the other accepting MicroSD. This pocket-size device’s real potential is in its portability, however, as it effectively gives you a USB flash drive with removable storage.

Price: $10

Where to buy: LaCie

Master Lock Combination Padlock

What it is: The Master Lock Combination Padlock is a maximum-security padlock with an electronic interface.

Why it’s awesome: Master Lock claims that this padlock is easier to use than standard locks, and you can program it for up to three guests with unique passwords. You also get access to the Master Lock Vault, where you can securely store documents and other files online with 256-bit SSL data encryption.

Price: $25

Where to buy: Master Lock

MyGica A680B USB HDTV Tuner

What it is: The MyGica A680B USB HDTV Tuner is a USB adapter that enables your computer to receive HDTV signals.

Why it’s awesome: Besides allowing you to watch free HDTV on your computer, this portable USB stick lets you pause and rewind live TV, and even set and schedule programs for recording on your hard drive. The device is certified to work with Windows 7 Media Center, but MyGica doesn’t make any guarantees that it will work with older versions of Windows. You’ve been warned.

Price: $24

Where to buy: Meritline

Memorex Dual Controller Charging Kit for Xbox 360, Wii

What it is: The Memorex Dual Controller Charging Kits for Xbox 360 and Wii are convenient devices that let you charge and store two controllers at once.

Why it’s awesome: The ability to charge battery packs without removing them from their controllers makes storage simple, and you’ll never have to worry about running out of juice.

Price: $25 Xbox, $20 Wii

Where to buy: Newegg, Walmart

Newgen Cripad 5-in-1 Card Reader

What it is: The Newgen 5-in-1 Card Reader lets you transfer images and other files to your iPad straight from your camera.

Why it’s awesome: You won’t need to wait until you’re at your home computer to check out your digital photos or view other files.

Price: $3

Where to buy: Amazon

Olympus ME-12 Noise Canceling Microphone

What it is: The Olympus ME-12 Noise Canceling Microphone is an especially portable mic that eliminates background noise on your recording device.

Why it’s awesome: Perfect for recording interviews and presentations or for taking notes in loud areas, the Olympus ME-12 captures the audio in the direction of your recording device while blocking out everything else in the background. This mic works with most digital recorders and plugs directly into a recorder's 3.5mm microphone jack.

Price: $10

Where to buy: B&H Photo

OrigAudio Universal Rock-It 3.0 Portable Vibration Speaker

What it is: The OrigAudio Universal Rock-It 3.0 Portable Vibration Speaker offers a creative way to turn any object into a speaker.

Why it’s awesome: The device’s “pod” sticks onto any surface and converts your music to vibrations, which it then amplifies through the attached object. You can even chain multiple Rock-It units together to work with multiple “speakers” for a fuller sound.

Price: $25

Where to buy: Newegg

Classic Video Table Tennis Kit

What it is: The Classic Video Table Tennis Kit is a build-it-yourself Pong-style game kit.

Why it’s awesome: The kit comes with a preprinted circuit board and a handful of electronic parts, just waiting to be assembled. All you need are some basic soldering skills, a screwdriver, and three AA batteries. The game even has four difficulty levels and one- and two-player modes.

Price: $17

Where to buy: ApogeeKits

Raptor-Gaming Lk1 Keyboard

What it is: The Raptor-Gaming LK1 Keyboard is designed for gamers who want higher-end features on a budget.

Why it’s awesome: The LK1 comes with a tool for easily removing unwanted keys (I'm looking at you, Windows key), and after you’re done customizing, the keyboard automatically detects the missing keys and locks them. It’s also water-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about sweat dripping onto it during your next hard-core gaming session.

Price: $20

Where to buy: OutletPC

SanDisk Ultra II SDHC Plus 4GB SD Card/USB Drive

What it is: The SanDisk Ultra II SDHC Plus 4GB SD Card/USB Drive is an SD Card that can also serve as a USB drive.

Why it’s awesome: In addition to using this gadget to transfer images and video to a computer lacking an SD Card slot or adapter, you can treat it as you would a standard flash drive, using it to store and transfer any kind of file.

Price: $25

Where to buy: Amazon

Sennheiser HD 201 Hi-Fi Headphones

What it is: The Sennheiser HD 201 Hi-Fi Headphones provide studio-quality sound on a budget.

Why it’s awesome: These over-the-ear headphones block out ambient noise with sealed earcups, and the soft earpads and lightweight construction will please anyone who tends to wear headphones for long periods of time.

Price: $20

Where to buy: Newegg

Speck CandyShell Card Case for iPhone 4S/4

What it is: The Speck CandyShell Card Case for iPhone 4S/4 protects your iPhone while providing a handy slot to store credit cards and cash.

Why it’s awesome: This case’s rubberized slot holds plastic cards and money securely, so you don’t need to carry a wallet or purse. The rubber lining also extends to the phone’s bezel, which Speck says protects the screen if it falls face-first.

Price: $25

Where to buy: Newegg

Square Credit Card Reader

What it is: The Square Credit Card Reader offers a simple way to scan credit cards with your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.

Why it’s awesome: Great for small businesses, the reader plugs into your iPhone's 3.5mm jack; after you download Square’s free app, you can start accepting credit cards on the go. When you place charges on the reader, however, remember that Square charges a fee of 2.75 percent per transaction.

Price: $10

Where to buy: Apple

Striker Hand Tools Garage Parking Sensor

What it is: The Striker Hand Tools Garage Parking Sensor is a convenient tool for parking your car in tight garage spaces.

Why it’s awesome: The sensor shines green as you approach in your vehicle, switches to yellow when it’s time to slow down, and then turns to red when you’re close enough to stop.

Price: $23

Where to buy: Amazon

SYBA SuperSpeed 4-Port USB 3.0 Mini Hub

What it is: The SYBA SuperSpeed 4-Port USB 3.0 Mini Hub turns one USB 3.0 port into four.

Why it’s awesome: With USB 3.0 offering transfer speeds up to 5GBps, you’ll want as many USB 3.0 ports as you can get. The hub is backward-compatible too, so it’ll work with your USB 2.0 and 1.1 ports as well.

Price: $23

Where to buy: Walmart

USBCell AA Rechargeable Batteries

What it is: USBCell AA Rechargeable Batteries look and act just like normal AA batteries, but when they’re out of juice you merely plug them into a USB port to recharge.

Why it’s awesome: With USB ports available on most devices these days, you’ll always be close to a charger. USBCell says that its batteries can survive hundreds of reuses too, saving you money and hassle.

Price: $18

Where to buy: USBCell

V5 Dual Band Mini Phone

What it is: The V5 Dual Band Mini Phone provides an affordable way to stay in touch in situations where you wouldn’t want to risk bringing along your smartphone.

Why it’s awesome: This superbasic phone is an inexpensive replacement for beach trips and other times when you don’t want to worry about damaging your expensive smartphone. Just switch your SIM card into the compact, $13 V5 phone to make calls.

Price: $13

Where to buy: Expansys

X-mini II Capsule Speaker

What it is: The X-mini II Capsule Speaker is a portable speaker for listening to your music on the go.

Why it’s awesome: These speakers expand and contract for easy storage, and they have built-in rechargeable batteries that X-mini says offer up to 12 hours of playback. Most intriguing, though, is the feature that allows you to daisy-chain multiple units together via 3.5mm audio jacks for a bigger sound.

Price: $25

Where to buy: Walmart

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