Digital Crave

10 awesome gadgets from the dollar store

Marc Saltzman
Digital Crave

Tech from the dollar store

Why break your budget at your local big box store when you can pick up a handful of tech toys on the cheap?

Like, real cheap.

Every once in a while on Yahoo Digital Crave we like to cover a few recommended gadgety products from your local dollar store (or, depending where you are in the country, the “$0.99 Cent Store”). In case you’ve missed some of our round-ups, you can find one here and here.

What’s that? You found some extra loose change in your pocket and are curious what you can get for a buck or two? The following are a handful of stingy suggestions found at various stores including Dollar Tree, Dollar King, Family Dollar, National Dollar, Buck Or Two or 99 Depot.

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LED Book Light
LED book light

This clamp-on product is a steal for a buck, as it does the exact same thing as the $20 versions at your local book store: it houses a bright LED (light-emitting diode) bulb to illuminate a book while reading in low-light conditions. And hey, you won’t have to turn on the night table lamp and disturb your significant other.

Available at Dollar Tree locations, this slender, silver book light attaches onto a soft- or hardcover book or ebook reader and, with a press of a button, unfolds its arm to shed a bright white light. The book light already includes three AG13 watch batteries.

Magnavox Foldable Headphones

Ideal for younger kids or for those who don’t like earbuds in their ears, the Magnavox Foldable Headband (model # MHL1600) is a pair of lightweight headphones that can be connected to any 3.5mm audio jack – be it a smartphone, iPod or other MP3 player, tablet, laptop or portable gaming system. Surprisingly, for the $2 it costs, the sound quality wasn’t so bad. As the name suggests, you can fold them up for added portability. Technical specs include a frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz and an impedance of 32.0.

Tech-1 Retractable Mouse

Are you thinking of hitting up a big box store if you need a spare computer mouse? Instead of paying more than you need to, for $2 you can find a Retractable USB Mouse from Tech-1. Available in white or black, this small right- or left-handed mouse plugs into an available USB port on your PC or Mac – no drivers needed – and you can pull on the cord to give yourself as much space as you need. No, it’s not wireless, but this small and affordable accessory could be an invaluable travel companion.

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Mattel Apptivity

Sold for $14.99 elsewhere, Mattel’s Apptivity action figures are placed on a flat iPad screen and used with supported apps.

We found Batman: Riot Cannon for $2, which works with the free Apptivity Batman app. Inspired by The Dark Knight film, you’ll place Batman on the screen and move throughout the combat-heavy Story Mode (or opt for a Quick Play game). In some cases, you’re quickly twisting Batman counterclockwise to punch an enemy, pressing down slightly to descend off a building.

Electra 5-in-1 Universal Remote

While this $2 Universal Remote doesn’t have any bells and whistles, it can let you control up to five home theater components, or replace a broken remote for your TV, cable box or DVR. Requiring two AA batteries (not included), the silver wireless remote is easy to program (code book included) and offers dedicated buttons for TV, DVD, VCR, CBL/SAT and AUDIO. Plus, along with channel up and down, it features a Sleep button, Mute, DVD Menu, Picture-in-Picture, Guide, and more. We also found a 6-in-1 no-name remote with an extra button to cycle through various TV inputs.

Maplock GPS Anti-Theft Device

If you have a standalone GPS navigation device, you know it can be a pain to put it away every time you step out of your vehicle. If you don’t, though, it might give a criminal some extra incentive to break in. Instead of spending up to $30 elsewhere, you can pick up the Maplock, which clamps onto your GPS, locks it down and tethers it to your steering wheel via a security cable. Be sure to buy the correct Maplock to fit your GPS device, such as a Garmin or TomTom model.

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BYO Neoprene Laptop Sleeve

Available at Amazon.com for $15, a neoprene laptop sleeve was found for just $3. With multiple colors and designs to choose from (including polkadots), these BYO (“Bring Your Own”)-branded sleeves can take up to a 16-inch laptop, and protects the clamshell computer from the bumps and knocks of everyday life, thanks to its soft inner lining and stretchy outer “wetsuit” skin. Too bad there’s no handle, but this fashionable and functional accessory is well worth the small investment.

Double Headphone Adaptor (HRS-Global)

If you’re hitting the road for the holidays, siblings might want to listen to the same music, movie or game in the backseat – without disturbing mom and dad. Whether you're using a smartphone, portable media player, tablet, laptop or gaming system, split the enjoyment with the HRS-Global Double Adaptor ($1). On one end of this small black device is a male 3.5mm jack to snap into your device of choice, while on the other end are two female ports to plug in your earbuds or headphones. This adaptor drops the audio down, though, so you might want to turn up the volume to compensate.

Tilt Top Calculator (Studio)

We all know how expensive it can be to be a student these days. So, while you’re at the dollar store picking up paper and pens, be sure to visit the electronics aisle to snag a calculator, too. We liked the solar-powered Tilt Top Calculator from Studio ($1.50), with an easy to read and adjustable 8-digit display (which can be propped up for a better view), large buttons, auto power off feature and handy palm rest for those late night cram sessions. Scientific calculators were also offered at the dollar stores we visited.

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4-port hub
4-Port Multi-Hub (Tech-1)

Most laptops only offer two USB ports but you can easily get four more with an inexpensive USB hub. There are hundreds of models available -- most are between $10 and $30 — but you can pick the Tech-1 Multi-Hub for $3.

With USB 2.0 speeds of up to 480 megabits per second, simply plug one end into your laptop or desktop, while on the other end you’ll find two female USB ports, a male 30-pin iOS connector and a male microUSB plug for smartphones and tablets. No external power is needed.

Digital Crave readers, are you planning to stop off at the dollar store for electronic gifts this holiday season?

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