Digital Crave

Ten (more) tech toys from your local dollar store

Marc Saltzman
Digital Crave

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It’s February, which means you might be a little low on funds if you’ve just paid down your holiday credit card bill.

If you’re itching for some new tech but your wallet is saying otherwise, consider there are a few little-known gems at your local dollar store.

In fact, you’ll likely be surprised at what you can find for a mere buck or two – evident by a look at 10 cool tech toys in this Y! Digital Crave round-up.

If you’d like a few more ideas, the following are ten more suggestions from chains like Dollar Tree, Dollar King, Family Dollar, National Dollar, Dollar King and Dollar Market.

Keep in mind, prices and brands might vary between dollar stores, and be sure to have reasonable expectations when it comes to quality and longevity.

Kidz Remote

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kids children kidz remote

Rather than spend $25 for the similar Weemote, the $2 Kidz Remote from Kessel gives children their own means to watch parent-approved TV stations and no others.

Available in pink, blue or purple, the durable and comfortable universal remote offers big buttons, a rubberized grip and includes controls for power, volume and a large “Surf” button to jump from station to station.

Two AAA batteries are required but not included, you should be able to find an 8-pack for $1 (see below).

Portable USB card reader

Many laptops and ultrabooks are not only losing their DVD drive and memory card slots. So how to get at those photos you just took on your digital camera?

The Tech-1 Portable USB 2.0 Card Reader might be able to help. Snap this tiny USB stick into any Windows or Mac computer and then insert memory cards from your camera or other digital device into one of the four slots. No external power source is needed to get data on and off these cards via the handy adaptor. A comparable USB memory card reader might cost between $10 and $20 at a big box store.

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ihip headphones

Colorful earbuds

While you shouldn’t expect great-sounding headphones from a dollar store, the $1.50 iHip noise-isolating earbuds might be better than you expected. Plus, there are three different sizes of earbud tips in the box for a snug fit -- which also helps block out ambient noise.

While the cord is black, kids might also like the multi-colored earbuds (turquoise, pink and yellow). This product works with smartphones, but be aware there is no microphone on the cable to place or accept calls.

Sunbeam batteries

We found not one but two great battery deals at the dollar store, each for $1 apiece. One is an 8-pack of Sunbeam AA or AAA batteries, labeled as “Super Heavy Duty” performance. Tested in a RC car and video game controller, the batteries have so far lasted for 10 days with moderate use.

The second battery deal worth noting is a set of 12 Chateau-branded alkaline watch batteries, in various sizes (three each for AG1, AG3, AG4 and AG13). Given many people have different watches in the house, each requiring different size batteries, you just can’t beat the $1 price.

HDMI cable

Even discerning home theater enthusiasts might not be able to see or hear the difference between pricy cables and this $2 one. For uncompressed, high-definition video and sound, simply connect the 3-foot Vibe Axcess HDMI cable from the output jacks of your home theater components – such as a digital cable or satellite box, video game system or Blu-ray player—to the input jack of your television or HDMI-supported audio-video receiver. You can also use an HDMI (which stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cable to connect laptops to your TV, monitor or projector.

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rock roll calculator

Rock Calculator

You’ve probably seen calculators at your local dollar store, but the Studio-branded Rock Calculator ($1) is shaped like an electric guitar. Plus, it has a ring and hook clip to attach to a keychain or school bag, respectively.

The number and function buttons are lined along the neck of the guitar, while you can see what you’re doing on the small LCD screen. OK, so this cool design might not make kids do their homework, but it’s a cute idea, nonetheless.

FM radio

Sold in blue or red, a see-through Uninex-branded FM radio ($1.25) is about the size of a box of Tic-Tacs and includes black earbuds, an auto-scan feature (you can’t manually change the dial) and mini LED flashlight. Volume was louder than anticipated, but the bundled earbuds – which acts as an antenna – aren’t the most comfortable since they don’t have that soft cushion that wraps around the speakers (but you can always wear another pair, see above). Two AA batteries are required but not included.

USB Car Socket Charger

Don’t let your smartphone run out of juice before you do. Instead, keep this $1 unit from Tech-1 in your glove compartment. To use it, simply connect your digital device to this charger via a USB cable (not included) and then plug it into your vehicle’s 12V socket (a.k.a. “cigarette lighter”). Because the charger has a universal (female) USB slot, it can be used to charge up any number of gadgets. If you need a spare iPhone cable (with 30-pin connector), Tech-1 also has a white, retractable USB cable for $2.

Adjustable laptop stand

Prevent your laptop from overheating by giving the fans more room to breathe. This is the premise behind the $1 Circuit Electronics-branded Adjustable Laptop Stand, a small contraption that can slightly elevate the computer from a surface. It also angles the laptop down towards you to help make typing easier, too. Stretch the legs of the stand, adjust the length to fit your computer’s dimensions and then turn the small grips clockwise to lock them in place. These stands are available in multiple colors. A similar laptop stand at Best Buy costs $9.

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spy ear listen amplify

Spy ear

Whether it’s to hear the TV clearer or have fun eavesdropping on nearby conversations (as advertised on the packaging), the Spy Ear from C.M.E.I. is a digital sound enhancer that looks like a small radio with earphones.

Available in yellow or purple, the product features a somewhat high-powered microphone that can amplify sounds up to a few feet away. Don’t expect outstanding quality, but at the very least this $1 gadget might be a fun toy for children. Two watch batteries are already in the unit (pull out the plastic tab to start using it), plus two more button-cell batteries are in the box.

Have you found any outstanding dollar store deals like these? Let us know in the comments below.

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