Just because it’s warm outside and you’re on the go doesn’t mean there won’t be any tech in your life this summer. These top gadgets — for playing all your summer jams and catching up on TV and movies when you need a break from the sun — will put a smile on your face without putting a dent in your back account.
Amazon Echo Dot (2018)
The cost: $50 (currently on sale for $30)
The good: The new Echo Dot looks and sounds better than ever, and now you can pair two together for stereo audio. The ongoing space race between Alexa and Google Assistant means it’ll keep getting a steady stream of new features. Best of all: It’s still just $50 — or less if you catch it on sale.
The bad: It doesn’t come in any fun colors like the Home Mini does, and it doesn’t feature any new hardware tricks, either. Aside from the new look and the stronger sound, it’s just the same Dot as before.
The bottom line: This is the best Dot yet at the same irresistible price — but it will do little to slow Google’s growing momentum.
Roku Streaming Stick 2017
The cost: $50 (currently on sale for $39)
The good: The Roku Streaming Stick streams Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and the rest in an ultra-compact design for an affordable price. Its remote can control your TV’s volume and power. Responses are lightning-fast. The simple menus put every streaming service on a level playing field and offer more apps and better search than competitors.
The bad: The menus can seem dated compared to rivals, and some apps use old-school layouts. Voice search and control is worse than Fire TV.
The bottom line: For buyers who don’t care about 4K or HDR streaming, the Roku Streaming Stick is the best player on the market.
JBL Clip 3
The cost: $40
The good: The JBL Clip 3 offers improved sound and battery life in a more durable design than its predecessor. It’s fully waterproof and sounds very good for its small size. The integrated carabiner allows you to clip the speaker to a bag or hang it from a peg.
The bad: It’s a tad larger and heavier than the Clip 2, which is still available at a lower price.
The bottom line: The JBL Clip 3 is a better-sounding version of one of our favorite micro Bluetooth speakers.
TaoTronics TWS TT-BH053
The cost: $45 with online coupon
The good: The TaoTronics TWS TT-BH053 earbuds cost less than $50 and sound better than you’d expect for a true wireless model at this price. They offer solid wireless performance and 5 hours of battery life, and come with a compact charging case that delivers an extra five charges.
The bad: Charging case uses standard Micro-USB, not USB-C; if you don’t get a tight seal, sound quality isn’t as good; sounds a little bright (some presence boost).
The bottom line: While their sound quality isn’t without issues, the TaoTronics TWS TT-BH053s are among the better sub-$50 true wireless earphones.