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In the age of $500 iPhones, shelling out a couple hundred bucks for any sort of device feels commonplace. But that doesn’t mean expensive is always better--or necessary. We gave all the budget-friendly gadgets in this slideshow a test-drive to see how they compare to pricier standbys. The results? Everything worked amazingly well and cost less than our designer jeans.


The Cell-Phone Plan

Wait, a $20 cell-phone plan? We didn’t believe it either, but FreedomPop’s “Unlimited Everything” plan really does offer unlimited talk, text and data for a flat $20 monthly fee. One catch: It’s available only on Sprint’s 3G, WiMax and LTE networks, which don’t work everywhere. So you’ll be able to access your email in densely populated cities, but you probably won’t have service in more remote regions, like the Adirondacks.


The Camera

It is possible to buy a high-tech camera without dropping a small fortune. The Canon PowerShot SX280 HS ($280) has enough battery life for a full day of shooting (including HD videos), Wi-Fi connectivity so you can email vacation shots while you’re still volcano-side, and a zoom lens with way more reach than a smartphone camera. And did we mention it’s small enough to fit inside your clutch? With all the money you’ll save, you can swing that extra night in San Juan


The Computer

Yeah, we’re over laptops that cost as much as a mortgage payment too. The HP Stream 11 is a steal at $200. It’s an 11-inch laptop with everything a good computer should have--USB and HDMI ports, speakers and a webcam--minus the heartbreaking price tag. It’s a little bulkier than the MacBook Air (and by bulkier, we mean it weighs three pounds), but we’ll take the extra weight in the name of saving $800.


The On-the-Go Charger

Most cell-phone juice packs will set you back at least $60, but this compact, adorable charger is a reasonable $30. And unlike other so-called mini power stations, it’s evening-bag-friendly.

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The E-Reader

For those who can live without a Paperwhite display, the Kindle (2014) offers all the benefits of an e-reader for just $79: It is Wi-Fi equipped, has a glare-free display and just got double the amount of storage--all the better to house our latest obsession.

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The Media Streamer

At a mere $50, the Roku 1 costs less than a dinner out (and chances are, you’ll have more fun with this on a Friday night anyway). Its channel library includes Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Spotify and even YouTube, and Roku usually gets new channels before Apple TV, Amazon Fire or Google Chromecast. Bonus: The machine’s search functionality will tell you if a movie is available on one of your subscription plans before you pay to rent it elsewhere.

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The Cell Phone

The new Nokia 215 is just $29 and allows users to call, text, scroll though social media, browse the Internet and check the weather forecast--all for less than an Uber ride. Though the phone is not yet available in the U.S. (fingers crossed that it makes its way here soon), the company has an admirable, socially conscious goal: It’s aiming to reach less connected markets in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, and make cellular technology available to 1 billion more people. Talk about a smart phone.

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