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5 popular gadgets under $50 that are actually worth it

These inexpensive gadgets make great gifts -- and are actually worth the spend.

Fox Van Allen
Fox Van Allen is a Los Angeles-based writer for CBS Interactive covering technology, tech lifestyle and gaming topics for GameSpot, CNET, ZDNet and TechRepublic. He has previously worked as a news and feature writer for a number of other sites, including Techlicious, Tecca, WoW Insider (Joystiq) and Blizzard Watch. In his spare time, Fox is an amateur skydiver, retro gaming and arcade enthusiast, 8-bit pixel artist, podcaster and Twitch live streamer.
Fox Van Allen
3 min read
Sarah Tew/CNET

We cover a lot of really drool-worthy tech here at CNET, from luxury vehicles such as the Porsche Taycan EV to top-of-the-line smartphones like the Apple iPhone 11.

Both are cool. Both are expensive. (One, admittedly, much more so than the other.)

But we've seen plenty of really cool tech that's incredibly affordable, too. To prove it, we've collected these five fun gadgets. Each of them makes a great gift -- or great retail therapy for yourself, no judgement. And each of them costs less than $50.

Take a look.

Note that CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.  

This may be the absolute most entertaining way to spend $50. The Roku Streaming Stick turns any HDMI-ready TV into a smart multimedia machine with access to more than 500,000 free television shows and movies across more than 1,000 channels (including our own CNET channel). Everything is controlled by the included voice remote or by Alexa voice commands, making this Roku a really great addition to any smart home.

That said, if you've got a 4K TV -- or are planning to upgrade to one in the future -- we recommend spending the extra $10 or so to upgrade to the Roku Streaming Stick Plus.

Think DIY smart home security needs to be expensive? The Wyze Cam Pan would like a word.

This 1080p HD indoor security camera doesn't skimp on features. It offers motion-detection zones, Alexa compatibility and free 14-day cloud storage. It'll even send you a custom alert if it hears your smoke or CO alarm going off. And while you might expect to pay $100 or even $200 for this kind of feature set, the Wyze Can Pan offers it all for just $37.98.

CNET's Megan Wollerton says in her review that it's the least-expensive security camera she's ever tested. "Given that, I wasn't sure what to expect," she says. "But it kinda rocks."

Do you want quality sound, but prefer an over-the-ear headphone to in-ear buds? We got you: Check out the surprisingly capable Tribit XFree Tune, with 24-hour battery life, good clarity, well-defined bass and natural sound. Our own David Carnoy found them to be quite comfortable and well-built, especially given their sub-$50 price tag.

"The bottom line," says Carnoy, "is they sound as good as many Bluetooth headphones that cost three or even four times as much.

Sure, Apple Airpods are trendy, but you don't need to blow $159 just to get quality wireless earbuds. Enter the TaoTronics TWS TT-BH053 -- a bargain pair of earphones (with an admittedly uninspired name) that offers five hours of battery life, noise-isolating design, a compact charging case and sound quality that surpasses what you would expect in the sub-$50 range.

CNET's David Carnoy concludes in his review of the TaoTronics TWS TT-BH053: "It gets enough right that it's definitely worth considering if a cheap, truly wireless headphone is what you're after."

Yes, Tribit again -- for good reason: At $36, the XSound Go is one of the best wireless speaker values out there. Besides sounding decent, it's also fully waterproof.