CNET's Cheapskate scours the Web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. And find more great buys on the CNET Deals page.
If you have even the slightest interest in flying machines, you're undoubtedly lusting after the DJI Mavic Pro ($799 at Walmart). You're also planning to wait until the, er, sky-high price comes down. Because, let's face it, few of us can afford to spend $1,000 on a portable quadcopter.
But can you afford $37.99? Because although today's deal is no DJI Mavic Pro, it's even more portable and -- dare I say? -- way more fun.
See, you can't really have fun with a $1,000 drone because you're too worried about it crashing or flying away from you. Heck, I'm on pins and needles when I fly a $400 drone. That's why I'm pretty geeked about today's deal.
Ending tomorrow, Tomtop has the JJRC H37 "Elfie" folding quadcopter for $37.99 shipped when you apply promo code LCXELFIE6 at checkout. Regular price: $43.99.
Important note: Tomtop is a China-based reseller, and shipping will take "7-20 business days" (on top of five business days to actually process the order). That means you're probably looking at a minimum of 2-3 weeks to receive this. If you're buying with Christmas or Chanukah in mind, it's a bit of a gamble.
Could you get it quicker via, say, Amazon? Although a few sellers do offer it there (most of them for at least $50), delivery times are the same. Even on Ebay I found just one U.S.-based seller, but you'll pay nearly twice the price ($65.99).
As for the Elfie itself, Tomtop was kind enough to send me one to test, because I had serious doubts about a folding drone at this price point. Turns out, the Elfie kind of rocks.
For starters, it's adorable. It's impossibly lightweight, and when you first take it out of the box, you think, "No way can this thing fly." Then you unfold the arms and think, "Well, maybe."
Let me run down a couple of the surprisingly cool features: front- and rear-facing LEDs (white and red, respectively), a built-in 720P camera that's manually angle-adjustable, headless mode (for significantly easier flying), auto-hover (which also greatly simplifies flying) and push-button mid-air flips.
You control the Elfie via smartphone or tablet; I tested it with my iPhone, but the app is available for Android as well. I won't say it's super-intuitive at first, but once I learned all the functions, I quickly went from novice flier to expert. I should also point out that I crashed the drone several times owing to the relatively cramped quarters of my house, and it survived every impact. (Your mileage may vary, of course. JJRC does supply a spare set of propellers.)
The camera streams a live feed to the app, so although you can't adjust the angle mid-flight, at least you can determine when your shot is lined up. One tap snaps a photo or starts/stops video recording. The quality of both: meh. About what you'd expect. There's no stabilization whatsoever, so video gets jerky when there's the slightest movement. But did I mention you get a live video feed from your $38 drone? You can even split the view into 3D mode and drop your phone into a VR headset -- though you better take some Dramamine first.
Charging the battery is a pain because it requires you to actually remove the battery from the underside compartment and then connect it to a special (read: easily lost) USB cable. My advice: Hit up Amazon for a 6-pack of extra batteries and a standalone charger, which you can get for around $19.
Because the Elfie is so lightweight, it's best flown indoors -- though you can operate it outside if there's zero breeze. Any wind at all will blow the thing all over the place.
Finally, I should mention that although the product page mentions built-in GPS and a return-to-home function, I couldn't find that anywhere in the app. There's an auto-land button, but that's it. Fortunately, that feature doesn't really matter, because with the fairly limited 40-meter range, you'll want to keep the Elfie close by anyway.
Hurry up, Santa!
I think this would make a terrific gift. It's way better than last year's crop of toy 'copters, in part because it's significantly easier to fly and in part because it's so much easier to travel with. The only unknown is the turnaround time: Maybe it arrives in time for Christmas, maybe it doesn't.
If you're willing to wait it out, though, I really like this thing. Your thoughts?
Bonus deal: Game time! Dishonored was one of the top-rated games of 2012, and I daresay it holds up very well. For a limited time, Steam has Dishonored (Win) for just $3.29. Or get the Definitive Edition (with all the DLC) for $9.99, a savings of 50 percent. Parents should take note, however: The game is rated M (Mature) and definitely earns it.
Bonus deal No. 2: Gift-shopping for a Star Wars fan? Done and done: ThinkGeek has the R2D2 portable Bluetooth speaker for $19.99, and shipping is free when you apply promo code CYBER16US.
This adorable R2D2 head lights up, makes adorable R2D2 sounds, pairs with Bluetooth devices and can even do speakerphone calls. Alas, the rechargeable battery is good for only about 90 minutes. But that's easier to swallow at $20 than it was at $50!