The best cheap tech at CES 2017

Not everything at the show is high-priced TVs and refrigerators. Here's a roundup of some cool new stuff for cheapskates.

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The Coolpad Conjr is a really snazzy phone for the price.

Coolpad

Well, I'm home from CES, and I've got the trade-show cold to prove it. (Society really needs to outlaw handshakes in favor of fist-bumps. Much more sanitary.) If you're picking up a whiff of misery in today's post, it's because I feel miserable.

But neither rain nor sleet nor stuffy nose, right? I promised you a roundup of cool cheap tech from the show, and cool cheap tech you shall have.

Premium phone, bargain price

CNET rounded up some 17 ultra-affordable phones from the the show, including one I got to see firsthand: the Coolpad Conjr (pronounced "conjure," as in "conjure up some pretty magical specs for a dirt-cheap price").

Among those specs: a snazzy aluminum unibody design, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, a dual-SIM slot and 3GB of RAM. The expected price, according to the rep I spoke with: $179. That's for a 5-inch screen; I should note that the Huawei Honor 6X will span 5.5 inches and offer features similar to those outlined above -- all for about $200.

It's getting tough to justify spending $400-500 (or more!) for a smartphone, don't you think?

A 3D printer for kids

A really cool 3D printer (sort of) for $60!

RedwoodVentures

Suppose your kid wants to duplicate a particular Lego brick. Sure, a 3D printer can do that -- provided you have either a 3D scanner or access to the print file for that exact brick.

The IDO3D 3D Print Shop (coming in July) is a kid-friendly replicator of sorts. It works like this: You heat up a mold in hot water, then insert a small object (Lego brick, etc.) into that mold to make a cast of it. Remove the object, then put the mold into the printer. A liquified resin squirts into the mold, and presto: a perfect copy of the object.

The demo unit I saw wasn't operational, but I did see some of the finished "prints" -- and they were pretty amazing: smooth, solid and pretty, not rough and flimsy like what you get from many a traditional 3D printer. The 3D Print Shop has an expected list price of $59.99.

Speaking of science...

circuit-scribe-mini-kit.jpg
Electroninks

I'm completely fascinated by the idea of conductive ink. Using what looks like an ordinary pen, you draw a circuit on paper, then connect various modules to that circuit. Electroninks Circuit Scribe was born on Kickstarter a couple years ago; at this year's CES, the company introduced a $9.99 Mini Kit that comes with a pen, two magnetic modules, a battery and a stencil -- everything you need to check out the tech.

Too bad the holidays are over, because this STEM-friendly -- and totally cool -- kit would make an awesome stocking-stuffer. But grab one anyway, either for yourself or a kid.

The $129 PC for students

The Endless Mission Mini will cost $129.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Back in 2015, a company called Endless hit the scene with a $169 PC designed for emerging markets.

This year, the company is about to launch two new models in the U.S.: the $249 Mission and $129 Mission Mini. The latter, shown at right, is a stylish wood-topped square that can connect to a TV or monitor (though you'll have to supply the mouse and keyboard).

These are most likely to end up in schools, but they're ideally suited to home use as well. The Linux-powered Endless OS -- already stocked with lots of learning and productivity tools -- now includes a chat-style 'bot designed to teach kids basic coding.

I saw a demo of that at the show, and it seemed pretty cool. Meanwhile, the Endless UI is very clean, very simple -- making me wonder if this might not be a good choice for senior citizens as well.

Read more about the Mission in Dan Ackerman's overview.

Big speaker company gets small

altec-lansing-baby-boom.jpg

Why is it called the Baby Boom? Who cares: It's $40!

Altec Lansing

Interesting trend at this year's CES: A lot of big-name audio companies are focusing on the lower end of the market. To wit: Altec Lansing unveiled the Baby Boom, a portable, compact, waterproof, floating Bluetooth speaker with an estimated retail price of just $39.99.

That's closer to what I'd expect to pay for a speaker from a no-name company with a lot of questionable Amazon reviews. And I saw a lot of other sub-$50 speakers from major brands as well, so this should be an interesting year for low-cost audio.

The Baby Boom is due sometime between Q2 and Q3 of this year. It comes with a caribiner for easy clipping to your bag or belt and can run for six hours on a charge.

Okay, cheeps, back to bed for me. I'll see you back here tomorrow with my usual deal goodness.

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