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About five years ago, I predicted that in about five years, everyone would own a 3D printer.
Whoops. Quite the opposite: They really haven't caught on, except among hobbyists. And I can understand it, because the hardware can be expensive and there's no clear-cut practical value.
Still, there's no denying the cool factor of turning a spool of filament into a three-dimensional cryptex, Yoda head, Google Home wall mount or countless other objects.
And now, for a limited time, you can dip your toe into the 3D waters for cheap: Monoprice (via eBay) has the new MP i3 3D Printer for $149.99 shipped. I've seen models come close to this price, but never this low.
The MP i3 is definitely an entry-level 3D printer, albeit one created by a company with considerable expertise in the category. (Monoprice's higher-end models routinely score high ratings from users and reviewers alike.)
It comes fully assembled and ready to print, with a microSD card already stocked with sample items. Once you've cranked out a few of those, you can connect the printer to your PC (via USB) and move onto the millions of other 3D printables. While you're at it, learn.
The i3 supports "open" filament spools (meaning you can use just about any PLA from any source), so you're free to stock up on the cheapest ones you can find.
This is a pretty compact model, with a 120 by 135 by 100mm maximum print area. Probably the only the real ding here is that the print bed isn't heated, so you may have to do a little scraping to release your object. Monoprice actually supplies a scraper for just that purpose.
I haven't tried this one myself, and reviews haven't really cropped up yet -- again, this is a very new model -- but one guy just posted a first-impressions video on YouTube, so check that out if you want some insight.
Is it worth spending a little more on a model with a heated print bed and support for Wi-Fi? Perhaps. Monoprice's own Mini 3D Printer V2 offers those features and sells for $220.
But if you really want to get started with 3D printing for the smallest possible investment, here's your chance.
Bonus deal: If your desk is anything like mine, it has not enough outlets. Not anywhere near enough. Sure, I've got a couple six-outlet power strips lying around, but they don't offer surge protection. Even worse, a single big plug might block two of the outlets. Oh, and how about some USB ports for charging my mobile gear?
Bam: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Yuyuanfeng (via Amazon) has the Witeem Surge Protector Power Strip for $17.99. That's after applying promo code WCD65XTR at checkout. Regular price: $23.99.
This 10-outlet (!) strip has two outlets with ample room on either side -- great for the wall-warts we still can't seem to escape. It also has four 2.4-amp smart USB ports and mounting holes if you want to affix it to your wall or desk.
Witeem backs the strip with a 13-month warranty. Some 300 buyers collectively rated it 4.3 stars, and both Fakespot and ReviewMeta gave those ratings passing grades.
Bonus deal No. 2: Need to edit video? Normally I'd steer you to the likes of CyberLink's PowerDirector, which is quite good, but there are other options.
Like this one: Humble Bundle is offering Vegas Pro 14 Edit for $20 -- as part of a much larger bundle of creativity-minded goodies. For example, you also get vector-based graphic-design tool Xara Photo & Graphic Designer and Soundpool: Blockbuster, a collection of over 700 sound samples for use in your movies.
Vegas Pro 14 Edit is one iteration behind the current version, and the first release since Magix acquired the software from Sony. But it still supports modern formats like 4K and HEVC -- and as recently as 2017, it was selling for the list price of $399.
If you need even more incentive, a portion of your payment will support St Jude's Hospital and the Whale and Dolphin Foundation. Win-win!