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Best tech accessories under $25: Back to school edition

Cables. Chargers. Headphones. They're the lifeblood of your tech lifestyle, but it's easy to overpay for them. Thankfully, there are plenty of good deals out there: here are the best ones for under $25.

John Falcone
John P. Falcone is the senior director of commerce content at CNET, where he coordinates coverage of the site's buying recommendations alongside the CNET Advice team (where he previously headed the consumer electronics reviews section). He's been a CNET editor since 2003.
John Falcone
1 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

The best tech accessories you can buy for $25 or less: Back to school edition

Back-to-school budgets are already allotted to so many things -- room and board, textbooks, let alone tuition -- so every dollar counts. To that end, we've rounded up some of our favorite tech accessories available for less than $25. It's full of those everyday needs that will make your digital life easier: chargers, cables, cases, headphones, and even a bona fide gadget or two.  The list is dominated by familiar names such as Logitech, Panasonic, SanDisk, Philips, and Amazon, and includes some items for as little as $12.

2 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120

When the price gets below $10, your expectation for sound quality falls exponentially. But despite the bargain-basement cost, these Panasonic in-ear headphones sound surprisingly good. Depending on which color you opt for (it comes in a range of rainbow colors, as well as basic black), the price can be as low as $4 a pair. Buy them in bulk -- or spend around $12 to get the Ergotfit RP-TCM125, which adds an inline microphone for cellphones (but doesn't sound quite as good).

3 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

JVC Flats

You won't find a better pair of headphones for under $20 than the JVC Flats.

JVC HA-S400 Carbon Nanotubes
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JVC HA-S400 Carbon Nanotubes

If the on-ear JVC Flats are a bit too small for your taste, step up to the JVC HA-S400 "Carbon Nanotubes" over-the-ear headphones. They'll deliver more muscular sound for around $25.

5 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

Kingston DataTraveler SE9

Everyone can use a spare USB flash drive, and the Kingston DataTraveler SE9 is rugged enough to live on your keychain while storing several DVDs worth of data. The 16GB model costs only about $9, the 32GB around $13, and the 64GB model can be yours for around $25.

Buy the 32GB Kingston DataTraveler SE9 at Amazon

6 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

SanDisk Cruzer Fit

The SanDisk Cruzer Fit USB drive is almost too small -- basically a USB nub similar to the transmitter for a wireless keyboard or mouse. That said, if you're looking for a quick, easy, affordable, and low-profile way to add 16GB (under $10) or 32GB (under $19) of storage to a laptop or Windows tablet, we can't think of a better way.

Buy the 32GB SanDisk Cruzer Fit at Amazon

7 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

Lacie Petite Key USB drive

You'll pay a bit extra for the Lacie Petite Key compared to other USB drives, but it's worth it for the metal design, which is said to be waterproof to 100 meters. The 16GB model will run you about $15, the 32GB about $15 more.

Buy the 16GB LaCie PetiteKey at Amazon

8 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

SanDisk Ultra microSD card

Whether it's a camera or a smartphone, having a spare storage never hurts. SanDisk's microSD card works in micro or (with the included adapter) standard SD slots. You can snag a 32GB card for under $19.

Buy the 32GB SanDisk Ultra microSD card at Amazon

9 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

AmazonBasics HDMI cable

Whether it's a dorm TV or a full-on theater setup, rule number one is the same: Don't pay extra for name-brand HDMI cables. Rather than pay $50 or more at your local Best Buy for a so-called "premium" cable, get the AmazonBasics two-pack for just $10 -- they'll work just as well, and you'll have a spare, too.

Buy the AmazonBasics HDMI Cable two-pack

10 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

AmazonBasics iPhone 5/5S Case

There are zillions of cases available for the iPhone 5 and its newer doppelganger, the 5S. But if you want a no-nonsense protector for your Apple phone, it's tough to go wrong with the AmazonBasics model, which is available in black or transparent clear plastic (great for the white or gold models) for under $4 each.

Read more about the best iPhone 5S and iPhone 5 cases.

Buy the AmazonBasics iPhone 5/5S case

11 of 24 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Anker USB Car Charger

The road trip is a hallowed college tradition -- but it's no fun when your smartphone or tablet is out of juice. That's where the Anker USB Car Charger comes in. It can handle two gadgets at once, including a tablet. Not bad for about $12.

Buy the Anker USB Car Charger at Amazon

Anker Astro Mini External Battery
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Anker Astro Mini External Battery

If you need to juice up any smartphone (or small USB-powered device) on the go, the Anker Astro Mini is your friend. This pocketable cylinder packs a 3,000 mAh battery for topping off phones when finding an AC outlet isn't an option.

Buy the Anker Astro Mini External Battery at Amazon

EasyAcc 4-Port USB Wall Charger
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EasyAcc 4-Port USB Wall Charger

Many USB wall chargers have a secret: they don't have enough power to fully charge full-size tablets like the iPad. The EasyAcc 4-port USB Charger is an exception: 2 of the 4 ports on the 20-watt charger output up to 2.1 amps, which is perfect for charging iPads. The EasyAcc also has fold-up prongs for easy travel.

Buy the EasyAcc 4-Port USB Wall Charger at Amazon

14 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

Philips SPS2150WA travel charger

Philips' nifty SPS2150WA charger folds up to protect the 3-prong AC plug when traveling. But unfold it, and you can start juicing up three standard AC devices, plus two USB products as well. It's not a surge protector, and the USB plugs only supply 1 amp of power each (so tablets like the iPad will only trickle-charge). But at just $6, we're not complaining.

Buy the Philips SPS2150WA travel charger at Amazon.

15 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

Belkin SurgePlus USB Swivel Charger

As the name suggests, the Belkin SurgePlus USB Swivel Charger is a bona fide surge protector with a swiveling AC plug, which allows for maximum placement flexibility. The unit boasts 3 standard three-prong ports plus two USB connectors which -- unlike many smaller chargers -- have enough juice to power iPads and other 2.1-amp tablets (in addition to any of your other USB-powered gadgets). We wish the power prongs folded down for even easier traveling, but at just $20, it's still one of the best and most versatile travel chargers around.

Buy the Belkin SurgePlus USB Swivel Charger at Amazon

16 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

AmazonBasics Lightning cables

You can find plenty of knockoff Lightning cables online, but if they're not certified by Apple, there's a good chance they won't work. That's where AmazonBasics comes in. The e-tailer's cables are officially certified, but they're less expensive than Apple's, and available in a variety of sizes (4 inches, 3 feet, and 6 feet) and colors (white or black). Just note that plastic housing around the Lightning plug may be too large for some iPhone cases.

Buy the AmazonBasics Lightning Cable (4-inch).

Buy the AmazonBasics Lightning Cable (3-foot).

Buy the AmazonBasics Lightning Cable (6-foot).

17 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

Nomad ChargeKey

You always need to top off your phone's battery, but you don't want to lug a cable around with you. That's where the Nomad ChargeKey comes in: the 2.5-inch flexible USB dongle fits on your keychain, and can be used to juice up smartphones and tablets, so long as you can scrounge up a free USB port. It's available in Lightning (for iPhone, iPad) and Micro-USB versions (for nearly everything else) for just $25. (If you prefer to store it in your wallet, the credit card-sized ChargeCard is available for the same price.)

Buy the Lightning Nomad ChargeKey at Amazon.

Buy the Micro-USB Nomad ChargeKey at Amazon.

18 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

Logitech M325 wireless mouse

Sure, maybe the mouse is dead. And maybe touchpads and touch screens are the wave of the future. But if you're like me, you'll have to pry the mouse from my cold, dead hand. And that's why I like to have a go-to model like the Logitech M325. This 2-button wireless mouse runs on a single AA battery for months, features a tilting scroll wheel, works with Windows PCs and Macs, and will set you back just $18 or so. It's available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, such as the "Into the Deep" seascape shown here. (The 2014 Color Collection adds even more designs.)

Buy the Logitech M325 Mouse at Amazon

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Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360

If you're looking for a replacement PC keyboard, Logitech's Wireless Keyboard K360 is a good starting point. For under $25, you get a QWERTY powered by 2 AA batteries that uses Logitech's "Unifying" wireless USB dongle -- which also communicates with a Logitech mouse, such as the aforementioned M325. Yes, it's a laptop-style design without much "travel" in the keys, but it's a good deal and works equally well with Windows PCs or Macs.

Buy the Logitech K360 Keyboard at Amazon

20 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

Philips GoGear SoundDot

The iPod Shuffle costs $50, and still requires iTunes (yuck) and a USB charging/transfer dongle that's easy to misplace. This Philips GoGear SoundDot, on the other hand, can be yours for under $25. Just plug it in to your PC or Mac (the USB plug, which also handles charging duties, is hidden under the rotating gray clip), and drag and drop your favorite songs.

Compare prices for the Philips GoGear SoundDot

21 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

Logitech Z50 speaker

When a speaker costs just $20, you need to lower your expectations. But if you don't go in expecting audiophile-level performance from the Logitech Z50, you'll find a monaural, AC-powered speaker that does a serviceable job of amplifying your phone, music player, or PC -- anything with a 3.5mm headphone jack. It's available in grey (shown), pink, or blue.

Lepai LP-2020A+
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Lepai LP-2020A+ stereo amplifier

Who said a stereo amplifier had to be expensive? If you want a "cheap but good" stereo for the a bedroom or den, just add a pair of speakers (like the under-$50 Monoprice MBS-650s) and an audio source (your phone, your PC, a CD player, whatever) to this little digital amp -- which costs less than $20. Given the bargain-basement price, it actually sounds pretty good, too.

23 of 24 Sarah Tew/CNET

Medialink USB Bluetooth Adapter

Believe it or not, many Windows PCs still don't include Bluetooth as a standard option. Thankfully, that can be remedied by a tiny USB dongle like the Medialink USB Bluetooth Adapter. For just $15, it adds Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility to any Windows machine. We popped it into a laptop, downloaded and installed the drivers, and were streaming music to a wireless speaker a few minutes later.

Buy the Medialink USB Bluetooth Adapter at Amazon

URC WR7 Universal Remote Control
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URC WR7 Universal Remote Control

We love Logitech Harmony remotes, but the cheapest model in the line is the $50 Harmony 350. Thankfully, Universal Remote's URC WR7 delivers a great alternative at half the price. It controls up to 7 devices, is powered by standard AA batteries, and is fully backlit.

Buy the Universal Remote URC WR7 at Amazon

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