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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.

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.

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


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!


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...


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


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.