From the Cheapskate: As we round the corner into 2016, let's take a look back at some of the best deals of 2015 -- including many you can still get!
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
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I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for "Best of" lists. Best movies of the year, best books, best TV shows ("Master of None" and "Mr. Robot," in case you're wondering) -- I eat that stuff up.
Meanwhile, I've been looking back at some of my favorite deals of the past year, so it only made sense to compile a list of my own. Here, then, in no particular order, are the best tech deals of 2015. See if you agree with my picks, then hit the comments to nominate your own.
Best cheap cell service
Before 2015 I'd never heard of RingPlus, but, wow, did this newcomer make a splash. Just last month, the carrier offered new subscribers a totally free plan including 1,500 voice minutes, 1,500 text messages and 1.5GB of data per month. There were a few catches, sure, but nothing major.
That deal has since expired, but you can still hop on RingPlus' Michelangelo plan and get 1,000 minutes, 1,000 messages and 500MB of data -- again, totally free. You can either bring your own Sprint phone or buy one from RingPlus; either way, this is the cell service deal to beat.
Best cheap mobile charger
Regular Cheapskate readers know by now that mobile chargers come in all shapes and sizes, and that I strongly prefer those that have built-in microSD and/or Lightning cables.
But I'm also a sucker for aesthetics, which is why I continue to harbor deep love for the Solove Roco and Titan. These 10,000mAh and 20,000mAh chargers are as slim and sexy as they come, and at $32.99 and $42.99, they're reasonably priced -- though I've shared deals on both that put them under $30. You can find chargers for even less, but they won't look anywhere near this cool.
Best cheap smartphone accessory
To see the Ninja Loop is to scoff. To use the Ninja Loop is to wonder where this accessory has been hiding all your life. This simple strap, which installs inside and around just about any smartphone case, simplifies one-handed operation and lowers your chance of dropping your phone.
Even better, November's deal is still in effect: If you buy one Ninja Loop (at the newly lowered price of $4.99), you'll get one free. Simple, smart, effective and cheap -- what's not to like?
Best cheap tablet
No-brainer, right? The best cheap tablet must be Amazon's $50 Fire. No doubt about it, that's an amazing deal, and definitely one of my favorites of 2015. But it's not at the top of my list.
That spot goes to the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 8, a tablet that offers more than just a bargain price ($159.99); it offers innovation as well. Among the highlights: amazing battery life, a built-in kickstand, a rotating 8-megapixel camera, front-facing speakers and Lenovo's really cool AnyPen technology. Read my earlier take or CNET's full review if you want to learn more.
Best cheap laptop
Can a $150 laptop possibly be any good? That was the question I hoped to answer in November when Lenovo quietly unveiled its IdeaPad 100s, an 11.6-inch Windows 10 laptop that would be sold exclusively at Best Buy for $149.99. Read CNET's review of the IdeaPad 100s here.
Alas, that introductory promo has ended; the 100s now goes for $199.99 (though it briefly dipped back to $169.99 last week, so keep an eye out for future sales). But that price still gets you a surprisingly nice laptop: slim design, gorgeous candy-red shell, solid frame and keyboard, even a 1-year Office 365 Personal subscription. It's a bit slow, yes, and the USB 2.0 ports and limited touchpad (no two-finger scrolling? Seriously?) are maddening. But it's still an amazing buy, especially if Best Buy ever repeats the $150 deal. (Note: Don't like Windows? There's a Chromebook version available from Adorama for $164.99.)
Best cheap smartwatch
The new Pebble Time? Ugh, I was so excited and then so disappointed. (Forget the high-ish price and ugly design; dang thing just won't stay paired with my iPhone.)
It delivers exactly what I want from a smartwatch: long battery life (at least a week) and reliable notifications. Sure, the ticker-tape screen is tiny and the watch itself is a little bland, but for $40, it's an easy decision.
Best cheap VR headset
What is a VR headset except a couple of special lenses and a molded case to hold your smartphone? Turns out you don't need to settle for a cheapie cardboard version, nor spend upward of $100 for a plastic one.
I touched on this yesterday, but the most fun I had in 2015 was riding a hoverboard. Yes, they don't really hover. Yes, a handful have caught fire. Yes, accident-prone people may hurt themselves. But remember: smartphone and laptop batteries occasionally burst into flames as well, and back when Rollerblades were new, ERs were similarly full of people with busted wrists. Just saying.
Battery problems will decline, prices will drop even further and hoverboards will be everywhere in 2016. I know, that's more of a prediction. In the meantime, Monoprice continues to offer a black hoverboard with a Samsung battery for $289.99 shipped -- far less than most of the models still available on Amazon cost.