While most of us wouldn’t say no to a $6,000 Apple Mac Pro or a $1,100 electric bike, sometimes it’s just as much fun to be gifted a low-cost gadget that is just fun or useful. It may not let you edit your latest video or take you to the store, but it will help your computing be easier, keep your tech clean, cook a healthy meal, or just make you smile.
We asked some of the staff at The Verge to tell us about stuff they like that costs less than $50. We’ve divided their responses into two categories: tech gadgets and household items. Take a look.
8BitDo M30 wireless controller
8BitDo makes a lot of wireless gamepads. There are wireless NES pads, wireless Super Nintendo pads, even a wireless TurboGrafx pad. They come in Bluetooth varieties — great for pairing with your phone or computer, but with some inevitable latency — and a speedier 2.4GHz option if latency trumps flexibility in your book. But out of all these possible flavor combos, my favorite 8BitDo controller is the Sega Genesis-themed M30, which uses Bluetooth. I use it on my laptop for 2D platformers, I use it on my Android phone, and on the Analogue Mega SG it was sold alongside. But the place I use it the most is my MiSTer FPGA console. Cycling through games from the Atari up to the Neo Geo, there’s very little the M30 isn’t beautifully suited for. And at $30, it’s a no-brainer for any retro gaming fan. —Christopher Grant, SVP, The Verge and Polygon
Panasonic ErgoFit earbuds
These are my favorite ultra-cheap wired headphones. If you just need some headphones to listen to music off your computer or take Zoom calls, they’ll do the job just fine. Sure, they aren’t the greatest-sounding headphones in the world — but they’re $15 as I write this, and they sound good enough at that price. And because they’re so cheap, if I lose them, it’s not a huge bite out of my wallet to replace them. —Jay Peters, news writer
ProOptic Complete Optics Care and Cleaning Kit
At the beginning of the pandemic, I treated myself to an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II mirrorless camera, and included with the purchase was the ProOptic Cleaning Kit. It was a freebie I was certain I’d just toss in the trash or set out on my stoop for someone to take. But this $20 kit has come in handy many times for reasons related to photoshoots — as expected — and also for other things. The pieces inside are great when used for cleaning glasses, and I’ve found it to come in particularly handy when I’m installing a new glass screen protector on my phone and Nintendo Switch. It comes with a squeezable dust blaster and other gadgets that make it easy to clean a screen and wipe away various particulates. —Cameron Faulkner, writer
RavPower FileHub Wireless Travel Router
Are you a photographer who likes to hike and take lots of pictures that you want to back up from your phone to your own local media but you don’t want to take your laptop with you? Have you heard of the Gnarbox SSDs, but you don’t want to spend $500 or more on one? Well, this might be perfect for you. RavPower’s FileHub is a single click backup option, without the built-in SSD.
FileHub connects to your phone (or laptop) via Wi-Fi and, using a proprietary app, works as a file management system between that and a hard drive or SSD, transferring your data from one to the other. This device also has an Ethernet port, which means you can turn it into a Wi-Fi hotspot. It’s perfect for those hotel Wi-Fi spots that are limited to only one device. Double bonus: it can also double as an external battery (although I’d save battery life for other tasks).
There are some downsides: the app isn’t anything pretty to look at, but it still does the job relatively well — and by “relatively well,” I mean the transfers take a very long time. I’d never use this as my primary backup device, but it’s a good option to have for redundancy’s sake. (Note: the FileHub N300 is the one described here; the current version is the FileHub AC750.) —Vjeran Pavic, senior director, video
Anker PowerWave Stand
I owned a phone that supported wireless charging for years before I bothered to actually buy a wireless charger, and I’m glad that I did. While I still charge my phone overnight by default, it’s great being able to quickly pop it onto an Anker charging stand while I’m sitting at my desk to keep it topped up with power throughout the day — plus, it just looks neat and tidy. If your phone already supports wireless charging, then this is a cheap and simple way to get more functionality out of it. —Jon Porter, reporter
Anker’s PowerWave stand is a 2-in-1 wireless charger that can juice your iPhone and Apple Watch simultaneously. The double charger comes in either white or black, and can charge your iPhone or any other Qi-compatible smartphone. It’s available at Amazon for $19 with promo code AK259521.
Uni 10-foot USB-C cable
USB-C charging is great. Relaxing on a couch while working is also great. But not all my plugs are in reach. This 10-foot-long USB-C cable is the answer. It’s long enough to reach across most rooms with ease, with a durable braided construction and support for up to 100W USB-C PD fast charging. —Chaim Gartenberg, news editor
Household and just for fun
Proctor Silex Rice Cooker
Can you cook rice on a stovetop? Of course. But why would you? A rice cooker frees up your stove’s burners and makes the whole process basically automatic, so you can concentrate on the rest of your meal. If you’re a connoisseur, you can spend hundreds of dollars on a big cooker with specialized settings. If you just want decent rice made quickly, though, my cheap Proctor Silex has stood up to years of frequent use with very little hassle. —Adi Robertson, senior reporter
I like a nice bowl of cereal every now and then, but I always hate it when my cereal gets soggy. Since I work from home and have a lot of expensive stuff on my desk, I have this rational fear that I will clumsily spill the entire bowl on my desk. The Crunch Cup allows me to get the crunchiness in every bite of my cereal and also maintain less mess on my desk. Is it an over-glorified sippy cup? Yes, but it is super convenient and it makes multitasking much easier for me. —Taylor Lyles, writer
Holga 12N Plastic Camera
This low-tech classic camera has made some of my favorite photographing memories. It’s all plastic and has a fixed setting of 60mm f/8 using medium-format 120 film. The Holga has a cult following because of its price and the charm in the imperfections it creates. There is an artistry to taping the camera in different ways to block light leaks and other quirks, and the occasional softness from bowing film or the vignetting look is where Instagram got the look for its filters. —Amelia Holowaty Krales, staff photographer
Chipolo Ocean Edition tracker
I’ve got a house that is full of stuff — gadgets, books, keepsakes, pens, old Fresh Direct bags, you name it — and as a result, I am forever losing my keys, my reading glasses, and my phone amid the chaos. So a product like the Chipolo Ocean Edition tracker is perfect for somebody like me. It’s not the most well-known tracker on the market — that honor goes to Tile — but this one has the added ethical attraction of being made from recycled fishing nets (and it’s a really nice blue color as well). At $29, it’s about $5 more than the most basic Tile (and $5 more than the equally basic Chipolo One tracker), but I’m willing to fork out the extra five-spot to feel better about the purchase. —Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor
Update February 8th, 2021, 9:37AM ET: This article was originally published on November 6th, 2020. The prices have been updated.