Between the ever-escalating features arms race in annually updated premium gadgets and tariffs, many of the daily gadgets we know and love are getting more expensive.
The good news is there are always excellent alternatives for premium Samsung smartphones and sleek Apple Airpods–and at a fraction of the price.
Some of these bang-for-your-buck versions of smart speakers, smartphones, headphones, and more may not always have the name-brand recognition of their iconic inspirations, but they more than make up for it in features and quality for the price.
What constitutes a bargain depends on what you need from your device and how important every last state-of-the-art feature is to you.
Here are five everyday gadgets under $100 that deliver stellar features and quality for the price. Of course, there is often a trade-off of some kind—more generic materials, slower performance, or lackluster design—but in some cases the budget option is arguably better (again, depending on what’s important to you).
That said, sometimes spending a little more than $100 can get you exponentially better bang for your buck, so we’ve indicated some slightly pricier bargains for each of the devices below. In every case, however, you’ll be getting more than what you pay for.
1. The smart speaker
The basics: Like all other Amazon Alexa-compatible speakers, the Amazon Echo lets you use your voice to do everything from request your day’s appointments and the latest weather to remotely turn on lights around the house and make phone calls. (There are more than 60,000 Alexa “skills, the various “Alexa”-prefaced requests you can make with different services and apps.) It also plays music, either via your favorite streaming app or Bluetooth.
Why it offers bang for the buck: With a few exceptions, the standard Echo does nearly everything the Echo Plus and other premium smart speakers do.
That means you can stream music, make free audio calls, and control any of your home’s WiFi-enabled smart gadgets—light bulbs, power outlets, doorbells, TVs, and anything else with a “works with Alexa” badge on the box– via voice (you’ll just need to set them up in your Alexa app first).
You can pair it with another Echo speaker for stereo sound, as well as the Echo Sub for deeper bass. The bassline Echo also comes in four fabric or faux wood finishes.
What’s the catch? The speaker’s smaller tweeter and woofer means the audio is slightly less expansive and crisp than on the Plus, but both models include Dolby processing, which automatically optimizes for different types of content (music, movies, phone calls, etc).
Also missing: The Echo Plus’s built-in smart home hub, which works with most smart home gadgets, even if they don’t have built-in WiFi. This doesn’t mean you can’t control your smart home gadgets with the basic Echo, however; it just means you’ll need a dedicated smart home hub for any gadgets that don’t have built-in WiFi.
For a few dollars more: The lighter and shorter Amazon Echo Plus. Better sound aside, the built-in smart home hub gives you more options for managing your ever expanding connected home .
2. The smart TV streamer
Roku Premiere+ ($49)
Get this instead of: Apple TV 4K ($179)
The basics: About the size of a pack of gum, the Roku Premiere+ is an all-in-one dongle that plugs directly into the HDMI port of your TV—no need to get pricey, latest-generation HDMI cables here.
It provides up to 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD)-quality streaming content from more than 3,000 different providers, including HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Sling TV, Google Play, and more. The included voice-enabled remote doubles as a controller for your TV’s volume and power.
Why it offers bang for the buck: The least expensive Apple TV is $149, and it only does HD. The entry level Apple TV 4K, which can play UHD content on your new 4K-compatible TV, starts out at $179.
The Roku Premiere+ is less than half the price and offers significantly more streaming options, including many channels such as Google Play that Apple TV doesn’t have.
What’s the catch? The one big exception to the Roku’s plentiful content offerings is any iTunes content, as well as access to your iCloud photo library. That omission is going to be true of any device that isn’t Apple TV, however, though the recently launched Apple TV app for iOS will eventually make it to Android devices and Web browsers.
There’s a quick workaround for iTunes content, though: You can use a Lightning Digital AV adapter ($49) to connect your iPhone or iPad via HDMI to your TV. This mirrors whatever is on your device on the bigger TV screen, though only up to 1080p HD.
If you have a newer MacBook or iPad Pro, however, you can use a USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter ($69) to mirror higher resolution 4K content onto any 4K-compatible TV.
For a few dollars more: The Roku Ultra ($80) has more onboard storage for any content downloads, audio inputs for plugging in headphones or sound systems, and Ethernet capability (in case you prefer the faster and generally more stable wired Internet connections).
3. The truly wireless earbuds
What they replace: Apple Airpods ($160-$200)
The basics: These truly wireless earbuds—the current category term for earbuds that have zero cables—connect to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop via Bluetooth.
The design is similar to Apple’s Airpods, with cylindrical stick-like extenders that house the microphones for phone calls and Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri voice commands.
The Liberty Air also comes with a mini charger case that not only offers protection and portable storage, but replenishes the ‘buds up to three times before needing to be plugged into an AC power outlet again.
Why they offer bang for your buck: For about half the price of the Airpods, the Liberty Air earbuds offer better sound and similar battery life for continuous musical playback (about 4-5 hours in our experience), with a little less for phone calls.
There’s a reason for the better audio. The Airpods rest in your outer ear and don’t have any silicone eartips, providing more awareness of outside world, but sacrificing punchy bass and a more intimate soundstage.
By contrast, the Liberty Air’s swappable silicone eartips provide a natural seal that isolates your ear canal from outside noise. As a result, the Liberty Air earbuds are better for workouts and plane rides than the Airpods.
Like the Airpods, the sides of the Liberty Air’s earpieces are touch-sensitive, enabling you to take calls, adjust volume, and navigate tracks with different combinations of taps and swipes.
What’s the catch? The Liberty Air won’t do wireless charging, as on the newest top-of-the-line Airpods. Unlike the Liberty Air, the newest Airpods also have a W1 chip inside, which enables lower power consumption and quick Bluetooth pairing on the latest iPhones and iPads. That’s a non-issue if you have an Android phone, not a single model of which has a W1 chip, either.
The Liberty Air still pair and play via Bluetooth on iPhones, just not using the W1 version of Bluetooth. If you want less noise isolation, just swap in smaller eartips, which allow for more awareness of the outside world.
Compared to the Airpods’s sleek and shapely white design, the Liberty Air’s generic shiny black plastic build give the ‘buds a ho-hum appearance.
For a few dollars more: In white, the Mobvoi TicPods ($129, but often discounted) look exactly like the Airpods from a distance, but they have an arguably more distinctive, oval-shaped charging case. Audio quality is a slight step up from the Liberty Air, with fuller and more detailed mid- and high-range, and a nuanced bass that doesn’t overwhelm, offering better balance overall.
One caveat: The TicPods only come with two sizes of swappable silicone eartips, so anyone who finds the fit a bit loose can order “L”-size replacement tips—for as little as $5 or less; justmake sure they’re compatible with the 3.8mm inner nozzle size of the TicPods.
The TicPods list for $129, but Mobvoi’s site often posts discounts of $30 or more when you click through to the order page.
4. The smart watch
Get this instead of: Apple Watch Series 4 ($400)
The basics: With its square shape and choice of four lively colors, the Amazfit Bip looks just like its pricier iconic rival and works with both Android and iPhones. Sync it up to the Mi FIt app and it’ll deliver notifications for weather, emails, social media, and phone calls, but is also resistant to scratches and cracks thanks to being made of Corning’s super durable Gorilla Glass.
Its always-on or raise-to-wake touchscreen not only shows the time, weather, date, and activity stats.
It’s also a solid fitness tracker that monitors your steps, runs, cycling, heart rate, and even sleep—all of which you can view and manage via the Mi Fit app.
Why it’s bang for your buck: The Amazfit Bip is one of few sub-$100 smart watches or fitness trackers with built-in GPS. This not only makes for more accurate and detailed distance and speed tracking while you’re running, but also gives you the option of leaving your phone at home since most other fitness trackers in this price range make use of your phone’s GPS via Bluetooth.
Also unusual in this price range: a built-in optical infrared heart rate monitor that can track your BPM 24/7, whether you’re exercising or not (the Mi Fit app lets you schedule regular heart rate checks, which is convenient for the long view).
Its battery life is a highlight—about 45 days before needing a recharge—though it’ll be a little less if you keep the GPS mode on all the time.
What’s the catch? While it looks like an Apple Watch from a distance, the Bip is mainly a fitness tracker with a bigger screen. It does a great job of tracking the various aforementioned activities, but only via the Mi Fit app, which is also required to sync up notifications with your other smartphone apps.
In other words, you’ll get notifications for phone calls, email, and other mobile apps, but you can’t respond from the phone or have a conversation (as you can with the Apple Watch).
It also won’t play music from your phone (or any tracks that are saved on the watch). Even so, if you’re looking for a basic activity tracker that offers an easy-to-read watch face for seeing the time or notifications—or just something that looks like an Apple Watch—this is a solid pick.
For a few dollars more: Assuming you have an iPhone, the Apple Watch Series 3 ($279) is a full-fledged smart watch with everything from music and phone call capability to health and fitness tracking, not to mention direct compatibility with various iOS apps.
The third-generation watch is a little bulkier with less battery life than the fourth-generation model, but for $130 less, it’s not a big compromise.
The main differences are the lack of a built-in FDA-approved EKG feature that also tracks for Artrial Fibrillation (AFib) and other heart-rate irregularities, as well as fall detection, which automatically notifies emergency services with a user’s location if they haven’t gotten up, moved, or responded in more than a minute.
Watch for frequent discounts on the Series 3 watches, which can knock the price down to as little as $200.
5. The smartphone
Rokit IO Light ($89)
Get this instead of: Most other Android smartphones
What it is: TheRokit IO Light is full-fledged Android smartphone with a 5.0 touchscreen display, front and rear cameras, 8GB of built-in memory and an expandable SD card slot.
Launched earlier this year as part of Rokit Mobile, a new low-priced mobile phone maker from the founders of Paul Mitchell and Patron Tequila, the Rokit IO Light is unlocked, which means it’ll run on any GSM-based wireless carrier, including AT+T and T-Mobile in the US.
What’s more (and unique) is that Rokit Mobile offers a coterie of bundled extra healthcare, travel, and calling services, some included for free.
Why it offers bang for your buck: While this isn’t the only sub-$100 Android phone on the market these days, the Rokit IO Light is unlocked, which means you aren’t restricted to one specific carrier, even outside of the US (where GSM is prevalent).
It’s also one of the few sub-$100 smartphones that offers dual SIMs, which means it can work with two different numbers simultaneously, a handy feature if you want to use the same phone while traveling or spending winters outside of the US.
Like all the bang for your buck phones in the Rokit Mobile lineup, it also comes with some intriguing free bundled extras, including 12 months of ROK Health, which provides up-to-75% pharmacy discounts and a family telemedicine service with 24/7 access to an online doctor via voice- or videochat for minor ailments. (You can upgrade to the ROK Life bundle, which adds additional services such as roadside assistance, ID theft protection, burial/cremation, family legal, and accidental death insurance).
Another bonus: 12 months of unlimited domestic and international phone calls over WiFi via the ROK Talk app.
What’s the catch? The Rokit IO Light only works on up to 3G networks, so you may see slow-downs on some web surfing or downloading, but many of the most popular apps such as Netflix or Spotify are designed to automatically adapt to slower networks.
The 5MP front-facing camera won’t rival your nice Canon DSLR, either, especially in low light situations or while moving.
The phone runs Android Oreo 8.1 (GO Edition), which is a streamlined version of Android designed to run quickly and smoothly on budget phones.
With the exception of some newer features such as the ability to control smart devices via your phone on Google Assistant, Android GO runs just like regular Android thanks to its built-in budget phone optimization.
If your smartphone needs are mostly focused on emailing, web surfing, texting, talking, browsing social media, streaming music, and watching TV while at home, this phone does the trick.
For a few dollars more: If you don’t care about the bundled services or are a Verizon or Sprint user, try Motorola Moto e5 Play ($129), which is available in different versions for different carriers, runs the regular version of Android Oreo 8.1, and can handle 4G LTE networks.
It’s also water-resistant and has a longer battery life (up to 24 hours on a single charge). While it lists for $129, the e5 Play is often discounted, especially if you sign up with a specific carrier.
All that said, the most extreme bang-for-your-buck is offered by the Google Pixel 3a ($399), which is very close to the state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line Google Pixel 3 ($599), but at a third of the price.
With the exception of a plastic polycarbonate body versus an aluminum one, a slightly slower processor, and no wireless charging capability, the Pixel 3a offers most of the same stellar specs of Google’s flagship model, including an high-resolution OLED screen, superlative camera quality with excellent image stabilization and the best-in-class “Night Sight” mode for low-light situations.
It’s an almost-no-compromise budget option.