What should I get with $600 earmarked for technology?
November 13, 2012 11:12 AM   Subscribe

You have $600 to spend on 'technology' and if you don't spend it by Christmas, it will go away. What do you buy?

I have been collaborating with the boyfriend this year on a long-time tradition of his: the holiday tech jar. He started this with his uncle when he was a kid and it is tradition. All year long, you drop all your loose coins in the jar, then you go on a Christmas tech spree and buy whatever gadgets you want. The rule is, though, that you MUST spend it all---I suggested we moderate ourselves and put some in the vacation fund, and I was told that this is found money and it must according to tradition be spent on technology and if I don't spend it all, he'll take what's left and start buying video games :)

So...what to buy with my $600? So far, this is my plan:

- Use $100 to get out of my current cell phone plan and onto an iPhone
- Debating between an iPad Mini and a Nintendo 3DS
- Not sure beyond that

The iPad Mini is definitely more a want than a need. I have a full-dize iPad I use for work. For personal use, I prefer the form (and weight) of the Mini but I do have a full-size one already. I am thinking I could get the Mini for non-work use and then just stop upgrading the big one. If I want to stay on the upgrade train, the Mini will be the cheaper device to maintain.

I also have a Nintendo DSi that is perfectly fine, but since many of the new games are coming out for the 3DS I thought it might be worth the upgrade so I can continue to get new games.

So, is there any brilliant idea I have not thought of? I don't need a new computer (perhaps with next year's jar money) and I am not sure if there is anything smarter/better than the Mini or DS I could get.

I'd like to spend the money on something like a vacation, but we do have savings for that and I have been told that this is not what the jar is for. He is very attached to this tradition and if I want a share of it, I have to play by the rules :)

The iPhone is a for sure. Everything else is up in the air. So...$600 to spend on tech, and you must spend it all. What should I get?
posted by JoannaC to Technology (53 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Does this "technology" have to be computing-related? Meaning, could you get a kitchen appliance?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:15 AM on November 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Nice camera lens, ebook reader, Roku.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2012

Have you considered a Playstation Vita?
posted by griphus at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2012

Would apps for the iPhone and/or iPad count as technology?
If so, would an iTunes gift card to be used for apps also be ok?

How about a Nest thermostat?

If you aren't totally tied to the Apple ecosystem, perhaps a Nexus 7 as your new 7" form factor tablet?
posted by trivia genius at 11:18 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I personally would get a really nice digital SLR camera. That alone would be $500 (or more) and the pictures you take will be amazing for years to come - better memories. The Canon Rebel series is very popular. Could also be the start of a new hobby.

Getting stupid toys like an iPad Mini or a Nintendo handheld seems pretty wasteful. Could also consider getting something fun, but creative, like a Alesis Micron synthesizer! You really don't need to know how to play piano to make cool, fun little tunes. (That synth might be unavailable, but you could get a Moog or something... Try google!)
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2012

You can never go wrong by buying the largest external hard drive you can find. I think I saw 3tb for $150 recently.
posted by Garm at 11:22 AM on November 13, 2012 [9 favorites]

trivia genius: How about a Nest thermostat?

I would totally get a Nest and a Lockitron.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:23 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

PS3 (if I didn't have one already) for Netflix and games.
3DS seems like a logical upgrade for youe, it should be pretty cheap around Black Friday.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2012

The items on your list sound like they add up pretty close to $600 already. The iPad Mini is $330 and the 3DS is $170. With the $100 to get out of your current phone plan, you're already at your $600 limit.

I think that's a pretty good plan. My own plan would be fairly similar: get a tablet (probably a Nexus 7), upgrade my cell phone, and then maybe some new video games.
posted by asnider at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2012

Do you live in an area that gets snow? If so, a remote car starter?
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I bought a Vortexbox 1Tb music server (~$500), ripped all my CDs onto it, and now stream music all around the house using a combination of wired speakers and Logitech Squeezebox wireless radios. Total system is over your budget, but it turns out a music server is a really nice thing to have.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Wii U is coming out soon. If I had hundreds of dollars to spend on tech, I'd look into picking one up with a bunch of games and accessories.
posted by Diskeater at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2012

If I was forced to spend $600 I'd buy a Vitamix blender. It's a machine!

Or does an iTunes (or Amazon digital store, or something similar) count? Then could use that throughout the entire following year.
posted by something something at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think it will cost more than $100 to upgrade to an iPhone, so double check that one! Also, you'll probably want a car charger, case, other accessories.

I bought myself a Kindle this week after I realized how many books I can read for free with my Prime membership.

I bought a universal remote this year and I love it. Before I had a remotes all over the coffee table, now I just need one.

I just got paranoid about backing up my files and bought 1) a Crashplan membership and 2) a 1TB external drive. This one is less fun but very practical.

I also just upgraded to the fastest internet speed plan offered by my provider, which was totally worth it for me.

I love looking at The Wirecutter to read about tech recommendations.
posted by dottiechang at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a $200 gift card that I used on a Google Nexus 7.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2012

You have a look at ordering a Pebble Watch even though it won't turn up before Xmas. Then you go to T3's top 100 list of gadgets and have a good look around. You consider some B&W P3 headphones and ignore the more expensive but still lovely Parrot Ziks. You wonder if the Parrot AR Drone could fill a hole in your life, write off the Lytro Light Field camera because even though it is cool you're not really sure how you could use it.

The sensible you cuts in and the Nest and a food mixer. The Cooking Chef is out of your price bracket, unfortunately, but you look at Kitchen Aid.

Then you toss a coin and pick one.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:30 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it were for work, I'd say the biggest monitor you can afford for your computer. It is so much more efficient to be able to have several windows open side-by-side. But I think perhaps you have more fun options. :)
posted by BrashTech at 11:31 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Wii U is coming out soon. If I had hundreds of dollars to spend on tech, I'd look into picking one up with a bunch of games and accessories.

I would suggest against this. I've been following the Wii U drop and it really, really sounds like a console you want to let mature. There are basically no killer-app-grade titles coming out with the launch. Not that the Wii U isn't going to be worth it eventually, but I think you can get something with more use at the moment and then get the Wii U once it actually has a developed library.
posted by griphus at 11:31 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would also recommend a new camera. Doesn't necessarily have to be an SLR. Micro 4/3 cameras are popular and work great. Newer cameras also do high quality video.

Failing that, do you have an AppleTV and or DVR? I use my AppleTV and HTPC constantly (though the HTPC is more fiddly than the AppleTV.)

My 7" tablet has made my smartphone obsolete (except when I'm out and about), so I can see the logic, but having both an 8" and a 10" tablet seems unnecessary.
posted by cnc at 11:31 AM on November 13, 2012

I got a Sound Kick portable speaker recently and it's awesome. Connects via bluetooth with any of my other music-playing gadgets, sounds great, smaller than other portable speakers I've used with similar audio quality and loudness, etc.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:32 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you use it to upgrade or do maintenance on pre-existing tech? I don't know what your situation is, but my 3-ish year old macbook could really use more memory and a new battery. That'll probably cost a few hundred right there.

Maybe some software that would be really useful, like actually paying to buy Adobe Creative Suite or the newest version of Microsoft Office?

Would a year of Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc. count? If he can use it for video games, can you use it for movies, TV shows, and eBooks?
posted by Sara C. at 11:33 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Black and white Kindle
Roku/Boxee/some kind of streaming device. Or PS3 which has great streaming and also games
Netflix/Hulu Plus subscription
Nexus 7 (if you've already got the iPad, you might find it nice to have access to Android stuff too)
NAS with a huge hard drive or two

Of course if I had $600 I'd probably just blow it on a whole pile of terrible movies on DVD.
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:35 AM on November 13, 2012

Honestly, your existing plan sounds near perfect for your usage case. Heck, all three items are even the type that would plausibly bring you added enjoyment on your presumed future vacation if brought along. And the fact that you can back up your wanting those items with at least minor future benefits makes it pretty likely you wouldn't regret following those choices.

AppleTurnover and I must be on similar wavelengths, because the two things I immediately thought of if I were doing this myself were a Digital SLR and an Ableton Push (though the latter won't be out until the new year, and as such would probably be undoable).
posted by Pufferish at 11:38 AM on November 13, 2012

Also, the CES in Vegas is in January - would putting the $600 towards the trip there count as being spent on technology?
posted by Calloused_Foot at 11:39 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd get a tablet, new phone, phone dock/speakers, new wii, video games, a ton of ebooks. Ok, that's way more than $600.
posted by murfed13 at 11:40 AM on November 13, 2012

I would buy this camera.
posted by spanishbombs at 11:41 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it's gonna cost you more than $100 for the iphone upgrade (barring some sort of deal you have going) but I highly suggest an Apple TV. I kind of bought one on a whim, and despite the fact that I really don't watch much TV, I've used it a ton. The ability to just send a youtube video to your television from your phone or ipad is a fun party trick for sure, not to mention it now has huluplus.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 11:41 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are a whole bunch of people with 3DS sales lined up for Black Friday - I know one of them is pushing a discount price and a free copy of Mario Bros. 3D or whatever it's called, which seems like a pretty great deal. If you like playing games on your DS and want to keep getting new ones on a similar platform it's a natural step.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:45 AM on November 13, 2012

posted by asphericalcow at 11:46 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd probably get an iPad mini + an Apple TV + one or more iTunes gift cards to make up the diff. The combination there would prove quite flexible and versatile for one or more people at a time.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:53 AM on November 13, 2012

For me, no question at all: GoPro Hero 3 Black. Too cool for mere words.
posted by trinity8-director at 11:54 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, does a SodaStream count as tech? Because damn.
posted by griphus at 11:54 AM on November 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

Would your boyfriend approve of buying a $600 Newegg.com gift certificate or something like that instead, and saving it for next year? Because most of the things I'd recommend cost more than $600.
posted by Vorteks at 11:58 AM on November 13, 2012

Pay forward the next year of your internet. If your bill comes to more than $50 per month, adjust down accordingly.
posted by schade at 11:58 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'd put it towards a really great sound system for my tv. If you can manage surround sound, maybe a subwoofer... freg. Your movie watching life will be forever changed.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:09 PM on November 13, 2012

Wow, great suggestions. The boyfriend has. nexus 7 already and I have a black and white Kindle. We are a gadget house :-)

I can get a 4S iPhone for free with a contract here, so that is my plan. I have to pay $100 balance on my Blackberry since I had it less than 3 years. It would cost more to break the contract than it would cost to buy an I unlocked phone.

What about those cases you can use with an iPhone that make it feel like a camera? Has anyone tried those? Or what about those iCade things that make it like a joystick?
posted by JoannaC at 12:22 PM on November 13, 2012

The Xbox/PS3/Wii can double as DVD players and Hulu/Netflix devices.

Similarly, would a subscription to Hulu Plus or Netflix or whathaveyou count as a technology cost?
posted by maryr at 12:39 PM on November 13, 2012

Fuji W3 camera - it's 3D with a 3D display. GADMEI E8-3D Tablet is android with glasses-free 3D display
posted by anon4now at 12:43 PM on November 13, 2012

Can you use it on software? I use Creative Suite at work and would love to have it at home but $$$$$$$ so no dice.
posted by headnsouth at 2:02 PM on November 13, 2012

Bose headphones.
posted by toastedbeagle at 2:06 PM on November 13, 2012

You might be able to get some of the last ever Bukyballs. sorta gadgety.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:31 PM on November 13, 2012

The Owle bubo is the best camera attachment for the iphone. It's satisfyingly heavy and has a macro and wide angle lens.

I just got back from a trade show where we brought that along and people were often more interested in the gadget than our software.
They should pay me commission for how many times I've recommended it.
posted by rmless at 2:56 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

If photo's are important to you, than spend as much as you can on a good camera. iphone photo's are fine, but if you think that your photo's are going to be something you cherish in the future, rather than just snapshots you look at regularly, those iphone pictures are not going to look so hot in a few years. A nice camera at the upper end of your budget would be something you'd use for many years.

I don't know if I would get another tablet in your situation, for that kind of money there are a ton of other things you could get which are totally new to you, and not just a convenient replacement. Get something you don't have at all.
posted by markblasco at 3:06 PM on November 13, 2012

Seconding GoPro, fully decked out to be waterproof & float. It'd be nice not having to baby a camera for once, let alone an HD one.
posted by jwells at 3:22 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

You have a laptop, but I really like having a netbook as well for a more portable option. It fits on airplane tray tables, has awesome battery life, and doesn't take up much room in a carryon, but it does have a keyboard for emailing / writing / figuring out where to go for dinner. I run Linux on mine to avoid paying another ~$200 for an OS. There is a fair amount of functionality overlap with an iPad, though.
posted by momus_window at 3:39 PM on November 13, 2012

Buy an unlocked iPhone (cost: around 600 for a 64GB 4S) and take it to Straight Talk MVNO. Pay less than half what AT&T charge you and get identical service (Straight Talk provides coverage through AT&T's cell towers). Savings: I don't even know, since AT&T doesn't offer unlimited data, but the $45 plan from ST is unlimited voice/txt/data. At least $900 over the course of what would've been a 2-year AT&T contract.
posted by mullingitover at 4:18 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Automatic backup service for your data. I use Backblaze but there are other options. Automatic, wireless, bliss.

Headphones - do you have nice ones?

I have a great Sennheiser headset for my phone - it's not bluetooth because I hate having one more damn thing to charge, and it works like a set of regular music headphones when I'm not using it for the phone.

Camera lens or flash.

Sonicare toothbrush!

Bike (?)

itunes card for apps and movies.

Netflix account for the year.

Sonos or other wireless speakers for the house - super nice!

Laser printer - life changing if you hate your inkjet and its annoying little cartridges

iphone cables for every room, car and your bag

Macbook adapter for your office, desk and bag - so nice not having to unplug all the time, seriously! No cables to wrap up or untangle, no crawling under furniture or stretching it across the room. I even bought one for my living room :-D

SodaStream -- life changing!
posted by barnone at 5:05 PM on November 13, 2012

Can the tradition be bent a bit to slide the deadline back a little? So much stuff goes on sale just after christmas that your money will go a lot further.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:56 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

If there isn't anything you really, truly want up to 600 maybe you could consider donating a part of the money to a tech charity, for example one laptop per child.
posted by hazyjane at 1:26 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Buy $600 worth of Bitcoins, and cash them out after Christmas. Now you have about $600.
posted by flabdablet at 5:51 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

iPad mini, apple TV, and 2+ terabyte hard drive for "backing up" your dvds.
posted by doorsfan at 9:58 AM on November 14, 2012

Oh, yes, if software is allowed and I already had all your gadgets I would get video editing software. Sony Vegas Pro or Adobe Premiere. But then I already have Adobe CS4.

You do not know how much easier life gets when you own Acrobat until you own Acrobat. I got it for the Photoshop and Illustrator and Dreamweaver, but the surprise is that I use Acrobat as much as those.

You could also set up a website and buy the domain/hosting for a while into the future.
posted by vegartanipla at 10:45 AM on November 14, 2012

I don't know how much audio you listen to, but if it's more than just a little, a new receiver is always welcome. The newest ones are Internet ready, get all kinds of streaming service, and play nice with computers as well as a myriad of speakers and sources.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 10:58 AM on November 14, 2012

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