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The best back-to-school gadgets under $30 – CNET

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Like everything else in 2020, the back-to-school season is a departure from what we’re used to. Thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the vast majority of school districts around the US are looking at full-time distance learning instruction, or a hybrid model that folds in some in-school classroom time. That said, it’s a safe bet that school will be in session one way or the other — and that means it’s already time to start preparing. Whether you’re buying for college students, middle-schoolers or anyone in between, there are plenty of great gadgets and supplies you can get without breaking the bank. Oh, and if you’re just buying something for your home office, that’s OK, too.

We’ve pulled together some of our favorite products available for $30 or less.

Read more: Best back-to-school gear under $100 for 2020

J-Lab Go Air

Decent true wireless headphones

David Carnoy/CNET

If you can stretch your budget a bit closer to $40 or $50, there are some really cheap-but-great true wireless headphones we can recommend. If $30 is your hard stop, however, the J-Lab Go Air is a solid choice. We like the integrated USB charging cable, and the IP44 water-resistance rating means that they’re sweatproof and splashproof. A corresponding app offers some presets (to bump up the bass, for instance). Yes, the charging case doesn’t have a top, but the magnets keep the buds in place well enough.

Tribit XFree Go wireless headphones

Big wireless headphones for a small price

Sarah Tew/CNET

Prefer full-size headphones? Priced at around $33, the Tribit XFree Tune has long been our go-to affordable full-size wireless headphones. But there’s now an even cheaper model, the XFree Go, that can be had for as little as $22. At the lower price, you get plusher, more comfortable ear pads, Bluetooth 5.0 and 24 hours of battery life, with a 10-minute charge giving you four hours of playback time. The sound is a little more bass-forward than that of the Tune, but at this price, it’s really hard to complain for what you’re getting.

Roku Express HD

Stream everything for under $30

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku and Amazon have a boatload of video streamers available in the under-$50 price range. But if $30 is your cutoff, this entry-level Roku is your go-to choice. It delivers pretty much every video service you can think of, from Netflix to Hulu to countless more obscure apps, as well as the free-with-ads Roku Channel, too. You’ll be hard-pressed to find more entertainment for your TV at this price. That said, if you can stretch your budget, get either the Roku Premiere (which adds 4K HDR for an extra $10 or so) or the Streaming Stick Plus (a better remote and dongle form-factor for about $20 more).

Wyze Cam

Alexa-compatible security camera

Sarah Tew/CNET

Want to catch the roommate in the act of stealing your ice cream from the fridge? This Alexa-compatible Wyze model is a solid choice, and it only costs $26.

Read our Wyze Cam review.

Anker Desktop Power Strip

Charge five devices at once

John Falcone/CNET

This mini powerstrip can charge up to five devices: two USB-A gadgets, a USB-C device and anything left can take one of the full-sized three-prong AC outlets on each side. It’s been an indispensable accessory on my desk since the virus lockdown started, powering my laptop while charging my phone, headphones and fitness tracker — with one outlet left as a catch-all.

TP-Link Kasa HS105 Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini

Turn any outlet into a smart outlet

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

There are plenty of cheap smart plugs out there, but the TP-Link Kasa HS105 is our current favorite. This plug converts any lamp in the dorm — or home — into one that’s voice-controlled via Alexa or Google Assistant. And the trim design leaves the second outlet open for business. (If you’re only connecting low-wattage devices like table lamps, note that you can grab a three-pack of the step-down HS103 for as little as $23.)

Anker PowerCore Lite 10,000-mAh battery pack

Compact power bank

Anker

This handy Anker 10,000-mAh battery pack is about the size of a big smartphone, and it can charge phones and most small USB devices (like wireless headphones) several times over.

See our list of the best portable chargers and power banks.

SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive 128GB

Easy data backup

Sarah Tew/CNET

True story: In my collegiate days, 3.5-inch floppy disks were a thing, and they stored a whopping 1.44 megabytes of data on them. This flash drive costs under $21, and it stores 128GB — the equivalent of almost 89,000 of those floppy disks. This model sports both USB-A and USB-C connectors, so it’ll work with any computer out there — and newer iPad Pro models, too.

Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit

Start a quest for under $20

Wizards of the Coast

Admittedly, this posits an optimistic future where students are able to gather together and play traditional games in the same room. If that’s the case, some old-school D&D is a nice face-to-face break from the virtual world of video games. The Essentials Kit gives you everything a group of pencil-and-paper adventurers need to get questing, but true beginners can opt for the equally affordable Starter Set instead. (Those bored with D&D can start saving their pennies for Frosthaven, of course.)

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Charge Your Phone Wirelessly With 50% off a Multifunctional LED Lamp

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

White Wireless Charge Lamp | $18 | Amazon | Clip coupon + code ABC88699
Black Wireless Charger Lamp | $20 | Amazon | Promo code ABC88699

When you’re ready to turn in for the night, you don’t want to forget to charge your phone— especially if your mobile device doubles as your alarm clock.

With this wireless charger lamp, you can make this crucial step of your nightly routine even easier by just setting your phone on the wireless charging pad and… well, that’s all there is to it!

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Other functions include multiple lighting modes as well as a sleep timer option for auto shut-off of the light after 30 or 60 minutes.

This lamp can be yours in white for $18 if you clip the coupon on Amazon (it’s below the original $40 price) and add promo code ABC88699 at checkout.

You can snag the black version for $20 using the same code—no coupon though, sorry.

Don’t sleep on this deal! Who knows how long stock or the coupon code will last?

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Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Luncia Double-Decker Dish Carrier | $11 | Amazon | Promo code SDDU9S7F

It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

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That means you can insulate and keep two dishes of food warm for only $11 instead of $30. What’s more, your Luncia carrier will arrive by Christmas if you order today as a Prime member.

Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

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Grab this offer while it’s still around!


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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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