The best Black Friday deals 2017 (Updated)

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

Amazon Echo 2nd Generation

Street Price: $ 100; Deal Price: $ 80

The first sale we’ve seen on the upgraded model of the Echo.The 2nd Generation Amazon Echo is our pick in our guide to the best Alexa-compatible smart-home devices for Amazon Echo. We wrote, “An Amazon Echo offers a convenient interface for your smart home and provides functionality that an app on your phone can’t. If you already have some Alexa-compatible devices or one of the three major smart-home hubs (SmartThings, Wink, or Insteon), adding an Echo can make accessing those devices more interesting and convenient.”

Playstation VR Skyrim Bundle

Street Price: $ 450; Deal Price: $ 335

This bundle was $ 450 until recently, game still goes for $ 60 & while street price of VR gear is falling, street is no lower than $ 400.

The Playstation VR is an “also great” pick in our guide to the best VR headsets for PC and PS4. We wrote, “Sony’s PlayStation VR headset can’t track you quite as well as the competition can, but it’s good enough to provide a fun, solid virtual reality gaming experience.”

TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE450

Street Price: $ 90; Deal Price: $ 60

A big $ 30 drop and the best price we’ve seen all year.

The TP-Link RE450 is the top pick in our wi-fi range extender guide. We wrote, “On our two long-range wireless tests (one line-of-sight, and one with walls and other objects between the extender and our test laptop), it gave us excellent performance. And because it’s an AC1750 extender, it supports the fastest wireless speeds of our favorite router and any device you’re likely to own.”

Anker PowerCore 20100

Street Price: $ 40; Deal Price: $ 32

The best price we’ve seen on a charger that can charge multiple phones at once.

The Anker PowerCore 20100 is our pick for more power in our best USB battery packs and power banks guide. We wrote, “With 74 Wh (20,000 mAh) of capacity, this Anker pack can charge your smartphone every day for a weeklong work trip or keep two devices charged for a long weekend away.”

iPad Pro 10.5-Inch (64GB)

Street Price: $ 650; Deal Price: $ 525

Matches low we’ve seen on this tablet pick in the 64GB size.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is our upgrade pick in our guide to the best tablet. We wrote, “Only slightly bigger than the standard iPad but considerably faster, the Pro has a larger, better screen, better cameras, and support for Apple’s Pencil. It’s better than the standard model for creating, multitasking, and gaming.”

Samsung Gear VR with Controller

Street Price: $ 130; Deal Price: $ 90

The updated, Note 8 friendly version of one of our picks, with its first discount.

The Samsung Gear VR is the runner-up pick in our phone VR headsets guide. We wrote, “The Gear VR has both the most and the most mature apps in the category. It also has better specs, meaning more-serious gamers should consider this headset.”

Motorola Moto G5 Plus 32GB

Street Price: $ 220; Deal Price: $ 170

A new low on our favorite cheap Android phone.

The G5 Plus is the top pick in our guide to the best budget Android phones. We wrote, “Excellent performance and build quality compared with other budget phones. Its interface is clean with no bloatware, and it works on all major US carriers.”

Corsair K70 LUX RGB w/ red switches

Street Price: $ 150; Deal Price: $ 110

The lowest price we’ve seen on a mechanical keyboard we like.

The Corsair K70 LUX RGB is our full-size gaming pick in our review of our favorite mechanical keyboards. We wrote, “If you want a full-size gaming keyboard with media keys and Cherry switches, the best option is the Corsair K70 LUX RGB Mechanical Gaming keyboard. It’s available with Cherry MX Brown, MX Blue, MX Red, and MX Speed switches. Though the K70 LUX was one of the more expensive full-size gaming boards we tested, it was still the favorite of our panel testers because of its superior build quality and handy media keys.”

Philips Hue Single A19 Bulbs

Street Price: $ 50; Deal Price: $ 32

By far the best price we’ve seen on individual bulbs from the Hue line. These hit a new low of $ 40 a few days ago, and today, they’re down even further.

The Philips Hue A19 bulbs are our pick for the best smart LED light bulbs. We wrote, “The Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 – Gen 3 are the best all-around smart bulbs you can buy. The Hue bulbs do everything their competitors do, but their wider product and app ecosystem allows for more flexibility and creativity than any other smart bulb.”

Sonos Playbar

Street Price: $ 700; Deal Price: $ 600

A new low on our top pick for best soundbar. We wrote, “The Playbar sounds fantastic and is easier to set up and operate than any other soundbar we’ve tested.”

Sonos Play:1 Speaker

Street Price: $ 200; Deal Price: $ 150

This matches the lowest price we’ve seen on our top multiroom wireless speaker system. We wrote, “The Play:1 sounds great on its own and is an affordable entry point to the Sonos system. A pair in stereo mode sounds even better.”

Garmin Vívosport Smart Activity Tracker

Street Price: $ 200; Deal Price: $ 150

A new low for our top activity tracker pick.

The Vívosport is our pick for the best fitness tracker. We wrote, “The Garmin Vívosport nails all the capabilities of a well-rounded fitness tracker by combining an always-visible color display, responsive auto-activity detection with GPS, up-to-seven-day battery life, and accurate continuous heart-rate readings in a wrist-worn band that’s waterproof for swimming.”

Roku Streaming Stick+

Street Price: $ 70; Deal Price: $ 48

A new low on our upcoming top media streamer pick. We wrote, “The Roku Streaming Stick+ costs more than the similar Streaming Stick, but it’s worth the slight premium because it’s more future proof. It supports the latest 4K, HDR10, WCG video formats and Dolby Atmos for audio. Its redesigned antenna also improves its Wi-Fi reception. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same as the cheaper model, which is a good thing.”

Google Home Speaker

Street Price: $ 120; Deal Price: $ 80

A good price on a smart speaker for those committed to the Google ecosystem, usually over $ 120. We wrote, “Google’s wireless speaker, digital assistant, and smart-home controller looks better than its biggest competition, reliably responds to most voice queries, offers solid multiroom audio, and sounds pretty good.”

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Turntable + Mackie CR3

Street Price: $ 330; Deal Price: $ 244 with code DIGTURKEY5

Use code DIGTURKEY5 to get this duo of top picks for a great price.

The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB is our pick in our guide to the best turntable for casual listening. We wrote, “The Audio-Technica is highly adjustable, has a built-in phono preamp for hassle-free setup, sounds great out of the box, offers above-average adjustment flexibility, and has a built-in USB port that makes it easy to digitize your LP collection.” The Mackie CR3 speakers are our top pick computer speakers. We wrote, “There are better-sounding speakers that cost more, and cheaper speakers that sound decent, but these have the right blend of sound quality and user-friendliness.”

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC33iS Headphones

Street Price: $ 70; Deal Price: $ 39

A big drop on these noise-canceling earbuds.

The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC33iS are the budget pick in our guide to the best noise-cancelling earbuds. We wrote, “If the Bose QuietControl 30 is out of your price range but you still want Bluetooth, the Phiaton BT 100 NC is a solid alternative. This pair doesn’t offer as much noise cancelling as the QC30, but it still provides a reasonable amount while costing around 30 percent of the price of the Bose model. This model can also connect via analog, so if the battery dies you can still listen to music.”

Denon AVRS730H Receiver

Street Price: $ 450; Deal Price: $ 350

The first big drop we’ve seen on our new receiver pick.

The Denon AVRS730H is our pick in our guide to the best receiver. We wrote, “The Denon AVR-S730H offers easy setup, good room correction, and supports streaming from a wide number of online music services.”

Samsung Gear IconX Earbuds

Street Price: $ 200; Deal Price: $ 150

The first discount we’ve seen on this pair of earbuds.

The Samsung Gear IconX earbuds are the Android/Samsung pick in our true wireless guide. We wrote, “Offers decent sound, probably on a par with that of $ 70 corded in-ear headphones. The fit is comfortable and secure for most ear types. Touch-sensitive volume, track, and voice-command controls mean you don’t have to press the earbud uncomfortably and awkwardly into your ear as you make adjustments.”

Celestron NexStar 5 SE Telescope

Street Price: $ 700; Deal Price: $ 600

A nice deal matching the previous low on our best telescope pick. We wrote, “It has a primary 5-inch mirror, which is big enough for a light-gathering capacity that yields crisp images of some of the best objects in our solar system, from Saturn’s rings to Jupiter’s cloud bands, and provides sufficient power to introduce you to objects in the deep sky.”

(Updated 12:40p ET)

Grenco Science G Pen Elite Vaporizer

Street Price: $ 150; Deal Price: $ 85

As long as you don’t mind waiting for this backordered deal, this is the best price we’ve seen on on our pick in our best portable vaporizer guide. Use code BFCM5 for an additional 5% off.

We wrote, “The Elite has features you rarely see in the under-$ 200 price category, like combination convection and conduction heating, a digital display for battery life and precision temperature control.”

Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart Lighting Starter Kit

Street Price: $ 100; Deal Price: $ 80

Includes dimmer switch, bridge and pico remote, and at $ 80, it’s the best price we’ve seen.

The Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart Lighting Starter Kit includes our pick in our best in-wall wireless light switch and dimmer guide. We wrote, “The Lutron Caséta Wireless In-Wall Dimmer is a reliable smart replacement that provides remote on-off, dimming, and scheduling, similar to its competition. However, the single-pole dimmer offers support for more smart-home platforms, including HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Home, than any model we tested.”

Anker 10ft PowerLine Lightning Cable

Street Price: $ 12; Deal Price: $ 10

New low on our longest recommended Anker cable (white model only).

The Anker 10ft PowerLine Lightning Cable is our “also great” pick for longest Anker cable in our best lightning cable guide. We wrote, “Long cables can also be useful, especially when you want to use your iPhone or iPad while it’s charging but the nearest outlet is a good distance away. In our tests, the charging and data-transfer speeds of these longer PowerLines match those of the 3-foot version.”

Garmin Dash Cam 65W

Street Price: $ 250; Deal Price: $ 230

This is the lowest price we’ve seen on our upgrade pick in our best dash cam guide.

We wrote, “It’s the smallest model we tested, so it’s less prominent on the windshield, and it uses a magnetic mount (though it attaches to the windshield via an adhesive pad) that makes it simple to pop on and off. The 65W offers 1080p resolution and a 180-degree field of view that covers a wide area—great for scenic vistas—but makes cars in front look a little farther away.”

ELAC Debut B6 Speakers

Street Price: $ 280; Deal Price: $ 200

A rare drop, we see this discount about once a year.

The ELAC Debut B6 is our runner-up pick in our best bookshelf speakers guide. We wrote, “The value and quality of the ELAC Debut B6 speakers come as no surprise. This set was veteran speaker designer Andrew Jones’s first project since leaving Pioneer for ELAC, and Jones clearly brought along the lessons he learned from making $ 30,000 speakers.”

(Updated 2:36pm ET)

Samsung 500 GB T5 Portable SSD

Street Price: $ 200; Deal Price: $ 170

While not a huge discount, this is the best price we’ve seen on our pick in our best portable SSD guide.

We wrote, “The 500 GB Samsung T5 Portable SSD is the best portable solid-state drive for most people because it’s reliable, fast, reasonably priced—for an external SSD—and compact.”

TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE450

Street Price: $ 90; Deal Price: $ 60

A big $ 30 drop and the best price we’ve seen all year.

The TP-Link RE450 Wi-Fi Range Extender is our pick in our best wi-fi range extender guide. We wrote, “The TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE450 is the best wireless extender for most people because it offers incredible performance at long range and supports the fastest wireless speeds of most devices you’re likely to own, even if you have a MacBook Pro.”

Refurbished Kindle Voyage

Street Price: $ 150; Deal Price: $ 120

The best price we’ve seen if you’ve been considering this upgraded Kindle.

The Kindle Voyage is our upgrade pick in our best ebook reader guide. We wrote, “The Kindle Voyage adds features that aim to make it a luxury reading experience, including a side light that adjusts brightness automatically, buttons on the side of the screen that you can squeeze to turn pages, a micro-etched glass front that further reduces reflections, and a smaller, slimmer body.”

Epson 2040 Projector

Street Price: $ 700; Deal Price: $ 550

Lowest price this year at $ 550 but trends show it might drop lower in the coming weeks.

The Epson 2040 Projector is our LCD option in our best $ 1,000 projector guide. We wrote, “The BenQ uses DLP technology, which creates artifacts known as “rainbows.” Most people don’t notice or aren’t bothered by them, but some people do and are. The Epson 2040 is based on LCD technology, so it won’t create rainbows.”

Nest Cam Outdoor Security Camera

Street Price: $ 175; Deal Price: $ 150

A good drop on our top outdoor security camera, available at a number of retailers.

The Nest Cam Outdoor is our pick in our best wireless outdoor home security camera guide. We wrote, “The Nest Cam Outdoor Wi-Fi camera does everything a DIY surveillance camera should, and tops the others we tested in convenience features. The camera provides 1080p video, two-way audio, and a mounting system that gives you the capability to point it in any direction. It also has the only weatherproof cord among the units we tested.”

AncestryDNA

Street Price: $ 90; Deal Price: $ 59

At $ 59, this marks the best price we’ve seen on our DNA testing kit by $ 20.

AncestryDNA is our pick in our best DNA ancestry testing kit guide. We wrote, “AncestryDNA is our pick for those who want to learn about their relatively recent ethnic roots or are seeking to connect with unknown relatives. Though all of the DNA services we tested provided broadly similar results for the ethnic origins of our panel of testers, AncestryDNA did a better job than its rivals of presenting this data in a clear manner while placing the information in a useful historical context.”

(Updated 5:07pm ET)

EcoVacs Deebot N79

Street Price: $ 200; Deal Price: $ 150

A new low on our top pick in our guide to the best robot vacuum. We wrote, “The Deebot N79 is nimble enough to navigate through most homes without getting stuck very often—and that’s what really makes most bot-owners happy. Its battery life is the longest we’ve seen, it runs the quietest, and it has one of the better control schemes we’ve seen for the price—including Wi-Fi and a smartphone app.”

BenQ GW2765HT 27″ Monitor

Street Price: $ 330; Deal Price: $ 220

A new low price on our budget pick 27-inch monitor. We wrote, “If you want a big, beautiful display with a good stand but don’t need USB ports, DisplayPort daisy-chaining, or a thin bezel, we recommend the BenQ GW2765HT. At under $ 350, it’s one of the least expensive 27-inch IPS monitors that still has good display quality and features.”

Sony UBP-X800

Street Price: $ 300; Deal Price: $ 150

Matches a low we saw briefly only once before. This is a huge drop below street price on our top pick 4k Blu-ray player. We wrote, “This Sony plays 4K UHD discs, offers better image quality with Blu-rays and DVDs, and includes good streaming options and excellent speed.”

Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD

Street Price: $ 150; Deal Price: $ 140

With SSD deals as rare as they have been the past year, while not a huge discount, this is one of the better prices in ages. The Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD is the top pick in our guide to the best SSDs. We wrote, “Even after two years as our top pick, the Samsung 850 Evo remains the gold standard for SATA SSDs thanks to its high speed, low price, five-year warranty, and great software.”

Sony XBR-X900E 55-Inch TV

Street Price: $ 1,200; Deal Price: $ 1,000

A substantial $ 200 drop on our improved HDR TV pick. We wrote, “If you want a TV in 49-inch or 75-inch sizes, watch almost exclusively HDR content, or need a 120 Hz panel because you’re sensitive to motion blur, the Sony XBR-X900E is a great buy.”

Vizio SB3821-D6 SmartCast 38″ 2.1 Sound Bar System

Street Price: $ 130; Deal Price: $ 90

A big $ 40 drop on this pick, making improved sound a very affordable $ 90. The Vizio SB3821-D6 is the “tighter budget” pick in our budget soundbars guide. We wrote, “This 2.1 soundbar lacks its bigger sibling’s HDMI (ARC) support and rear speakers, but it still delivers better stereo performance than much more expensive rivals and supports Bluetooth and Google Cast.”

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Wirecutter’s best early deals for Black Friday

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

Amazon Fire HD 10

Street Price: $ 150; Deal Price: $ 100

The 10″, newer model of our budget pick in our best Android tablets guide, with a big $ 50 discount.

The 10 is quite similar to the 8, and with this price, makes it much more interesting as a media consumption tablet. We wrote, “The 2017 Fire HD 8 is slower, has a lower-resolution screen, and is more limited than the ZenPad, but it’s a great cheap tablet for media consumption, especially for Amazon content.”

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Street Price: $ 40; Deal Price: $ 25

A new low on our runner-up pick in our best media streaming devices guide.

We wrote, “If you’re a heavy Prime video user or want voice search, the Fire TV Stick offers a compelling alternative to the Roku that has really improved over the past few months.”

Bose QuietComfort 25

Street Price: $ 280; Deal Price: $ 180

Our pick for 3 years running, this the first substantial sale we’ve ever seen on the Bose QuietComfort 25, a huge $ 100 off.

The Bose QuietComfort 25 is our pick in our best noise-cancelling headphones guide. We wrote, “The amount of noise reduced is incredible: noticeably and significantly more than the vast majority of noise-cancelling headphones. In our testing, they dropped an average of 24.2 dB of noise, including over 30 dB at some frequencies, and more low-bass reduction than any headphone we’ve tested.”

UE Roll 2

Street Price: $ 75; Deal Price: $ 50

While we’ve seen this price a few times, it’s only a few dollars above the best we’ve seen.

The UE Roll 2 is our pick in our best portable bluetooth speaker guide. We wrote, “The Roll 2 sounds full, with smooth reproduction of everything from bass notes to cymbals, and it plays loud enough to fill a hotel room or a spot at the beach with sound. It’s so watertight, it will survive being dunked 1 meter underwater for 30 minutes.”

OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker

Street Price: $ 200; Deal Price: $ 136

Only a few dollars off from the best price we’ve seen on our pick in our best coffee maker guide.

We wrote, “Simply put, the OXO On makes it easy to brew a really good cup of coffee. If you grind your beans to the correct particle size (which is extremely important) and weigh the grounds so they extract just enough, the OXO will take the reins from there.”

GoPro Hero5 Black + $ 50 Gift Card

Street Price: $ 450; Deal Price: $ 350

Even with a new model out, drops are rare. This discount + the extra giftcard make this a great deal.

The GoPro Hero5 Black is our pick in our best action camera guide. We wrote, “The Hero5 Black builds on the success of its predecessor, the Hero4 Silver, with new features that significantly enhance its usability. The built-in waterproofing is the most important addition, since it means you can shoot anywhere, anytime, without fiddling with a case.”

Netgear Orbi RBK50

Street Price: $ 350; Deal Price: $ 280

We haven’t seen this drop below $ 320 before now, so save some money on one of the easiest ways to improve your home network.

The Netgear Orbi RBK50 is our pick in our best wi-fi mesh-networking kit guide. We wrote, “Netgear’s Orbi RBK50 is the best Wi-Fi mesh kit for most people, because it covers all the bases in the simplest way. It ranked at or near the top of the pack for throughput in every location we tested, and it required far less of our time and effort than most of the kits we tested for it to do its best.”

9.7-inch iPad (5th generation)

Street Price: $ 330; Deal Price: $ 250

While we have seen drops to around the $ 300 range, this sale drops an extra $ 30 off of previous prices and makes for a new low

The 9.7-inch iPad (5th generation) is our pick in our iPad guide. We wrote, “The things that have made all iPads great tablets—such as an unbeatable selection of outstanding apps, stellar hardware quality, long battery life, and unrivaled customer support—help them continue to best other tablets on the market.”

Oculus Rift + Touch

Street Price: $ 400; Deal Price: $ 350

The first drop below $ 400 we’ve seen, and it’s a big $ 50 savings.

The Oculus Rift + Touch is our pick in our best VR headsets for PC and PS4 guide. We wrote, “It’s clear Oculus put a lot of thought into building a headset that will appeal to gaming veterans and newcomers alike with a comfy fit, quick startup process, and wide range of content.”

Apple Watch Series 1

Street Price: $ 280; Deal Price: $ 210

Already a good sale, but if you use your Target Redcard, you can get an additional 5% off.

The Apple Watch Series 1 is our pick in our best smartwatch for iPhone users guide. We wrote, “If you want a smartwatch for managing your phone notifications, tracking activity and recreational exercise, and doing the gee-whiz things you can accomplish with apps (like texting with your voice or finger, checking sports scores, creating reminders, and adjusting your smart thermostat), the Apple Watch Series 1 is your best bet.”

Nikon D3400 (w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens)

Street Price: $ 450; Deal Price: $ 397

While we used to see regular sales on the D3400, those have slowed down considerably. This latest deal matches the best price we’ve seen on this bundle.

The Nikon D3400 is our pick in our best DSLR for beginners guide. We wrote, “The Nikon D3400 is Nikon’s current entry-level model, and while it’s available for around $ 500, it can take better photos than cameras that sell for hundreds more.”

Because great deals happen more than once a week, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday.

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The best computer and mobile accessories to give as gifts

Perhaps the person on your list is already quite happy with their laptop or mobile device (slash, you’re not up to buying them a new one). There are plenty of accessories that make for affordable, and dare we say, practical gifts. Included in our holiday gift guide are two styles of keyboards, a high-end mouse, a battery pack, selfie and battery cases, a 400GB (!) microSDXC card, Bluetooth trackers and a wireless charging pad — useful for, say, a new iPhone owner.

Source: Engadget Holiday Gift Guide 2017

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The best phones under $500

Phone makers are trying to outdo one another by racing to add new, advanced features to their flagships, but these tools are not equally useful. Who really needs Face ID, Animoji or eye-sensing authentication? Some of us just want a good, no-frills phone. Plus, not everyone can or wants to spend almost a thousand dollars on something we’ll trade in after two years. For these people, there’s a range of options from truly basic sub-$ 250 phones to more powerful mid-range devices that can be had for less than $ 500. The latter group is better described as aggressively priced flagships that can serve you almost as well as their costlier counterparts — and there’s now a decent selection to consider.

What to expect

Although they cost hundreds less than their premium counterparts, mid-range phones often feature the same (or comparable) components. The best sub-$ 500 handsets use the latest CPUs and run the newest software, and some even offer amenities like nearly bezel-less displays and facial recognition. Some of these devices even outdo flagships when it comes to things like RAM capacity and software customization options.

What you might miss, however, is cutting-edge features like pressure-sensitive home buttons, depth-sensing infrared cameras and slow-motion video capture at higher rates than others. Those can be nice to have, but you’re unlikely to miss them. All told, you’ll find that these sub-$ 500 phones are almost as capable as a flagship twice the price.

The best phones under $ 500

OnePlus 5T ($ 499)

Chris Velazco/Engadget

After years of honing its line of affordable flagships, OnePlus delivered a truly great phone in the OnePlus 5. And, come November 21st, it’ll be replaced with something better. The just-announced OnePlus 5T sports a bigger 6-inch, nearly bezel-less screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio like those on pricier phones. It also makes use of a surprisingly fast face-recognition unlocking system that could take on Apple’s Face ID. OnePlus also improved the dual-camera system that we already liked on the 5, while continuing to use the premium Snapdragon 835 chipset found in most contemporary flagships. Oh, and you’ll still find a headphone jack here, which should please those of you who are resistant to change.

Chris / Velazco

Moto Z2 Play ($ 499)

Motorola continues to excel at making budget-friendly phones — so much so that it won two spots on this list. The Z2 Play is the slightly more advanced of the pair, with its razor-thin design and compatibility with Motorola’s “Moto Mods” line of bolt-on accessories. You can snap these accessories onto the Z2 Play to add a JBL speaker, a projector or an Amazon Alexa speaker, giving the phone more functionality. On its own, the phone offers decent performance, thanks to its octa-core Snapdragon 626 chipset, while its 12-megapixel rear camera makes use of dual-pixel focus technology that results in fast speeds. As with other Motorola phones, the Z2 Play comes with the company’s useful software additions, including Moto Display, which allows you to check notifications without waking your phone. Motorola also coated the device with a water-repellent material to help keep it safe in wet conditions. The Z2 Play doesn’t offer the same epic battery life as its predecessor, the original Z Play, but it’s good enough to get you through the day.

Chris Velazco / Engadget

Essential PH-1 ($ 450)

You may not have heard of Essential, but the new company from the creator of Android drew plenty of attention within the tech world. Its debut product, the Essential PH-1, was designed to be a top-of-the-line device without “unnecessary features.” The phone crams flagship-level components like a Snapdragon 835 chipset, 128GB of storage and a quad HD display into a dense, sturdy body. The PH-1 is also the first handset to sport a notch where its camera juts into its all-screen front (sorry, Apple), which should give you some bragging rights if that stuff matters to you. Its dual 13-megapixel cameras work well in optimal light but are merely serviceable in dark situations, so if you intend to take a lot of pictures at night, you should look elsewhere. Those who want to keep using their wired headphones should keep looking too, since the PH-1 doesn’t have an audio jack. Although some glitches kept the PH-1 from living up to the hype surrounding its launch (and triggered a price cut from $ 699 to $ 450), it’s still a compelling phone — you’ll be getting what’s essentially a $ 700 flagship at practically half the price.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Moto X4 ($ 400)

The Moto X4 trades in Mod compatibility for dual cameras, landmark recognition and built-in Alexa. Amazon’s assistant not only identifies you by voice but also answers your questions without waking the phone (so long as it’s you asking, not someone else). The X4’s 12-megapixel camera is capable, considering the price, and its landmark-detection feature provides potentially helpful information about historic buildings that it sees through the lens. The phone also meets IP68 standards for water resistance, meaning it can survive a dip for up to 30 minutes. Its Snapdragon 630 processor and 5.2-inch full HD display are also adequate for the money. My favorite thing about the X4, though, is its shiny, eye-catching design, which makes it look and feel more expensive than it is.

Will Lipman / Engadget

iPhone SE ($ 349)

Sure, the iPhone SE is due for an update, but as the only sub-$ 500 iPhone available, it’s the best choice for Apple fans on a budget. If you can overlook its dated design, the iPhone SE is a capable phone that performs well despite (or thanks to) its now two-year-old A9 processor. Its compact 4-inch size also makes it a strong option for those who prefer something smaller. Plus, Apple recently doubled the iPhone SE’s storage, which is another bonus. You’ll also like the 12-megapixel rear camera, which delivers accurate colors and crisp details, but its 1.2-MP front-facer will disappoint selfie lovers.

Honorable mention

ASUS ZenFone 4 ($ 349)

Also worth a look is the ASUS ZenFone 4, which stands out for its 12-megapixel dual cameras, which can save pictures as RAW files. It also features a dual-pixel sensor for faster autofocus, along with optical image stabilization and Portrait mode for artificial bokeh. The secondary sensor on its back side uses a wide-angle lens in the same vein as the LG G6, allowing you to capture landscapes and skylines more easily. The rest of the phone’s specs are typical for the price: a Snapdragon 630 processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Its 5.5-inch full HD IPS display can get pretty bright too, with a max setting of 600 nits. Some people might not like ASUS’s ZenUI skin, which runs on top of Android 7 Nougat, but camera aficionados who can put up with a slightly different (and cartoonish) UI might find the ZenFone 4 compelling.

HTC U11 Life ($ 349)

I sincerely hope “squeezable” sides won’t spread to smartphones other than the HTC U11 and the Google Pixel 2, but I have to admit they can be helpful at times. On the HTC U11 Life, pressure-sensitive edges detect when you’re squeezing the phone, and launch your designated apps. You can also set this to perform specific actions within some apps, like zooming out in Google Maps, which is more useful than the Pixel’s implementation. In addition to this novelty feature, the U11 Life packs a Snapdragon 630 chipset, a 5.2-inch full HD screen and built-in Alexa support. Each U11 Life also comes with a pair of HTC’s uSonic earbuds, which tunes audio based on the shape of your ear, making it an even better deal overall. But the reason for these is the missing audio jack on the U11 Life, so be aware that you won’t be able to plug in wired earbuds before you decide.

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The best Bluetooth audio receiver for your home stereo or speakers

By R. Matthew Ward

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After doing 13 hours of research and considering 76 models, we performed dozens of hours of real-world testing and 13 additional hours of focused, in-depth testing on the top 14 Bluetooth-audio receivers for adding wireless connectivity to an existing audio system. We think the StarTech BT2A Bluetooth Audio Receiver is the best receiver for most people thanks to its combination of connectivity, range, audio quality, and usability at a reasonable price.

Who should buy this?

Photo: Michael Hession

Whether it’s because your new smartphone has no headphone jack, or you aren’t ready to give up your old stereo in favor of a great Bluetooth speaker, a Bluetooth audio receiver can add wireless streaming capabilities to your existing home stereo or speakers with little loss in sound quality.

How we picked and tested

Photo: Michael Hession

The ideal Bluetooth receiver should sound as good as a direct, wired connection. It should pair with your devices easily and reliably, and should have a large-enough range to cover a typical living area. We also like when a Bluetooth receiver has a digital audio output, which allows you to use an optional, separate DAC (digital-to-analog converter) for better sound quality.

We considered 76 top Bluetooth receivers, and ultimately tested 14 models. For our tests, we paired each one first to a MacBook and an iPhone to see how easy it was to pair source devices to the receiver. We also tested how reliably the receiver connected and disconnected once paired, how well it reconnected following a disconnection, and how easy it was to switch to a different source. For devices that could pair with multiple devices simultaneously, we used up to six devices to test this feature.

To evaluate audio quality, we first used each device to listen to background music, then compared them head-to-head using our favorite test tracks. We also assessed the range of each receiver by measuring the distance at which music started skipping with both an unobstructed and obstructed line of sight. To read about our testing process in more detail, please see our full guide.

Our pick

The StarTech BT2A (right) and the nearly identical Monoprice Bluetooth Streaming Music Receiver (left) offer good sound, reliable connectivity, and good range at a reasonable price. Photo: Michael Hession

The StarTech BT2A Bluetooth Audio Receiver is our top pick for most people thanks to its combination of good sound quality, range, usability, connectivity, and price. In our tests, it reliably paired to new devices and reconnected to old devices, and it could remember up to eight paired devices. It comes from a reputable vendor, has a two-year warranty, and is reasonably priced.

In terms of audio quality, the BT2A—along with our runner-up, below—provided the best sound quality of the models we tested in this price range. Overall, these two models offered better dynamic range and crisper high-frequency and midrange detail compared with similarly priced models, along with minimal high-frequency distortion and a tight low end. The BT2A also features an optical digital-audio output, allowing you to upgrade audio quality by using an external DAC.

Runner-up

While running our tests, we noticed that Monoprice’s Bluetooth Streaming Music Receiver appears to be functionally identical to the StarTech BT2A. When we opened both models, we found that they use the same circuit board and the same DAC, and they performed essentially identically in our testing. We made the StarTech receiver our top pick because it’s covered by a two-year warranty, versus only one year for the Monoprice receiver, but the Monoprice is also a safe buy.

An upgrade for better sound and better range

The Audioengine B1, our upgrade pick, offers substantially better audio quality than the StarTech receiver, as well as outstanding wireless range. Photo: Michael Hession

If you have nice speakers or a higher-end audio system—such as our picks for best receiver and bookshelf speakers—and you want a Bluetooth connection that can do them justice, the Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver is a great upgrade choice.

The B1 is based on the same circuitry as Audioengine’s well-regarded D1 DAC, and the unit’s audio quality reflects this: It offers better sound, by a good margin, than the less expensive Bluetooth receivers we tested. Music is lively and involving, with crisp, clear highs; detailed midrange; and tight, clean bass. The Audioengine B1 also includes optical-digital output if you want to hook it up to an even better DAC in the future.

The B1 is also the only model we tested that includes an external antenna. According to Audioengine, the antenna extends the B1’s range to 100 feet, three times what most other receivers claim. In our tests, the B1 never skipped, even when at maximum range.

A pick for older speaker docks

Among the receivers designed to add Bluetooth to a 30-pin speaker dock, the Samson 30-Pin Bluetooth Receiver BT30 had the best range and audio quality, as well as the most reliable pairing and connection. Photo: R. Matthew Ward

Before Bluetooth speakers became ubiquitous, many people bought speaker docks—compact speaker systems with a docking cradle for a smartphone or MP3 player. The vast majority of these used Apple’s older 30-pin dock connector, which has since been replaced by the Lightning connector. If you have one of these 30-pin docks, you can use Samson’s 30-Pin Bluetooth Receiver BT30 to wirelessly stream music to it.

The BT30’s sound quality isn’t fantastic, but it is better than any of the other dock-connector models we tested. Its range is also superior to that of the other models we tested, and pairing and connecting Bluetooth devices is hassle-free.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

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Best Buy stops selling full-price iPhone X following backlash

Last Friday, when the iPhone X became available for preorder, would-be Best Buy customers found that to buy the phone upfront through the retailer, they would have to pay $ 100 more than what Apple itself was charging. Rather than $ 999 or $ 1,149 depending on what amount of storage was wanted, Best Buy was charging $ 1,099 and $ 1,249. Now, as Bloomberg reports, Best Buy has stopped selling the iPhone X upfront and is only offering it through carrier-specific billing plans.

Last week when customers began complaining about the increased prices of the already expensive phones, a Best Buy spokesperson told Bloomberg, “Our prices reflect the fact that no matter a customer’s desired plan or carrier, or whether a customer is on a business or personal plan, they are able to get a phone the way they want at Best Buy. Our customers have told us they want this flexibility and sometimes that has a cost.” They added that having multiple purchasing options “has a cost” and the different prices were a reflection of that.

The customer backlash appears to have had an effect. “Although there was clearly demand for the un-activated iPhone X, selling it that way cost more money, causing some confusion with our customers and noise in the media,” a Best Buy spokesperson told Bloomberg today. “That’s why we decided a few days ago to only sell the phone the traditional way, through installment billing plans.” Now, customers can only get the iPhone X from Best Buy if they do so through Verizon’s, AT&T’s or Sprint’s plans.

Apple’s iPhone X hits stores on November 3rd.

Source: Bloomberg

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Best Buy bets you’ll pay $100 extra for an iPhone X

After half an hour of iPhone X preorders going live, the first ship date of November 3rd had already filled up. New owners were told they would have to wait 4-5 weeks for their new Apple device to ship. Maybe that has something to do with Best Buy’s surprise price hike of $ 100 extra for folks who pre-ordered either model of iPhone X on the retailer’s site.

Apple priced its iPhone X at $ 1000 for the base model, or $ 1150 for more storage. Best Buy is charging $ 1100 and $ 1250 for the same models, respectively. Best Buy defended its higher prices, which are identical to what Apple quoted would be charged to customers on carrier installment plans. Basically, if you were going to pay monthly for a phone, it would end up being the same price as what Best Buy is charging up-front for the same device.

“Our prices reflect the fact that no matter a customer’s desired plan or carrier, or whether a customer is on a business or personal plan, they are able to get a phone the way they want at Best Buy,” Best Buy spokesperson Danielle Schumann told Bloomberg in an email. “Our customers have told us they want this flexibility and sometimes that has a cost.”

Via: Bloomberg

Source: Best Buy – iPhone X

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Wirecutter’s best deals: Save $40 on BeatsX wireless earbuds

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

You may have already seen Engadget posting reviews from our friends at Wirecutter. Now, from time to time, we’ll also be publishing their recommended deals on some of their top picks. Read on, and strike while the iron is hot — some of these sales could expire mighty soon.

Accell Powramid Air Surge Protector

Street Price: $ 35; Deal Price: $ 18

The Accell Powramid Air is a new addition to our surge protector guide. Usually $ 35, this surge protector is all the way down to $ 18. This is only the second time we’ve seen it discounted this heavily and it’s as low as it has gotten. The Accell Powramid Air is available at this price in the black and white colors, though to get the white color you must select Amazon as the seller and there’s potentially a wait of a few weeks. Shipping is free with Prime.

The Accell Powramid Air surge protector is a compact option we like in our guide to the best surge protector. Mark Smirnotis wrote, “For lighter duty situations, like under nightstands or side tables, the Accell Powramid Air is the way to go. It has two USB ports and six outlets in a comparatively small package. The USB ports put out a combined 2.4 amps, enough to charge one smartphone or tablet at high speed or two devices at low speed. The circular layout of the Powramid outlets makes them all usable with a variety of plug sizes. Despite the silly name, the Powramid packs real protection and tested almost as well as our larger pick against individual surges—though the protection might not hold up to as many surges as larger models.”

PetKit Eversweet Pet Water Fountain

Street Price: $ 70; Deal Price: $ 56

If you’re seeking a high-end water fountain for your pet, the PetKit Eversweet Pet Water Fountain is available a little cheaper today. Usually $ 70 or more, today you can get it for $ 56, bringing this model, which includes nice upgrades like auto turn-off, closer to the price of some of our other picks. This is the lowest price we’ve seen for it, so grab it while available.

The PetKit Eversweet pet fountain is our upgrade pick in our guide to the best water fountain for cats and dogs. Rebekah Valentine wrote, “If silence and ease of use are your top priority, and price is no object, it’s worth looking into the PetKit Eversweet. This drinking fountain automatically turns off the pump when the fountain runs dry (which would cause a motor burnout in all other models), has an LED indicator to tell you when it’s time to change the filter, and is the quietest fountain we tested. But it costs nearly twice as much as our top pick and has the lowest capacity of any fountain we tested, so it’s not worth it for everyone.”

Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Slow Cooker

Street Price: $ 50; Deal Price: $ 40 + $ 10 eGift Card

If you’re a regular Target shopper, this is a particularly good deal on our top slow cooker pick. The Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker is already nicely discounted at $ 40 in-cart, but add to that an additional $ 10 Target eGift card (will show up in-cart) to be used later and for Target shoppers you’re effectively getting this slow cooker for $ 30, a great price. You can save an additional 5% if you’re a REDcard holder. All of this results in an excellent deal on an item that has a typical street price near $ 50.

The Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker is the top pick in our guide to the best slow cooker. Christine Cyr Clisset, Camille Chatterjee, Lesley Stockton, and wrote, “Although the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker isn’t the most luxurious or sleekest-looking machine out there, it does everything it should at a very modest price. It has the largest digital display of the models we tested, making it the easiest to read from across the kitchen, and its interface was the simplest to use. It cooks at true slow-cooking temperatures, unlike others we tried that ran too hot. Its locking lid also makes it more portable. We like that the Set & Forget has an alarm that rings at the start and the end of the cooking cycle–a helpful feature many newer, fancier cookers, like the others we tested, omit. Finally, the Set & Forget was the only slow cooker we found that included a temperature probe.”

BeatsX Wireless Earbuds

Street Price: $ 150; Deal Price: $ 110

If you’d had your eye on some BeatsX wireless earbuds, this is a nice opportunity to get them at a discount. While we’ve seen them around $ 10 lower previously, we haven’t seen those prices since late July, so at present, this is the best price available on BeatsX in Gray, White, Black, or Blue. These earbuds tend to bounce right back up to near the full price of $ 150 once a sale is over, so grab them while they’re this low if you need wireless earbuds.

The BeatsX wireless headphones are our pick for Apple users in our guide to the best wireless earbuds. Lauren Dragan wrote, “If you need better call quality than sport headphones can provide, but don’t care for the bulky collar design of our other picks, the BeatsX is a great option—especially for iPhone users. The high price makes it a worse value compared with our other picks, but unlike our other picks’ stiff collars, the BeatsX’s flexible neckband can easily coil up into a pocketable package. In addition to being more portable, the BeatsX has a W1 Bluetooth chip (the same chip as in Apple’s AirPods), which makes pairing with Apple devices super-easy and also slightly improves switching between paired devices. The average battery life of eight hours should get you through most days, but these headphones don’t work while charging. However, Apple users will appreciate that they charge via Lightning cable—so you have one fewer cable type to bring while you’re traveling. The sound quality on the BeatsX is great, with the exception of a boosted and somewhat blurry bass frequency region. We usually like the fun of extra bass; it’s just that the BeatsX’s “thump” sounds a little more like a “thud.” It has some other downsides, too: The microphone quality, for starters, is about what you’d get from a corded set of earbuds, so your calls will sound okay, but this mic will pick up more background noise than our pick’s mic will.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Thursday, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to thewirecutter.com.

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The best plug-in smart outlet

By Rachel Cericola

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After spending over 22 hours plugging in and unplugging lights and other small appliances and turning them on and off using various apps (and by barking orders at Siri and Alexa when we could), we found that the Belkin WeMo Mini is the best smart-switch outlet adapter for people who want to add smart control to their existing outlets. It packs most of the same features as our previous pick, the WeMo Insight, into a smaller size, and it’s less expensive. It also plays nicely with both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets and integrates easily with popular smart-home protocols and devices. All you need to do is plug the Belkin WeMo Mini into an existing outlet and install the app to get started with home automation.

Who should get this

If you’re the type of person who is constantly paranoid about if you left the iron on, smart plugs can ease your anxiety. These are small devices that plug into any outlet and allow you to control the connected appliance wirelessly via a smartphone app. Putting even just one smart switch into your home can ensure that you’ll never enter a dark house; add a few and you can control items such as household fans, speakers, slow cookers, air conditioners, and more.

How we picked and tested

Smart switches are an easy way to add remote control to any electronic device.
Photo: Rachel Cericola

We started compiling a list of smart switches by searching for reviews on sites like CNET, Pocket-lint, and MakeUseOf. We then cross-checked our list with customer reviewers from Amazon, and decided not to consider any models with bad reviews.

After that, we started considering criteria and features. First and foremost, a smart switch should be easy to operate and reliable. You should be able to plug it in, download the app, and start controlling the switch in minutes. We also favored apps that provide extras beyond the ability to turn the switch’s power on and off, such as dimming, scheduling, and the ability to group multiple switches.

To test each switch, I downloaded apps to an iPhone 5, an iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy S6. Most of the switches connected to Wi-Fi easily and were simple to operate. I kept all of the plugs confined to the lower level of my house, but operated controls from across the house, out in the driveway, and across the street (up to 150 feet away). To keep things interesting, I plugged a variety of items into our test switches.

Our pick

Belkin’s WeMo Mini Switch turns any outlet into a smart outlet you can control with your iOS or Android device. Photo: Rachel Cericola

Belkin recently slimmed down its smart-plug offering with the WeMo Mini. The company’s newest smart plug is just as reliable as our previous top pick, the WeMo Insight, but is more compact and $ 15 cheaper. It connects to the same WeMo app, which can control several devices remotely, includes options for scheduling and rules, connects with both iOS and Android devices, and can be integrated with other smart-home devices. The WeMo Mini is small enough to fit into either socket in a duplex outlet without blocking the second one.

The switch easily connects to your Wi-Fi without needing a hub. It performed as advertised throughout our testing period, providing on-off control from inside and outside of the house whenever called upon. The WeMo Android and iOS apps are almost identical, offering on-off controls, rules, and timers. Unfortunately, the WeMo Mini does not offer energy-usage information; the only WeMo device with that feature is the Insight Switch.

Like its predecessor, the WeMo Mini stands out because of its compatibility. In addition to integrating with other WeMo devices, the switch also works with the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and IFTTT. However, the WeMo Mini does not support integration with Apple’s HomeKit.

Runner-up

Photo: Rachel Cericola

The iHome iSP8 is a solid runner-up. It performs all of the standard smart-switch features very well, but adds additional smart-home integration and energy monitoring so you can see how much energy your lava lamp is wasting via the companion app. It also comes with a separate remote control for controlling it without a smartphone (from up to 35 feet away). The drawback of these extra features is that they cost more than our top pick. If you don’t need it to work with HomeKit or a smart-home hub, you don’t need to spend the extra money.

The iSP8 has a few additional smart-home perks over our main pick. Besides Alexa and Nest integration, it offers support for SmartThings and Wink smart-home systems, so you can connect it to a hub and make it a part of a larger, whole-house system. It also features Apple HomeKit integration, so you can control the iSP8 or groups of HomeKit-enabled devices using iOS devices and the sound of your voice. It does not work with Google Home.

Budget pick

Photo: Rachel Cericola

The Geeni Energi is a reliable performer and the least expensive Wi-Fi smart plug currently available. It provides all of the standard smart-switch features, allowing users to control devices both in and outside their home. It also includes scheduling and timers and can be controlled via Amazon Alexa devices. Geeni’s Android and iOS apps are identical, offering on-off controls, scheduling, timers, rules, the ability to group devices, and energy-usage information. However, It’s a bit bulkier than our other two picks, which will banish it to the bottom receptacle of your outlet.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

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The best phones under $250

The iPhone X: $ 999. The Galaxy Note 8: $ 930. Even the more affordable Google Pixel 2 commands a significant investment of $ 650. Today’s flagship phones are expensive enough that spending a significant chunk of your rent on a handset is seemingly the norm. You can opt for an installment plan to pay it off more easily, and for some people it’s worth paying a service provider for two years to own one of the best devices available. But many other people can’t afford, or would prefer not, to spend that much money on something they’ll replace in two years (or less). Fortunately for the budget-conscious, you can find a better selection of phones for $ 250 than you could even a few years ago.

What to expect

Before we get into the best phones at this price, let’s talk expectations. First off, many of the devices we’re discussing come unlocked, so it’s imperative that you check to see if they’ll work on your carrier before you buy one. Many unlocked handsets are only GSM-compatible, so they’ll support only AT&T, T-Mobile and their subsidiaries. Sprint and Verizon customers should be especially careful when making their selections.

At this price, you’re not going to get high-end features like face-recognition cameras, curved screens or high-res, edge-to-edge displays. Most of these phones use older chipsets and often run Android 6 Marshmallow instead of the newer Android 7 Nougat (which itself is no longer the latest OS).

For daily use, you won’t really notice a difference in speed with these phones, but don’t expect much if you’re using these for heavy-duty gaming or intensive multitasking. If that’s going to be a problem, you’re better off getting a flagship phone on an equipment installment plan (EIP) instead.

Flagships on a budget

You can still get a premium phone for cheap if you have the time and patience to monitor deal listings. Some carriers and websites slash prices for older (but still perfectly respectable) phones in anticipation of new launches or when approaching the holiday season. If you can wait till Black Friday, you’ll probably find plenty of deals bringing down the cost of usually expensive phones. In 2016, T-Mobile offered the iPhone 7, the Galaxy S7 and the LG V20 for free to people who traded in eligible smartphones, while Huawei’s Honor 8 dropped that year from $ 400 to $ 300. Right now, you can even find an iPhone SE ($ 399 at launch) for less than $ 250, or the older (but still good) HTC One M8 for $ 160. A Google search for “iPhone SE” returns options as low as $ 150 at Target for an AT&T version in space gray with 16GB of storage.

Affordable by design

If you weren’t fast enough to snag one of those deals, you still have decent options. Bright, crisp screens with full HD (1080p) displays are common at this price, so don’t fall for cheap phones with piddly 720p panels. Sub-$ 250 phones run the gamut when it comes to size, too, so you can pick from a big 5.5-inch screen down to a more compact 4.7-inch option. Many budget handsets also pack fingerprint sensors, long-lasting batteries, and dual cameras for special effects in portrait photography (although these tend to pale in comparison with iPhones and Samsung phones when it comes to quality).

The best budget phones

Motorola Moto G5S Plus

smartphone affordable budget

One of the best offerings is the $ 230 Moto G5S Plus. It’s the successor to the Moto G5 Plus, which was already our favorite budget phone. The new handset features a 5.5-inch 1080p display, dual rear 13-megapixel cameras and a generous 3,000mAh battery, all wrapped in a body that feels more expensive than it actually is. The phone uses an octa-core Snapdragon 625 chip that can go up to 2.0GHz, which is powerful enough for the average person and quite good for the price. It also runs the relatively new Android 7.1 Nougat and works on all four major US carriers. The main downside is the absence of NFC support, so if you like using your phone for contactless payments, this isn’t going to work for you.

Nokia 6

In that case, you can consider the $ 230 Nokia 6, which has NFC and runs the same version of Android as the G5S Plus. It features dual front-facing speakers with a “smart amplifier” and Dolby audio enhancements for louder sound. The Nokia 6 sports a single 16-megapixel camera on its rear, though, and uses a slower Snapdragon 430 processor. Also, it’s unfortunately stuck in the past with its micro-USB charging port. That’s a minor complaint, but when the rest of the world has already moved on to USB-C, it feels like an antiquated feature. Still, the Nokia 6 offers newish components for a reasonable price, and if you don’t mind getting Amazon ads on your lock screen, the Prime exclusive version of the phone is even cheaper, at $ 180.

Alcatel Idol 5s

Also available as a Prime exclusive is the Alcatel Idol 5s ($ 200 with ads; $ 280 without), which has a vibrant 5.2-inch, a 1080p screen and a USB-C port and runs Android 7. Like the Nokia 6, the Idol 5s has only a single 12-megapixel rear camera, but it uses the faster Snapdragon 625 processor (the same chip used in the Moto G5S Plus). Alcatel’s handset has a smaller battery than the Nokia 6 and the G5S Plus, though, so you might need to charge it more often. The Idol 5s looks and feels like a lot of Alcatel’s previous handsets, with a rounded silhouette, chrome edges and a glass rear. Despite a slightly dated design, the Idol line is known for its good quality and affordable prices. Plus, this is one of the few budget phones to support all four major US carriers while packing a well-rounded feature set.

ZTE Blade V8 Pro

The ZTE Blade V8 Pro is a compelling option. It sports a 5.5-inch 1080p display and dual 13-megapixel rear cameras that enable Portrait mode for bokeh on your photos, although you won’t get iPhone-quality images here. The Blade V8 Pro isn’t as adept at detecting outlines when applying the blur, but in ideal conditions it pulls off the effect well. I liked the phone’s sturdy build when I tried it out in January, but it’s not as pretty as the other options on this list. The V8 Pro is equipped with the same Snapdragon 625 chip as the Moto G5S Plus and the Idol 5s, but it runs the older Android 6 Marshmallow instead. It does support NFC, though, making it one of the few on this list to do so and a good option for people who don’t want to give up Android Pay.

Runners-up

Huawei Honor 6x

There are several other options in this space, but we’ll cap off this roundup with two quick mentions. Huawei’s Honor 6x is very similar to the ZTE Blade V8 Pro: It has dual cameras, runs Android 6.0 and features a 5.5-inch full HD display. But it doesn’t support NFC and it costs $ 20 more. Also, Huawei’s EMUI Android skin makes the software look cartoonish, despite adding useful fingerprint sensor shortcuts. The main reason to spend more for this phone over the Blade V8 Pro would be the Honor’s more elegant metal body.

ZTE Blade ZMax

Finally, those who want a big screen at this price should consider ZTE’s Blade line of affordable large phones. In particular, the Blade ZMax sports a 6-inch full HD display, dual cameras and a large 4,080mAh battery for $ 129. It’s also impressively slim for such a large phone and was easy to use with one hand during a brief demo. Some caveats: It uses a relatively slower octa-core Snapdragon 435 CPU and is available only via MetroPCS for now, but we expect it to be sold unlocked soon as well.

Final thoughts

With all the improvements trickling down from high-end flagships to today’s budget phones, shopping for a sub-$ 250 device no longer feels like digging through a bargain bin of iPhone rejects. They won’t be the fastest or have the best cameras, but the options in this category are respectable handsets with relatively modern features. If you have a bit more cash to spare, you’ll find even better phones in the sub-$ 500 category that are nearly on par with flagships in terms of performance. We’ll be putting together those recommendations soon, so stay tuned.

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