Best Tech Values of the Year
From off-brand headphones to slow, underpowered laptops, the Internet is flooded with cheap tech that underwhelms.
A true bargain punches above its weight in terms of specs, features and performance. In fact, many inexpensive devices and services can rival — if not beat — their pricier counterparts. Our second annual Tech Value Awards honors those devices, spotlighting the best gear and services that merit your attention.
Based on our in-depth reviews and comparisons, these are the 10 best tech bargains of 2018.
Best Mobile Phone: OnePlus 6T
$549? You might do a double take when you see the starting price for the OnePlus 6T. For about half the cost of premium flagships like the iPhone XS and Galaxy Note 9, the OnePlus 6T delivers top-level specs and performance. You get a huge, 6.4-inch OLED display, Snapdragon 845 processor, 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM (8GB of RAM costs just $20 more). Plus, it's supereasy to unlock this Android Pie phone, as it includes an in-screen fingerprint sensor.
It's no wonder that T-Mobile has picked up this beauty, making this the first OnePlus device to be sold through a U.S. carrier. In fact, you can save 50 percent if you trade in your old phone, though you can go the unlocked route, too. Add in some welcome camera improvements, including a new Nightscape mode, and you have the best tech value of the year.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Best Smartwatch: Amazfit Bip
There are plenty of digital workout companions on the market these days, but few of them pack the features and performance of the Amazfit Bip. This lightweight smartwatch sports an Apple Watch-inspired design, GPS, heart rate monitor and long battery life in a package that costs under $80.
Its soft silicone band fits both beefy and petite wrists superlatively, and its 1.28-inch color display is always on. The watch's interface is easy to interact with: Just swipe left for major operations and tap the screen for more details. Best of all, its battery lasts 45 days under regular use or about two weeks with the GPS and heart rate monitor on intermittently.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Best Laptop: Acer Aspire E 15
The Acer Aspire E 15 is a laptop that defies its low price. Priced at $349, it manages to offer an excellent price-to-performance ratio, courtesy of its Core i3-8130U processor, 6GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive.
Unlike many budget laptops, which sport low-res displays, the Aspire E 15 sports a sharp 1080p screen. Its keyboard is comfortable to type on and you get a very good 8.5 hours of battery life. There are some minor trade-offs with this system, but overall, it's a fantastic value.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Best Service: Sinemia
Why choose Sinemia? It doesn't limit you to a restrictive set of films (which MoviePass now does), for starters. Also, Sinemia offers family plan options, discounts for annual payments and multiple ticket levels, starting as low as $4.99 per month. Also, if you want the Ticket-a-Day plan that MoviePass once offered (and no longer does), you can get it from Sinemia (at an admittedly higher rate).
Best Portable Battery: Anker PowerCore 10000
Other chargers may pack more juice, but few offer the perfect mix of portability, speed and price that you get in the Anker PowerCore 10000.
Able to charge two flagship smartphones, with enough juice left over to top off another, the pocket-size PowerCore 10000 uses Anker's PowerIQ technology for speedy delivery that matches your device. And since it's under $30, you'll have plenty of money left over for a great phone case and other accessories.
Best TV: TCL 43S517 Roku Smart 4K TV
The Editors' Choice 43-inch 4K Roku Smart TV (43S517) helps TCL solidify its title as the king of budget TVs. This smaller set packs premium features like Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos sound and a remote with integrated mic, yet keeps a modest $349.99 price tag — all while offering excellent picture quality.
Having Roku's smart TV interface on board is another great perk: There are tons of streaming services and channels to choose from, and the interface is easy to use.
Best Travel Device: TaoTronics TT-BH040
If you're not familiar with the TaoTronics brand, there's just one thing you need to know — the company makes the best sub-$100 pair of wireless headphones on the market.
Comfortable and stylish, the TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones (TT-BH040) effectively block out distant and nearby sounds. They also offer punchy bass and recognizable mids. Best of all, you can frequently find them on sale for under $50.
Best Soundbar: Yamaha YAS-108
With crisp treble and a wide sound field, the Yamaha YAS-108 delivers impressive overall sound and performance for its cost. On Childish Gambino's "Summertime Magic," the unit's wide sound field made the layers of sound easy to distinguish above the track's thumping bass. Meanwhile, the dialogue between James Holden and Naomi Nagata in The Expanse was crystal-clear, even when Holden is intensely whispering.
The soundbar packs two 2.1-inch woofers and two 1-inch tweeters. For more boom, Yamaha also integrated two 3-inch subwoofers into the unit with a wired connection for a separate sub.
Best Robot Vacuum: Eufy RoboVac 11S
Robot vacuums have come a long way, and if you're looking for a nimble vacuum that can keep your house tidy, the Eufy RoboVac 11S should be high on your list. The $200 vacuum can clean everything from pet hair to crumbs, and its ultraslim, 2.8-inch profile allows it to squeeze into hard-to-reach areas like underneath coffee tables and couches.
It features multiple cleaning modes and operates on both hardwood floors and carpeting. Like most robot vacuums, it can operate autonomously — evading obstacles, stairs and anything that can get in its way while offering up to 100 minutes of runtime.
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As deals editor at Tom’s Guide, Louis is constantly looking for ways to avoid paying full price for the latest gadgets. With over 10 years of deals-hunting experience, Louis price checks against multiple retailers and searches high and low for the best deals to bring readers. A born-and-bred New Yorker, Louis is also an avid swimmer and marathoner. His work has appeared on Gizmodo, CNET, and Time Out New York.