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The Tech-pert: My 5 Favorite Gadgets of 2011

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Rick.Broida)
at 9:56AM Thursday December 22, 2011
under Stuff We Like

Has another year gone by already? If there's one thing I wish I could save more of, it's time, not money.

But until scientists figure out how to do that, money it is!

Of course, there is one way to turn back the clock, in a manner of speaking. Today I'm pausing to reflect on 2011 and pick my favorite gadgets of the year. What's on the list? You may be surprised by some of my choices. (Hint: There's not a single Apple product.)
Barnes & Noble Nook Color

Okay, technically the Nook Color made its debut in late 2010, but I didn't get one until this year, so it still counts as a 2011 favorite. This 7-inch "tablet" started out as a dedicated e-reader, but an OS upgrade brought Android apps to the table.

In the interim, hackers figured out how to turn the Nook into a full-blown Android tablet, and now it's as easy as popping a special card into its microSD slot. The $129 refurbished Nook Color deal is gone, sadly, but you can still pick one up for $149.

Trust me: you won't be disappointed.

Magic Jack Plus

Ready to cut the cord on your landline? It's rarely been easier or cheaper than with the MagicJack Plus, which plugs directly into your home router (meaning you don't need to leave a PC running 24/7, as with the original MagicJack) and provides unlimited local and long-distance calling.

The Plus itself runs $70, which includes your first year of phone service. After that, you pay just $30 per year. And you now have the option of porting your existing phone number to the device (for an extra fee, natch), which makes dropping your landline a more viable option.

I recently reviewed the Plus and liked it a lot, even though it's not the most user-friendly device--and the company's online-only support options leave much to be desired.

Powerbag

Okay, a backpack might seem pretty boring, but, so help me, I love this thing. The Powerbag comes with its own rechargeable battery, which you can use to power and recharge all your mobile gear: smartphone, e-reader, headset, and so on.

And the Powerbag collection includes not just backpacks, but also briefcases and messenger bags. If you routinely find yourself running out of juice in your travels, this is the bag for you.

Roku LT

The LT is a cute, impossibly tiny purple box that plugs into your TV. I already called it the "hot holiday gadget of 2011," so it should come as no surprise that it's on my favorites list.

For a mere $50, you get a veritable buffet of streaming video and audio goodness: Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Amazon Instant Video, Pandora, and much, much more. (Obviously many of these services require subscriptions, but that's true regardless of what you use to access them.)

What's not to like?

Virgin Mobile Motorola Triumph

If you've been lusting after a smartphone but don't want to get locked into a two-year contract--or pay a minimum of $60 per month for voice and data--your best option is a prepaid phone. Alas, until recently, there were few models to choose from, and those were mostly on the low-end, underpowered side.

That all changed with the Virgin Mobile Motorola Triumph, an Android-powered prepaid smartphone that's anything but entry-level. It's super-speedy and comes with a spacious 4.1-inch screen and 5-megapixel camera. It's on the pricey side at $299.99, but you stand to save big in the long run: Virgin's monthly plans start at $35, including unlimited data!

What do you think the best gadgets of 2011 are? Share your favorites in the comments!

Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently, "How to Do Everything: Palm Pre." Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.