TECH FOR TOONIES: Hands-on with the best “dollar store” technology


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Just because you’re low on funds doesn’t mean you can’t afford a new gadget or two.

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After all, there might not be much money left after blowing your grocery and gas budget.

Believe it or not, your local dollar store has a decent selection of consumer electronics, including computer and phone accessories, audio equipment, car tech, and other small gadgets you can find for a few dollars.

As long as you have reasonable expectations of quality or longevity, you shouldn’t be disappointed with what you can buy for change, especially compared to something you’d pay up to 10 times more in a Supermarket. . (Seriously, connect a video game console to your TV with a $2 HDMI cable and see if you can tell the difference with a $25 cable).

After browsing a handful of stores in the Greater Toronto Area (as well as Guelph and London, Ontario) — such as Dollarama, Dollar Tree, 99¢ Depot, and Absolute Dollar — here are half a dozen recommendations.

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Be careful though, not all stores offer the same products. Plus, you might find a very similar one under a different brand name.

see the light

Unless you have a tablet or e-reader with a backlit screen, reading an ebook or paper book in bed can be a hassle because you’ll have to turn on a lamp, which might disturb your sleeping partner.

Instead, the GE LED Book Light, for $2, clips onto your eReader, paperback, or hardcover. Simply press the switch to illuminate the page.

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Available in blue, pink, green and other colors, this adjustable reading lamp includes a 10,000-hour LED bulb, the company says. One AAA battery is required, but not included. You can also get them at the dollar store (a Sunbeam 4-pack for $1.25).

Serve and Protect

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As the name suggests, the No Name Window and Door Alarm ($1.25) is a small device that can alert a homeowner to a possible break-in.

Peel off the sticky adhesives on the back of this two-piece alarm, press it against a door, window, or cabinet opening, and flip the switch to turn it on.

Now, if the two pieces of the magnetic device separate, a piercing 90 decibel alarm will sound.

Three alkaline watch batteries (LR44) are included.

hold it

Down to $40 for select models on Amazon, the $4 Tech 1-branded tablet support pillow is a plush – and kitsch – way to prop up your iPad or other tablet when it’s on your lap (eg. , lying on a couch), or sitting on a flat surface, such as a desk or table.

It’s ideal for watching videos, reading e-books, or holding your device in place while you video chat with friends.

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Available in beige, blue or pink, the soft microfiber material unzips in two places, in case you want to throw it in the wash – minus the firm triangular corner and cylindrical padding inside.

Move the mouse

Also, from Tech-1 is a retractable USB mouse ($3), which plugs into an available USB (Type-A) port on your Windows PC, Mac or Chromebook – no drivers needed – and you can shoot on the retractable 30 inch cord to give you extra slack if needed.

In white and gray or black and gray, its symmetrical shape makes it ideal for right-handed or left-handed users.

This is great for travelers (at least as a backup) because a laptop’s built-in trackpad may not be comfortable (or ergonomically ideal) after a few minutes of use.

For $1 more, Tech-1 also has a larger, wireless mouse, which includes a tiny transceiver to plug into an available USB port. AA battery not included.

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purse friend

It’s rewarding enough to find a $3 speaker for your favorite music player, smartphone, or tablet, but the Hype Audio Compact Rechargeable Speaker smartly doubles as a little mirror for applying makeup, too.

Although not wireless, this clamshell speaker includes a custom 61-centimeter cable that plugs into the music source (via a 3.5-millimeter “mini” plug), as well as a connector Built-in USB to power the rechargeable speaker, if needed. This handbag-friendly gadget is available in multiple colors.

Stereo sound quality is surprisingly strong, but don’t expect more than an hour of playback between charges.

Take control

Found for $2 to $3.50 (depending on location), the Momentum Universal Remote can control up to 8 devices, like a TV, cable box, or DVD player (if you still have one).

To program the remote, press and hold the button for the device you want to control (such as a TV), then enter the TV’s manufacturer’s code in the manual, or press Channel Up to scan through possible codes until until the device turns off.

Press the “Set” button to confirm that it works.

The remote also includes controls for volume, mute, play/pause/skip, menu, and more.
Not included, but two AA batteries are required.

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