My favorite cheap tech of 2017

Some great products and services made this year more affordable than ever.

ZDNet's Business Bargain Hunter scours the web for great deals on computers, phones, services and much more. Prices and availability are accurate at the time deals are shared. Some products and services may not be available outside the U.S. Follow BBH on Facebook and Twitter, where he's known as The Cheapskate.


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ZDNet

Oy, what a year.

Just when you thought it impossible to pack more woe into 365 days than 2016 did, along came 2017.

But even amidst all the security breaches, data leaks, net-neutrality fights and ransomware scares, we witnessed an amazing year in tech. And not just amazing, but cheap: Everything from phones to drones saw spec bumps and price drops.

Here, then, are my picks for some of the best cheap tech of 2017.

When you're done reading, leave a comment naming your own choices!

Incredibly cheap phones

Need to outfit your sales team with phones for the field? Ouch, that's gonna cost ya -- you need models that are fast, rugged, capable and secure, and ideally premium-looking to project the right image.

Good news: You don't have to spend $800 per unit. Nor even $600. In 2017, we witnessed the arrival of premium-grade smartphones at mid-range prices -- models from the likes of Huawei, Motorola and OnePlus, to name a few.

Even down around the $200 level, you can score some pretty amazing gear. Earlier this month, for example, I shared a deal on the Doogee Mix, an unlocked 5.5-inch phone priced at $178 (and normally just $200). It's metal and stylish, with Gorilla Glass 5 protection, a fingerprint sensor and an all-day battery.

According to ZDNet's Jason Perlow, things will only get better in 2018: Phones like the Huawei Honor 7X represent the future of the industry, offering "super-premium" design and features for a fraction of the price of Apple and Samsung flagships. (The Honor 7X arrived in the U.S. this month for an impossible-seeming $200.)

If you cheap out on laptops for your workers, productivity can suffer. But now you can totally cheap out on phones, and no one will notice -- or care.

These Gmail add-ons

Plenty of businesses run on Gmail, and plenty of business users really hate Gmail -- in part because the UI is kind of user-hostile, at least in a desktop browser.

Needless to say, I'm a fan of anything that makes Gmail easier to handle. And this year brought two such things: Shift is a desktop client that greatly simplifies managing multiple Gmail accounts, and Dittach helps you find and manage attachments with startling ease.

Shift Pro and Shift Advanced cost $30 and $100 per year, respectively, while Dittach is free. They're the two best things to happen to Gmail all year, no question.

This SMB printer

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The Dell E525w may not be pretty, but there's no other all-in-one color laser that delivers as much bang for the buck.

Dell

The Dell E525w is not the best multifunction printer in the world. It's not even particularly attractive.

But it's by far the best deal -- at least some of time.

See, the E525w lists for $329.99, and that's the price you'll pay from Dell proper. But every now and again, it goes on sale for around $130-135.

I've seen that price at stores like Quill and Staples; if you want to get notified the next time it happens, sign up for an alert at DealNews.com.

Here's more about why I think it's the best SMB printer for the price.

Budget-friendly business drones

Countless businesses can benefit from eyes in the sky, whether for surveying a building site or just checking roofs for damage.

Thankfully, that no longer requires thousands of dollars' worth of flying-camera equipment. In 2017, prosumer drones like the DJI Mavic Pro offered up 4K video recording, automated flight, obstacle-avoidance and other premium features -- but with sub-$1,000 pricing. (In fact, the Mavic is currently on sale for $900.)

That means all you need is a pilot with a little bit of training and you can capture the kind of aerial footage that would normally require a helicopter! (Check out David Gewirtz's first impressions of the Mavic Pro.)

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