Dappered Tech: The best affordable gadgets of 2012

Our tech correspondent helps upgrade the office.

Now is a great time to upgrade your gadgets.  Virgin Mobile, Dappered’s favorite mobile provider, recently released a 4G Android phone.  Ultrabooks, those thin and sexy laptops, are going on sale thanks to new models being released.  And tablet makers continue to attempt to dethrone the iPad.  The best values are a bit under the radar.  Here are a few picks to upgrade your office.

HTC EVO V 4G from Virgin Mobile.

The New Phone

Virgin Mobile’s HTC EVO V 4G is pretty slick.  It runs on Sprint’s 4G network.  It comes with Android 4.0 installed (the latest, greatest version).  The only drawback I see is the goofy 3D camera.  Meh.  You’ll probably never use that.  Why is Virgin Mobile loved at Dappered?  Unlimited data, text messaging, and 300 minutes of talk for $35 a month.  That’s an amazing deal.  The phone is unsubsidized – $299.

If you’re not in a Sprint 4G WiMAX city, consider the LG Optimus Elite.  It’s thinner, has better battery life, looks a bit more elegant, and costs half as much ($149).  Unfortunately, it’s running an older version of Google’s Android OS and it lacks a front-facing camera for video chats.  Still, it’s a solid phone.  But the battery life boost you get comes at the expense of processor speed.  It’s not going to be as snappy as the EVO, but for many, that’s fine.

Accessories:  Shit happens – set a screenlock password and install the Lookout security app.  Skip the bumper cases unless you’re clumsy.  Consider a screen skin (buy it and get it installed at Best Buy and you won’t have any bubbles – they’re pros).

Acers’ S3.  Travel ready.

The New Computer

Ultrabooks, Intel’s response to the successful and expensive MacBook Air, are awesome.  Thinner than a regular laptop, impressive battery life – what’s not to like?  Well, they typically lack an optical drive, so no playing DVDs unless you have an external one.

If you can live without the drive, check out the Acer S3.  Unlike many Ultrabooks, Acer uses a dual drive setup so that it isn’t stuck with just 128GB of storage.  It’s got space for all your music, videos, and files.   And it’s a great travel computer too.

Accessories: Get a Bluetooth mouse – your wrists will thank you.

Don’t forget an external DVD drive (rip movies to the hard drive using DVDShrink so you can watch them while traveling).

1 month of Prime included.

The Tablet

Want to browse the internet from your couch, but don’t want to pickup your laptop?  Get a Kindle Fire – it’s perfect for your coffee table.  Browse the web, read Dappered, shop Amazon, check TV listings, and stream videos.  It’s 1/3 the price of an iPad and 90% as awesome.  All for $199.

Accessories:  A coffee table.  And Amazon Prime – you get a free month with your Kindle Fire.  Enjoy Amazon’s selection of streaming video and free shipping for all purchases.

The Rest…

The Printer:  Face it, you really don’t need a printer, but it’s sure nice to have one when you do.  Just banish it to the closet.  Seriously, get a wireless printer and move it into your closet.  No cords needed (just power).  They’re cheaper than you think – this Canon PIXMA is $80. Don’t have an outlet in the closet? Hook it up to an extension cord and only plug it in when you need it. 

Accessories?  Well there’s paper, you know that stuff that’s like a PDF but it’s made out of chopped down trees pressed into thin sheets and requires no batteries.

The New Router:  Wondering why your home internet isn’t as fast or as reliable as it use to be?  You probably have an old, tired WiFi router.  Get a new one to bring back the zip.  My buddy into online gaming swears by the Asus N12 .  Why does he like it?  It does some hocus-pocus to optimize bandwidth and … whatever, it’s faster than your normal WiFi.  And it’s under $40.  Want to save space and simplify? Get one with an integrated modem and save yourself the hassle of configuring two things – just be sure to get one compatible with your internet provider. 

Accessories? Enable WPA2 encryption.  Here’s how you do it for 2WIRE Routers, popular if you’re on AT&T DSL.

Got any other must-have technology or an alternative to DVDShrink?  Leave a tip in the comments.