In this section, you will find useful information regarding the latest connected devices we've evaluated and compared.
Each category includes our top picks, which we've come to recommend and hundreds of hours researching and testing these products.
Although we might love or enjoy any of the products we use, we narrow our picks down to five to help alleviate some of the hassles in choosing the right product for you. When there are so many options out there, making the right decision can mean the difference between saving and losing money.
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Of course, we're always searching for the best value; the fine line where quality meets affordability.
Beyond our top picks and product recommendations are our key considerations you should know before making the purchase.
We'll coach you through evaluating price, functionality, design, quality, and more. If you're looking for the best deals on tablets, mobile hotspots, and wearable technology, you'll find them all compiled right here for you.
Tablets for Reading, Gaming, and Learning
The best thing about tablets is that they combine the best of both worlds. They are thin and light, making it easy to bring them on the plane or train, but offer decent keyboards and computing ability to match some laptops. With so many different kinds of tablets out there, you might be surprised to know that, when it comes to tablets, it's not one size fits all.
Like computers and cell phones, you have to put some thought into what you intend to do with your tablet. Will you use it as your personal eReader? For business on the go? Tablets also have access to app stores with a huge amount of games, media, and software to explore and use. There are even specially designed tablets for children that make great educational tools.
Depending on what you intend to use your tablet on, you'll have to look out for the amount of memory and storage your device has, the kind of operating system it uses, and some other technical specs that might be important.
When shopping for a tablet, it's hard to know where to start. There are so many things to take into consideration such as portability, budget, battery life, and primary usage. Here are the important things you should know before you buy:
- Portability & Size: Tablets are larger than cell phones but smaller than laptops, which means they might fall in awkward "where do I put this?" situation. Fortunately, tablets can easily slip into most book bags, laptop bags, and travel bags. In addition, the size of the tablet will vary on what you'll need it for. If you intend to use your iPad for gaming or watching movies, you'll want a larger screen.
- Display & Battery Life: The display's importance factors into the size of the tablet. A large screen size means more pixels, which means brighter colors and a crisper picture. You'll also want to look for tablets with a battery long enough to withstand use while traveling. There's nothing worse than the battery dying halfway through an episode of TV.
- Price: Generally speaking, larger tablets with higher resolution displays, faster processing power, and more storage cost more than their smaller counterparts. eReaders and kids tablets usually run for under $100, however.
- Features: For reading, you'll want tablets that hold and operate look a book, with access to digital libraries. For children, you might want rubber edges and built-in educational apps. For mobile working, you might want the Microsoft Office suite and a data plan.
If you own a smartphone, then you already have a GPS, but these specially designed trackers can be used for the things that don't use cell phones such as, pets (who don't have opposable thumbs) and children (who do have opposable thumbs, but aren't that much smarter than your dog).
The most important reason why you should consider purchasing a GPS tracker is that it offers peace of mind. With a data plan or SIM card, you can receive updates on the whereabouts of your child, set up geofencing borders so you know when your child leaves school, and some trackers even allow for two-way communication and messaging. They're easy to clip onto a book bag or slip into a pocket.
For pets, you can clip one onto your dog's collar, which can be used to contain important information and medical records in the unfortunate circumstance that your dog runs away.
Before you buy, here's what you should know:
- Battery Life: After a lot of research, there are many GPS trackers out there with poor battery life or ones that need to be charged constantly. Look for a GPS tracker that can last a while, or at least can be fully charged overnight.
- Smartphone Integration: Many GPS trackers have free companion apps you can download where you can look at a dashboard of features and receive regular updates on where your child or pet is. Be aware that some apps might only be available for iOS or Android.
- Features: Unless you want to spook your pooch, you won't need a GPS tracker with two-way communication. However, a panic button or quick contact list might interest you for your child.
A smart watch is arguably the ultimate cell phone accessory (on equal terms, perhaps, with a case). A smart watch will tell you the time, of course, but its true utility lies under the surface. Whether you have an Apple Watch, a Samsung Gear, or any of the other dozens of smart watches out there, they have a host of extra functions that make them useful.
What makes a smart watch such an exciting piece of wearable technology is that it is a natural extension of your smartphone. Either through BlueTooth integration or a data plan with a SIM card, you can pair the two devices together. You'll be able to receive calls, texts, emails, and notifications beamed straight to your smart watch.
Although not standard, most smart watches come with GPS tracker capabilities, fitness monitoring such as a step counter and even heartbeat rate, and several native apps inherent to your smartwatch.
Smartwatches, however, are still relatively new technology, and may not be a good fit for everyone. You don't absolutely need one to make it through your day like you would a cell phone, and can be too expensive for most folk.
With so many smartwatches on the market, we understand choosing the right one can be a bit daunting. Here are a few important items you should know before you buy:
- Functionality: It's obvious that a smart watch is extremely portable, but what can it do for you? Depending on your lifestyle, you may want a smartwatch for fitness and exercise, one that has a hardened rubber shell for accidental drops and the rigors of travel, or one that is waterproof for those days at the pool.
- Compatibility: Like I said before, most smartwatches can integrate with your phone. It makes sense, then, to purchase a smart watch using the same operating system as your phone. You'll make the most of your Samsung Gear watch when you pair it with a Samsung Galaxy phone.
- Style: Just like normal watches, a smartwatch is a true accessory, and should compliment your sense of fashion and your appearance. Simply put, do you like the way it looks? Smart watches can range from sleek and sexy to color to blockish to built like a tank.
For more information, check out our buyer's guide to smartwatches.
We also have reviews and comparisons of smartwatches designed especially for kids. These devices are simpler and usually come with GPS tracker capabilities. Check it out here.
An activity tracker is a wearable device (typically on your wrist, though they can be placed on more than just your wrist) that records your daily physical activity as well as a variety of data that is dependent on the device and your activity. For instance, your fitness tracker may record your heart rate, the calories you burned, and your sleep patterns.
Consider only the features that would be suited best for the particular physical activity. For instance, if you go walking for the majority of your exercise regime, then you shouldn't exactly consider a fitness tracker with a heart rate monitor.
If you're interested in your resting or walking heart rate, you can always use a smartphone app that is designed to measure your heart rate, like the Galaxy Note 5 stock app S Health.
Before making a purchase, you should evaluate the sorts of features available with an activity tracker. Does it track your sleep? What about your heart rate? Is the band water resistant? Does it feature anything unique, like music storage? How accurate is the data it reports?
For more information, check out our buyer's guide to activity trackers.
Mobile hotspot devices offer you online access wherever you go. You can connect your laptop, tablet and other gadgets and get them all on the web simultaneously. Using a mobile hotspot, you can work online almost anywhere via a broadband connection and avoid using up your smartphone data and battery.
A mobile hotspot's clear advantage is that it offers a consistent, secure connection to the Internet where WiFi is unavailable. Even if you're somewhere with WiFi access, a mobile hotspot may be the better alternative. Although there are thousands of public WiFi spots to connect to, they are inherently unreliable and unsecured and may subject you to slower speeds to handle all the other uses.
With a mobile hotspot, however, you can set up your own personal line to the Internet that is password protected. With a data plan and a SIM card, you can choose how fast your Internet speeds are and enjoy surfing the web wherever you are.
There are two considerations that are key to understand before you buy a mobile hotspot. They are:
- You'll need a data plan: A mobile hotspot is useless without a data plan to support it. That means you'll pay a one-time fee to purchase the hotspot and a monthly fee for service and data.
- Unlimited plans are rare and costly: Mobile hotspot plans typically cap your data at 10GBs or lower, although unlimited data plans do exist. When you reach your data cap, you'll be deprioritized and suffer cripplingly slow speeds. Or you'll simply run out of data, stuck until the next month.
For more information, check out our buyer's guide to mobile hotspots.