You’re a caveman with $2000 to spend on gadgets – what should you buy?

You’ve just woken up from a deep, long coma. You’re practically a caveman.  But the one thing that hasn’t changed is your love for gadgets. Someone gives you $2000 to buy enough technology for the next year — how do you spend it?

We examine what’s best in-class for each category, and then figure out the ideal product mix given the budget.

Let’s ignore taxes and the second-hand market for this thought exercise.

Data plan? Yes. It might seem odd that we don’t begin with a device, but the data plan we choose determines what path we take.  We somewhat artificially decide on prepaid so we only need to allocate a year’s worth of budget.  Let’s assume $50 per month for 12 months, $600.  For simplicity, we assume tethering is possible.

Smartphone? Yes. You want a good phone as it’s the device you’ll use the most. Since we are on prepaid, we probably can’t afford an iPhone 5S, arguably the best phone on the market today.  Fortunately, there is an excellent alternative in the Nexus 5 at $350. There are other good options like the Moto G for $180 or the Oppo Find 7a for $500, but let’s go with the Nexus 5.

This leaves us with a $1050 remaining budget.

Small tablet? A small tablet is 6-inches to 8-inches in screen size. But no, you don’t need one since you already have a 5-inch smartphone — the marginal increase in size isn’t worth a new device. Even more true if you opted for a phablet like the Galaxy Note 3 instead of a Nexus 5. You can read eBooks just fine with your 5-inch smartphone or 10-inch tablet and anyway you’re on a budget.

Large tablet (10-inches and up)? 



This where it gets interesting. Do you need a regular PC, and if you do, does it need to be a laptop or desktop? Let’s assume you need a laptop and Office with it — you’re a hipster and want to work in that cool cafe by the pier.

There are are several good possibilities.

Possibility #1

  • $410 for a 32 GB Nexus 10 (Wi-Fi only) and a competent tablet
  • $20 for a decent case
  • $500 for an HP Envy 14: since you have a 10-inch tablet, you’d want a significantly bigger screen for your laptop
  • $100 for an Office 365 subscription

Is anything above sexy though?

Possibility #2

  • $1000 for the 13-inch, 128 GB MacBook Air
  • $100 for an Office 365 subscription

The major downside is that you don’t have any budget left for a tablet with a MacBook Air. And if you can only have one device, 13-inches is a quantum leap better than 11.

Possibility #3

  • $800 for an i3 Surface Pro 3
  • $130 for a Type 3 Cover
  • $40 for a 64 GB MicroSD card to get to 128 GB total storage
  • $100 for an Office 365 subscription

Slightly over budget.  You could also opt for a $900 Lenovo Yoga 11S if you prefer the clamshell form factor; it’s a better laptop but a far worse tablet due to its weight.

Possibility #4

If you still need Office but don’t need a PC, I’d spend the remaining budget on the best iPad possible and go with one device instead of two:

  • $800 for a 128 GB iPad Air; the best tablet with the widest app selection
  • $100 for a Logitech case to get keyboard, cover and kickstand
  • $100 for an Office 365 subscription

The downside with this approach is that you’ll be working primarily on a 10-inch screen, which might be too small for some people.

Possibility #5

Or you can get more if you go with the Surface 2:

  • $500 for a 32 GB Surface 2, with free 200 GB of OneDrive storage for two years
  • $130 for the Type 2 Cover
  • $120 for a 128 GB MicroSD card
  • $250 for a Pebble Steel or future Android Wear watch

However, with the Surface 2 you forgo the iPad’s huge library of apps and games.

Another possibility is a hybrid like the $400 ASUS Transformer Book T100, a tablet with an included keyboard. However, the T100 lacks the premium fit and finish of the Surface 2.

Possibility #6

If you want a typing-driven device and don’t need Office, then I’d recommend going all-in with the Google ecosystem:

Or just purchase a keyboard for the Sony Xperia Z2 tablet, ditch the Chromebook and save a couple hundred dollars in the process.


Tabling the options above reveal interesting insights. Microsoft’s Surface line really does go head-to-head with Apple’s products; there’s only budget for one device. Microsoft provides more flexibility (laptop AND tablet) while Apple provides more focus (laptop OR tablet). Google wants you to go cheap: Chromebook instead of PC and Google Docs instead of Office. The prize for not needing those things is extra budget for a nice smartwatch.  The Surface 2 package also gets budget for a smartwatch, having benefited from Office being bundled in.


Personally, I’d go with #3. My experience with Surface Pro and Surface 2 gives me confidence the Surface Pro 3 will be a good enough laptop and a good-to-great large tablet on the strength of its pen input.

By the end of the year, I expect my daily drivers to be the 5.5 inch iPhone 6 (or equivalent flagship Android phone) and the Surface Pro 3.

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