Give like you give a damn
When it comes to finding gifts that are cool, useful, and affordable, technology can check all those boxes. And contrary to what you might think, the audience for cool tech gifts is quite broad, with options for virtually everyone on your holiday shopping list.
Don’t believe us? Check out the killer array of products we found costing $50 or less.
Amazon Echo Dot
The Amazon Echo’s smaller, more affordable sibling is a fail-safe gift for anyone who values convenience. Driven by Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant, this unobtrusive puck puts a wealth of useful information, entertainment, and practical functionality just a voice-command away.
Use the Echo Dot to control a home’s lighting, play music, estimate commute times, operate a timer, answer trivia questions, read books and news bulletins aloud, provide local movie times and locations, hail an Uber, or order anything from Amazon (natch).
Don’t be surprised if your gift of a single Dot has the recipient buying more to fill every room.
Ninety7 Vaux speaker dock
For that someone who already has an Echo Dot, the Vaux speaker dock makes a great gift ($49.99 on Amazon). Drop your Dot into the hollowed-out top of the Vaux, and you greatly improve the Dot’s sound quality. The Vaux also makes the Dot portable.
A 5000mAh Lithium-ion battery in the Vaux will reportedly power the combo for about six hours, depending on use case, allowing you to take the Dot on the go. A 3.5mm aux jack on the Vaux allows you to hardwire a phone or tablet to the speaker, as well. (Read our full review of the Vaux.)
Echogear Outlet Shelf
Another great accessory for the Echo Dot—or any other AC-powered speaker or smart device—is this handy Outlet Shelf ($14.99 on Amazon).
Simply use it to replace an existing outlet cover, and just like that, you’ve added a small shelf right above the power outlet on which to set your device.
Granted, this works best with outlets that aren’t located down near the floor. Kitchens and wet bars are obvious candidates for placement. (Read our full review.)
See TechHive’s article on the best Amazon Echo add-ons and accessories, for other nifty gift ideas in this space.
SnapPower Charger and SnapPower Safelight
Another ingenious idea, SnapPower’s Charger ($21.95 on Amazon) ensures that your USB charger is always where you expect it to be, permanently affixed to the outlet of your choosing.
Installing the Charger outlet cover is straightforward and doesn’t involve messing with any wiring. (See TechHive’s full review.)
Roku Streaming Stick (2017)
For anyone on your gift list who doesn’t already own a smart TV or streaming box, the Roku Streaming Stick ($49.99 on Amazon) is a fantastic option.
The thumb-sized drive simply plugs into a TV’s HDMI slot, bringing Roku’s unparalleled selection of streaming apps to the screen. That selection includes apps for all the popular subscription services—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Go—as well as several lesser-known gems.
The latest version of the Streaming Stick has us especially smitten, thanks to the remote’s ability to control TV power and volume, and the addition of voice recognition.
Raspberry Pi Model B
The Raspberry Pi makes a great gift for tinkerers.
This tiny bare-bones PC ($34.55 on Amazon), which was initially introduced as a teaching tool, has captured the hearts and imaginations of hobbyists, and become the basis for all sorts of cool projects.
Vastar 58-in-1 Precision Screwdriver Set
Another great gift for tinkerers, especially PC builders, this magnetic screwdriver kit (currently $10.49 on Amazon) offers all the various tiny tools needed for fixing and replacing parts in tight spaces.
The telescoping magnet alone can save a user the time and frustration of extracting dropped bits. This is perfect as a stocking stuffer.
Anker SoundCore A3102 Bluetooth speaker
There’s a reason Anker’s SoundCore A3102 is Techhive’s pick as best budget Bluetooth speaker. It’s solidly built, its weatherized exterior makes it easy to pick up and carry, and it pumps out decent sound for its incredibly low price ($29.99 on Amazon).
The portable speaker measures 6.5 inches wide, 2.25 inches high, and 1.75 inches deep. Its 4,400mAh battery charges via a micro-USB port, a 3.5mm jack makes it usable with headphones, and an integrated mic lets the speaker function as a speakerphone. (Learn more in the full review.)
Valve Steam Link
Here’s a gift that will please the PC gamer in your life. Valve’s Steam Link set-top box ($49.99 on Amazon), lets you stream any games stored on Steam from a PC to a large-screen TV.
In our tests, performance with even twitchy, fast-paced shooters was satisfying. And who can deny the pleasure of being able to play games from the comfort of a couch?
Learn more in our full review.
SteelSeries Dex Gaming Mousepad
PC gamers take their pastime very seriously. It’s not enough to have a fast PC with the latest graphics card. The peripherals are important too—monitor, keyboard, and mouse all contribute to an optimum gaming experience. And so does the mouse pad.
That’s right. Having a surface designed specifically for fast action and intensive use can give a PC gamer an edge over pedestrian pads. We found the SteelSeries Dex ($39.99 on Amazon) to be particularly impressive, providing a smooth and consistent surface throughout our tests.
For PC gamers who have a penchant for emulated gaming classics, we recommend the 8bitdo SNES30 retro controller ($39.99 on Amazon).
This homage to the original Super Nintendo Entertainment System controller perfectly mimics the look and feel of the original, accommodating classic gameplay on modern systems. It connects to a PC via Bluetooth or an included USB cable.
It’s a standout among third-party controllers. Read our full review.
Another great stocking stuffer, these handy adapters (available in a two-pack for $10 from Amazon) are a small-but-mighty convenience for anyone with a phone or tablet that charges via a USB-C.
Say you lose or forget your USB-C cable, these adapters save the day by letting you borrow a common micro-USB cable to power and recharge your device.
Tronsmart Presto PBT10 USB power bank
Among the best USB power banks we’ve tested, the Presto PBT10 stands out for a number of reasons.
Besides being very affordable ($22.99 on Amazon), it’s light and portable, it supports Quick Charge 3.0, and in our tests it proved to be incredibly efficient. Indeed, we found this to be the best USB portable charger for travel, as you can see in our full review.
Spigen Quick Charge 3.0 car charger
Spigen’s car charger is a nifty gift that provides a lot of pleasure for the price ($10 on Amazon).
Our pick for best overall USB car charger, the Spigen stands out from the crowd in a few significant ways.
It features Quick Charge 3.0 in one port (which is sure to please anyone with a Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+, LG V20/V30, HTC U11, or other modern phone that supports Fast Charging). Both of its ports are illuminated for easy access in the dark. And it features a simple, unoffensive design.
ThinOptics reading glasses
This gift solves two problems that many folks over 40 face: 1) The problem of needing glasses to read small print, and 2) never seeming to have those glasses when you need them.
ThinOptics makes it much easier to take your readers with you everywhere, by employing a lightweight, super-slim design (slimmer than two credit cards!) that can be attached to your phone case.
The clever design does away with the arms, which add bulk. Instead the specs rest on the bridge of your nose via a clip that is both amazingly effective and comfortable.
ThinOptics come is strengths from 1.00 to 2.50, and start as low as $11.82 for the basic black option.
Aleve Direct Therapy - TENS Device
Here’s a good one for any chronic back-pain sufferers on your shopping list. (Although it’s not suitable for anyone with a pacemaker or other implanted device.)
The Aleve Direct Therapy ($49.99 on Amazon) is a TENS device—meaning it sends Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation—to the area of discomfort, thereby providing relief.
The device attaches to one’s back using removable gel pads. The user can then increase or decrease the low-voltage current with the included remote control (which runs on AAA batteries).