Every year, the recommendations pour in like not enough coffee in a too-small cup. But what if you're just trying to find something at a particular price? We're here to help.
The Sphero Mini is an inexpensive and diminutive version of the smartphone-controlled robot orb that has been entertaining kids and adults (and annoying pets) for a few years now). This $50 version is aimed squarely at kids with its flexible plastic outer shell and cutesy games, but it's easily enjoyable by a person of any age as a way to pass a few minutes in the office between work sessions.
Find yourself consistently without any battery power in the car? Get a double-headed Tylt Y-Charge. It's designed to keep cables separate but organized. Each USB port charges at 2.1 Amps. It works with both smartphones and tablets of all sorts and comes in four different colors. Starts at $10.
The original streaming stick, the 2015 Chromecast costs just $35 and provides access to any number of apps and services — a list that is growing daily. The beauty of Chromecast is that, unlike Amazon's Fire TV or Roku's Premiere sticks, Chromecast works entirely from your phone, Google Home, or anything that works as a "casting" source — which, in the Android world, comprises most media apps. Chromecast is absolutely essential.
Unlike the regular Chromecast, this is all about music. Help your pals turn any speaker into a Chromecast-connected one. Chromecast Audio lets you stream apps like Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and Google Play Music from your smartphone to your favorite speakers of choice. At $35, Chromecast Audio is also a cheap way to turn that dusty amplifier in the garage into a party machine.
Surely, you've misplaced your keys or wallet at least once in your lifetime. We bet your friend knows what that feels like, too. Help them out preemptively for the next time this happens with a $25 Tile Mate key finder. It's a small, thin Bluetooth tracker that you can clasp onto your keys — or whatever else you might want to track — to keep tabs on your stuff. When you're desperate to locate your things, use the app to determine its last-pinged location. There's also the Tile Slim for affixing to phones, tablets, and wallets.
Google Home Mini
Home Mini is Google's version of Amazon's Echo Dot, and while both are great, the $50 Home Mini has Google Assistant on board. It also sounds much better than Amazon's Dot, which makes it an easier recommendation. Google Home Mini sits and listens for the "OK Google" hot word and jumps into action to play music through a number of services, or answer burning questions like "How many days until Christmas?" Not soon enough, Timmy. Not soon enough.
Anker SoundBuds Curve Bluetooth headphones
You probably think you have to spend $100 or more to get great-sounding Bluetooth headphones, but then you're unlikely to have heard of Anker. This company specializes in trouncing price-to-quality expectations. Case in point, the SoundBuds Curve around-the-neck headphones sound far better than their $30 price would suggest. They're comfortable enough to wear for hours on end, and can withstand the sweat (so much sweat!) of your workout.
Philips Hue LED Starter Kit
If your friend has already got a Google Home or Echo in the home, consider pairing them with a Philips Hue LED Starter Kit to get their voice-activated apparatus even more revved and roaring. The $70 kit includes two white LED bulbs and a Hue bridge hub, which is also compatible with any other ZigBee-certified and Wink home automation gadgets.
A year of Amazon Prime
What's better than free shipping? Just about every other feature that Amazon Prime gets you. There's no shortage of goodies that come with Amazon's $100 per year "premium" service, but here's a sampling: unlimited music streaming; awesome free shows through Prime Video; unlimited high-quality photo storage; Kindle Unlimited book subscription; and lots more.
But we're sure one-day shipping is reason enough, right?
Amazon Echo (2017)
Yes, the old Echo wouldn't have fit into this category, but thankfully Amazon decided to lower the price of its famous in-home assistant when it gave it a redesign this year. Now starting at a hair under $100, the new Echo looks better and still sound great. And it works with a lot more services than it used to. Oh, and it also comes with an auxiliary out to connect to a louder, better speaker if you're into that sort of thing.
Razer Hammerhead USB-C headphones
We're all about Bluetooth, but sometimes you just want something that connects. Not only do wired headphones tend to sound better, but you don't have to worry about batteries and charging and annoying little boxes. Razer's new $80 Hammerhead USB-C headphones fill a particular niche we're interested to see grow: USB-C headphones. You can't take for granted that your new phone will have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but chances are it will have a USB-C port. Razer's headphones are bass-tastic but sound great overall, and have a dramatic green flair you'll either love or hate. We love 'em.
Alexa, get me the best-sounding speaker that works with... you. The Sonos One looks like the similar-sounding Play:1 but it's all new. With long-range microphones and support for Amazon's intelligent assistant, Sonos One has everything the company's other speakers do — including an amazing app experience and unrivaled sound — for just $199. Buy two and pair them for a true stereo experience in any room.
It looks like a fancy air freshener, but it's really one of the simplest ways to technologize a home. Google Home gives you immediate access to Google Assistant. All you have to is call out, "Ok Google" to ask it questions and tell it do things. You can also use it to play music and voice-control other smart devices in your living room. If you want something that sounds better than the Home Mini, the $130 Home is a gorgeous addition to any living space.
Nest Cam Indoor security camera
Be your friend's gateway to home security. The $140 Nest Cam Indoor security camera is simple to set up and offers around the clock video. It records in Full HD and features night vision. Once it's activated, you can easily check in from anywhere with the Android app. Nest Cam also comes with a free trial of Nest Aware, which is required to activate intelligent alerts and continuous cloud recording.
What are your favorite gifts at any price? Let us know!
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.