Keep Calm and Stay Smart
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It’s easy to assume that the best tech gifts are the most expensive things. But there are plenty of options out there for the techie in your life that don’t require you to empty your wallet. If you’re struggling to come up with the best gift for an early adopter or a tech obsessive, we’ve gathered some of our favorite things that are both small and affordable. The best part: All of these ideas come in at $50 or less.
If you’re at a loss when it comes to a good, cheap gift for the techie in your life, you can’t go wrong with a Chromecast. Google has two models available now: the $50 4K Chromecast with Google TV and the new, $30 model that supports FHD streaming. Like previous Chromecasts, these let you stream movies and TV shows from major services like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu andHBO Max, among many others.
The Google TV interface has always been pretty easy to navigate, but it’s simpler than ever thanks to the remote that comes included with both Chromecasts. It has an Assistant button, giving you quick access to voice commands, plus a circular D-pad, shortcut buttons for YouTube and Netflix, and support for HDMI-CEC and IR, allowing you to control your entire TV with it. And, unlike larger set-top boxes or smart TVs that your recipient may already have, the Google Chromecast is portable, so they can take it with them to make binge-watching their favorite shows easier when they’re not at home.
The best gifts for the Nintendo Switch lover in your life are those that let them play games anywhere and everywhere more easily. 8BitDo’s Lite 2 controller does exactly that by giving them a more convenient controller to use with their Switch, or an extra option or two to play with friends while on the go. This tech gadget is small enough to fit in a pocket, but that doesn’t mean it compromises on ergonomics. The Lite 2 has joysticks and shaped trigger buttons, things that are often left off of ultra-compact and super affordable controllers. Plus, it supports customizable turbo functionality. It also pairs wirelessly with the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite, and it works with Android devices and Raspberry Pi, too. Lastly, it powers up via USB-C, so chances are your giftee already has a charging cable ready to use with their new controller.
Every new phone claims to have better battery life than the one that came before it, and that may be true in some cases, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be enough juice for everyone every day. If you know someone who constantly uses their phone until it reaches one percent, Anker’s 511 Power Bank would make a great gift for them. It’s a 5,000 mAh portable battery and a power adapter in one, so they can use it in two ways: to fast-charge their phone when they’re near a wall outlet or recharge the device when they’re out and about. It has a built-in plug for wall usage, but it folds down into the device when you’re not using it, keeping the whole thing pretty compact. We like that this tech gift is basically a little bit bigger than a tube of lipstick, and all your giftee needs on hand to use it is a USB-C cable.
Most of us have someone in our lives who misplaces everything — their keys, wallet, purse or backpack, the list goes on. If that person happens to also own an iPhone, AirTags make the perfect gift and you can buy one for only $30. (You could even throw in an AirTag case for them and still spend less than $50.) These quarter-sized Bluetooth trackers pair almost immediately with iOS devices and can then be tracked using the Find My app.
You can use them to keep track of nearly anything, but they work best on items that take clips or keyrings or things like backpacks that have small pockets. In addition to showing their location, the Find My app also lets you force the Apple AirTag to play a loud chime so you can more easily find it in your home. And if you’re close enough to the missing item, Apple’s Precision Finding feature can literally guide you to it using the tech in your iPhone’s U1 chip.
It never hurts to have an extra bag with you whenever you go out. Whether you’re going to pick up groceries and know you’ll need one, or you’re heading out with friends and unexpectedly pick up a few things, a lightweight tote bag is crucial. There are thousands of options out there, but we included Peak Design’s Packable tote in our gift guide because it doesn’t have the typical reusable bag design and it remains fairly affordable at only $20.
The bag is made of 100-percent recycled ripstop nylon, which is resilient and as well as water resistant, and it has a zip closure, which is something most other reusable bags don’t have. It’ll keep your items more secure thanks to that, and it’s easier to carry in different ways thanks to its single shoulder/hand strap that sports microfiber padding for extra comfort. We also like that it has an interior pocket that can hold a phone, wallet or keys, and it takes up a surprisingly little amount of space when it’s packed into itself.
There are dozens of mice out there, and if you’re buying gifts on a budget, it can be easy to get distracted by the ultra-cheap options from unfamiliar brands on sites like Amazon. But Logitech, a leader in this space, has some budget-friendly options as well and we like the Signature M650 mouse for most people. Not only is it lightweight and made of recycled materials, but you have a number of ergonomic options to choose from. It comes in regular and large sizes, plus you can pick from right- or left-hand orientation, which really just changes the placement of the device’s customizable side buttons. It has Logitech’s SmartWheel scrolling technology, which provides more precision when you need to scroll line by line, and it connects to computers via Bluetooth or a Logi Bolt receiver. But the best part might be its two-year battery life; your giftee will only have to replace the mouse’s two AA batteries once in a blue moon.
If someone you love recently got their hands on a PS5, it’s probably the only thing they care about at the moment. Gifting them the PS5 Media Remote can take their experience using their new console to the next level. This tech gift essentially gives them a better way to control the device when they want to use it as an entertainment portal. The compact remote has dedicated media controls that let them easily play/pause, fast forward and otherwise navigate, along with quick-launch buttons for services like Netflix and YouTube. Those service-specific buttons even work when the console is powered off, too. Plus, if they have a compatible TV, they’ll be able to use the Media Remote to turn it on and off and adjust the volume.
Whether your loved one just picked up a new iPhone 14 or is still running on an older model, an extra charger will be of use to them. Anker’s latest bundle that includes its new Nano 3 30W charger and bio-base USB-C to Lightning cable will give them everything they need to power up their phone, tablet, earbuds and even their MacBook Air. The 30W output allows this tiny adapter to charge a variety of devices, plus it’s foldable so it’ll disappear into their bag. We also like that it uses GaN technology to keep it compact, but also for better heat management.
As for the cable, it’s one of Anker’s newest and it’s made out of plant-based materials rather than petroleum-based plastic like many others. While this may not seem like the most exciting gift, it’ll definitely be one of the most useful your loved one receives. Charging accessories are often things we buy at the last minute, like right before you board a plane as you remember you forgot your cable or adapter at home. A gift like this one might prevent them from feeling that panic in the future.
If someone you love just moved into their own place, a Blink Mini would make a thoughtful housewarming gift. The compact camera plugs into a regular wall outlet and monitors activity inside the home, detecting motion and sound and delivering alerts to their phones via the Blink mobile app. It records in 1080p and supports two-way talk as well, so they can soothe their overly-excited pets even when they’re not home. We also like that the Blink Mini works with Alexa devices, so if they have an Echo Show 5 or similar smart device at home, they can use it to see the Blink Mini’s video feed without even opening the mobile app.
Maybe you have a tech lover in your life or someone who just wishes their home could be a bit smarter – if so, TP-Link’s Kasa smart plugs are a great gift idea for them. Building up a smart home ecosystem from scratch can be intimidating, but starting off with smart plugs like these is a convenient and mostly stress-free way of doing it. These blocks plug into standard wall outlets and then turn whatever they plug into them into app-controllable gadgets. That means they can set a schedule for their coffee maker to turn on at the precise time each morning so it’s ready to go for them when they need to make a new pot. They could also use Away Mode to automatically turn on and off lights when they’re on vacation to make it seem like they’re actually home. Those are just a few things these smart plugs let you do with otherwise “dumb” items around your home, so your giftee can go as far as they want in creating a smart home.
It’s important to keep your dozens of accounts safe with two-factor authentication whenever possible, and Yubico’s Yubikey NFC 5 is a good way to do so. It’s a physical key that you can use to authenticate when you’re trying to log in to accounts like Dropbox, Lastpass, Gmail and others. It uses the USB-A port on your device or NFC to validate your login attempt, and it’s small enough to fit on a keychain and come with you wherever you go. This model specifically works with USB-A connections, but if you’re willing to spend slightly more than $50, you can get the USB-C version that has all the same features.
There are few things worse for a gamer than their controller running out of battery in the middle of a session. Whether they have a backup ready to go or not, it’s a stumble that can totally throw them off their game – especially if they have to fumble around for another option while also looking for the charger for the dead peripheral. Panasonic’s Eneloop rechargeable batteries can be a big help for them in times like this by providing an easily accessible power swap for Xbox controllers and the like that run on AA or AAA cells. These also come with a quick charger that has level indicators for each battery, plus it’s capable of fully powering up four AA batteries in only three hours.
Maybe someone you love just got a new phone and can’t stop talking about it, showing it off, and coming very close to dropping it on a regular basis. You can help them protect it by gifting them a case that not only provides extra cushion against falls and scratches, but also expresses their personality a bit. There are hundreds of phone case brands out there, but a few that we constantly turn to are Incipio, Case-Mate, Speck, Spigen and Smartish. Speck and Spigen are great for no-frills kind of people; most of their phone cases are slick, protective and come in a variety of attractive colors. Incipio is similar, but they also have their excellent Organicore line of compostable cases that make thoughtful gifts for the eco-conscious. Case-Mate and Smartish are great options for those who would like something more fun. Think: psychedelic flowers, outer space prints, glitter explosions and other similar designs.