The 2016 holiday is fast approaching. That means one thing: gadget time. These are the TIME technology team’s suggestions for the best gifts under $60, which make great stocking stuffers or add-ons. We’ve also included a few lines about why we like each gadget we’ve picked for the list.
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KontrolFreek Vortex Thumbstick Grips ($14.99)
Who’s it for: Gamers looking for an edge in the latest shooter.
Why we like it: They’re a pair of neon-orange clip-on plastic extensions that make it easier to take down targets with the current or last-gen PlayStation and Xbox controllers. After using them to play games like Overwatch, Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, we’ll never go back.
What to know: Purists may consider using these to be cheating.
Who’s it for: That scatterbrain friend or family member who’s always misplacing something.
Why we like it: These Bluetooth-powered tags play a little song when prompted, so you can find them if they are within 100 feet of your cellphone. Now so small and inexpensive they’re practically must-owns. Tile Slim is just the width of two credit cards, letting it slip in a wallet with minimal heft, and Tile Mate is 25% smaller than the original tile — making it a perfect keychain fob.
What to know: Out of range doesn’t mean out of luck. Selecting “notify when found” taps the community of Tile owners, anonymously. So, when someone walks past your lost item, their app will detect it and report it to the service, which will reveal its location on your app.
Uber Gift Card ($25+)
Who’s it for: Anyone who lives in an area where Uber is available, especially in cities.
Why we like it: It’s an easy way to treat a friend or family member to a free ride, since recipients just need to enter the Gift Code in the Payments section of the app. Gift cards are sold in retail chains such as Walmart, Target, and CVS. Uber gift cards can also be used toward the company’s food delivery service UberEATS.
What to know: Gift cards can’t be redeemed for UberRUSH, Uber’s courier service.
Google Chromecast ($35)
Who’s it for: Shoppers seeking a basic media player for viewing apps like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube on their TV.
Why we like it: There are plenty of affordable streaming options out there, but the Chromecast makes browsing content as easy as using your smartphone. Since the Chromecast runs compatible apps from your phone on your TV, you don’t need to log into apps on your TV or get used to a new interface.
What to know: Your phone must be nearby in order to use and control the Chromecast. While you can display any Chromecast compatible app on the TV using iPhone or Android, you can only show other phone content (photos, etc.) on your television using Android.
Selfie Stick ($39.99)
Who’s it for: Anybody who can’t stop taking selfies.
Why we like it: Ah, the selfie stick. It’s easy to make fun of them, but they’re incredibly useful gadgets for getting group photos to cherish forever. This telescoping model can do double duty as a handle, resulting in smoother and steadier video.
What to know: This model doesn’t have a shutter button, so you’ll need to use your phone or camera’s timer or time-lapse modes to take selfies with it. The pictured GoPro isn’t included, either.
Mophie Powerstation ($49.95)
Who’s it for: Anybody who wishes their phone battery would last longer (so, everybody.)
Why we like it: Accessory maker Mophie’s latest Powerstation battery packs are slimmer than ever, making them easy to stash in a backpack, purse or pocket. Even the smallest versions can completely recharge a dead phone, effectively doubling your battery life.
What to know: Newer smartphones have better battery life, so this is a safer gifting choice for somebody with an older device.
Who’s it for: Minecraft masters who are ready to build a game of their own.
Why we like it: Pairing old-school tech (think Lite Brite) with modern gear (it’s Android-, iOS-, and Kindle-compatible), Bloxels gives kids an 8-bit education on video game creation, from characters to backgrounds to boards.
What to know: This won’t help your kids learn to code (there are plenty of other toys for that), but it will teach them game design principles, which can be applied to other walks of life.
Amazon Fire Tablet ($49.99)
Who’s it for: Young kids (for games) and older users (for email and Facebook.)
Why we like it: The Amazon Fire Tablet is nowhere near as powerful as more expensive tablets, but it’s impressive given the price. It’s a great option for young kids or grandparents who want something simple for playing games, surfing Facebook or checking email. It’s also more durable than your average tablet, so it’ll take a few bumps and drops in stride.
What to know: These also work great as bedside accessories for watching Netflix or reading a book before you hit the hay.
Amazon Echo Dot ($49.99)
Who’s it for: Amazon Prime subscribers who have a speaker to spare.
Why we like it: Amazon Echo, the company’s original voice-enabled speaker/intelligent assistant/smart home controller, made interacting with technology easy, even fun. Its little cousin, Echo Dot, dumps the speaker in favor of a much friendlier price point. To get the full effect, users will need to connect their existing audio gear via Bluetooth or 3.5mm cable.
What to know: You can get the full smart speaker experience from the bigger, more expensive Echo.
Nintendo NES Classic Edition ($59.99)
Who’s it for: Older millennials and Gen-Xers who want to relive their glory days, or share their childhood favorites with their kids.
Why we like it: 30 of the finest video games to grace the medium, several of those design exemplars, all tucked snugly into a chip soldered onto a peewee circuitboard inside a pint-sized replica of the most iconic games console in history. That’s Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition, an ostensible paean to 8-bit playgrounds with modern HDMI video support and multimode display options (digitally crisp or wobbly retro) that buyers can have for $60. And with its replica A and B button gamepad, it’s also a chance to experience, tactilely, perhaps one last time, what the boomerang-shaped gamepads we routinely clutch for hours on end — to the point of taking their existence for granted — owe a debt to.
What to know: There’s no official way to add more games to the NES Classic Edition, meaning you’re stuck with the 30 (mostly very good) titles it ships with.
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