Looking to give a great gift for the 2017 holiday season, or just an extra stocking stuffer? We’ve got you covered. These are the TIME technology team’s picks for the best tech gifts under $50, with notes about why we like each, and who they’d make a great gift for.
And if you’re looking to spend a little more money, the TIME team has also put together a price-unlocked guide for the best tech gifts of 2017.
- Here’s How Effective the Original Vaccines Are Against Omicron
- The Promise—And Possible Perils—of Editing What We Say Online
- How Trump Survived Decades of Legal Trouble: Deny, Deflect, Delay, and Don't Put Anything in Writing
- Flint Is Still Shaken by its Water Crisis—and Residents Are Experiencing Long-Term Mental-Health Issues
- A Beer Shortage Is Brewing. A Volcano Is Partly to Blame
- How Fasting Can—and Can't—Improve Gut Health
- Cities Keep Enforcing Curfews for Teens, Despite Evidence They Don't Stop Crime
- Joe Manchin’s Red Tape Reform Could Supercharge Renewable Energy in the U.S.
- Column: We Should Talk More About What a Brilliant Actor Marilyn Monroe Was
Kontrol Freek FPS Freek Inferno ($15)
Who it’s for: Someone with a Nintendo Switch and Switch Pro Controller looking for a cheap but meaningful upgrade.
Why we like it as a gift: Kontrol Freek’s stylish thumb-stick covers are easy to snap on and double as protective barriers that preserve the physical integrity of the Switch Pro Controller’s control stick caps. And by adding several millimeters of height to each stick, they increase the total range of motion, which can make a huge difference in competitive games that demand precision aiming.
What to know: Be sure the giftee already has a Switch Pro Controller, sold separate for $69.
Tile Mate ($25)
Who it’s for: The absent-minded.
Why we like it as a gift: The Tile Mate is a great solution if you’re often misplacing your keys, wallet, purse or so on. Just set it up, attach it to whatever valuables you typically carry around, and it’ll track their last known location if they’re misplaced.
What to know: Tile advertises a year of battery life, but the battery isn’t replaceable when it dies.
LOOP World Adapter Plug ($30)
Who it’s for: Travelers looking for an all-in-one gadget charging solution.
Why we like it as a gift: The LOOP World Adapter Plug features a handful of common electrical adapters plus two USB charging ports, meaning you can charge up to three devices simultaneously with just one of them.
What to know: Double-check that the LOOP includes a plug for your destination before setting off to the airport.
Mophie Powerstation Mini ($30)
Who it’s for: On-the-go techies who need a little extra juice.
Why we like it as a gift: Mophie’s Powerstation Mini is a sleek, ultralight battery pack with enough juice to give a smartphone a second (and even third) life, a real lifesaver when you’re traveling or are away from a power outlet for a while.
What to know: If you have an iPhone, you’ll need to bring two kinds of charging cables along: A Lightning cable to charge your phone from the Powerstation, and a USB cable to charge the Powerstation itself when it runs dry.
Roku Express HD Streaming Player ($30)
Who it’s for: That someone in your life who’s yet to delve into the world of streaming set-tops, or needs to stream-ify a TV in a spare room.
Why we like it as a gift: It’s effectively a full-fledged Roku packed into a tiny, ultra-cheap stick that works seamlessly with any TV with an HDMI port. It outputs at up to 1080p resolution, works wirelessly and supports stereo, DTS or Dolby Digital+ audio.
What to know: It’s not as zippy as Roku’s $50 streaming stick, but it’s more than sufficient for casual streaming.
Skullcandy Jib Wireless Headphones ($35)
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a reliable pair of wireless earbuds that won’t break the bank.
Why we like it as a gift: Quality earbuds that don’t cost upwards of $100 are hard to come by. Skullcandy’s no-frills Jib headphones offer solid sound quality at an affordable price.
What to know: The battery lasts for around six hours according to Skullcandy, and there’s a built-in microphone and buttons for taking calls and controlling music playback.
Wemo Mini Smart Plug ($35)
Who it’s for: Those who want to dip their toes into the smart home space without spending a fortune.
Why we like it as a gift: The Belkin Wemo Mini lets you control lights and appliances through your smartphone or by asking Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant. No smart home hub is required: just plug the appliance into the Wemo Mini outlet and begin using it through the Wemo app.
Amazon Echo Dot ($50)
Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a digital helper in the kitchen
Why we like it as a gift: The Echo Dot is one of the cheapest ways to get Amazon’s Alexa assistant in your kitchen, bedroom or office. It’s especially great as a chef’s assistant, setting timers and reading news headlines or playing music while you’re cooking.
What to know: The Dot’s speakers are just okay — get the regular $99 Echo for a better audio experience.
Amazon Fire 7-Inch Tablet ($50)
Who it’s for: Those who want a basic slate for watching video and casual web browsing.
Why we like it as a budget gift: The Fire 7’s interface puts entertainment front and center, with dedicated tabs on the home screen for books, videos, games and apps. You can also summon Amazon’s popular voice assistant Alexa with the push of an on-screen button. The tablet’s low price and durable build make it an especially good choice as a child’s first tablet, and while the base model only has 8 GB of storage, you can use a microSD card to add up to 256 GB.
What to know: The $50 version of the tablet includes Amazon’s Special Offers, which means ads will be displayed on the lock screen.
Google Home Mini ($50)
Who it’s for: Those who want the ability to ask Google questions, control smart home devices, set reminders and use apps hands-free while spending less than $100.
Why we like it as a gift: The Google Home Mini enables hands-free access to Google for less than half of the price of the Google Home. Plus, it looks a little nicer on your nightstand than the Echo Dot.
What to know: Four LED lights illuminate when you say the “OK Google” hotword, letting you know the device is listening for a command.