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, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.
It’s officially not too early to start thinking about your holiday shopping — especially with the delays in online shipping that thehas wrought this year — and we’re here to help you find affordable presents that really deliver. This holiday gift guide roundup is all about highlighting the best gifts for $25 or less. Some are old favorites, while others are new finds. As always, if you’ve got favorite gift candidates of your own to nominate, hit the comments!
Over the past couple of years, we’ve found the Tribit brand to offer shockingly good sound quality at outrageously low prices. The company’s latest tiny speaker is no exception: For under $25, the XSound Surf delivers some impressive bass for its tiny size. It also offers IPX7 waterproofing (can be dunked to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes) and USB-C charging.
This is one of the smallest 10,000-mAh battery packs we’ve seen to date, and it can juice up devices whether they use USB-A or USB-C connectors. We were able to charge a new iPhone 12 Pro to about 60% in just 30 minutes. (Just make sure the giftee has a USB-C charger — it doesn’t include one in the box.)
True wireless earbuds are all the rage these days but sometimes I prefer to keep the cord, especially while exercising. That way, my earbuds won’t go flying if I shake them loose, and they can just dangle if I want to take them out.
Mpow’s sport ‘buds are IPX7-rated waterproof and able to pair with two different devices. I especially like their large, raised, separated volume buttons on top, as well as the big red multifunction button on the side — two usability wins.
At this writing, there are about eight different colors available, with prices ranging from $14 to $20. At this price, you’re not likely to find better sport earbuds for a stocking stuffer.
This is a perfect stocking stuffer if your gifting a new iPhone 12, since they no longer include chargers in the box. This handy little dual-port charger delivers a full 30 watts of juice if the USB-C port is used alone, or 18 watts if used while charging a second device via the USB-A port, which delivers 12 watts. It’s available for under $20.
This is one of my favorite new things of 2020. This gift idea is a retractable ping-pong net that can be set up just about anywhere — dining room table, picnic table, conference room table and so on. You also get a pair of paddles, some balls and a drawstring case to carry it all. Presto: table-tennis to go.
A personal aside: My dad is dealing with dementia, and I learned recently that ping-pong has the potential to slow cognitive decline. So I got one of these for him; we used to play all the time when I was a kid. Long story short: He loves it. Plays almost every day now. It’s been a huge win.
The button below will take you to a set from Amazon seller RuRuYunYe, which currently has a 10% off coupon on a $20 set. If that’s no longer available, there are countless other versions of this in the same price range. At this writing, for example, here’s one for $20, one for $18 and another for just $16.
The Wyze Band is by no means a perfect activity tracker, but it does a lot, especially considering its super-bargain price tag on this holiday gift. It has a color AMOLED screen, a full-time heart-rate monitor, support for Alexa voice commands and a battery good for up to 14 days.
It’s also a watch, of course, and this affordable gift can sling notifications from your phone. Read our Wyze Band first take to learn more.
By the way, the Wyze price doesn’t include shipping, which adds about $5. You can also order the Band from Amazon for $30, shipping included.
Nope, there’s still no Apple wireless tracker that you can actually buy. In the meantime — and for the millions who have Android phones, too — the Tile Mate tracker is a great gift that gets the job done nicely. For just $25, this little guy attaches to a keychain, purse, backpack or the like. Then just pair it with your phone.
Can’t find your phone? Double-press the Tile button to make it ring. Can’t find the Tile (and whatever it’s attached to)? Use your phone to locate it. You’ll soon see why these are amazing gifts.
Maybe the game has Stranger Things to thank, but it feels like Dungeons & Dragons has had a small resurgence in recent years. If you need an inexpensive gift for a friend or family member who’s looking to expand their game horizons beyond the gamepad realm, the classic pencil-and-paper roleplaying game may be just the ticket. This starter set includes everything a newbie needs to get the game up and running — including all the requisite many-sided dice, natch — all for under $15. If you’re buying for someone who already has some ideas of how the game should be played, the new D&D Essentials Kit might be a better choice, though.
These handy straps loop through your phone case so it’s easy to keep a good grip on your phone. They go for $8 each, with a choice of dozens of patterns and a variety of fun colors available. Buy three or more (pick your own colorful palette) for free shipping and you’ll have a trio of practical gifts. It’s just me talking here, but I consider the Ninja Loop the best stocking stuffer ever.
The Lenovo Smart Clock has long been among one of our favorite “cheap but good” smart home devices when it’s on sale (this season, the price seems to be hovering between $35 and $40). But if you want to save even more, the new Smart Clock Essential opts for something of a dumbed-down monochrome screen, but it still delivers the time, temperature and weather, along with full access to Google’s voice assistant. The USB-A port in the rear makes it easy to charge devices on your bedside table, too. It’s been selling for $24 to $29 this fall.
This guide has been updated with new info for 2020.