Can't find good tech gifts for under $50? Think again.
Just a few weeks ago, your best bet for a Netflix streaming box--the Apple TV or the Roku XDS--would set you back $99. But that price has been cut in half with the introduction of the Roku LT. It's lacking a few features--no Ethernet port (Wi-Fi only), 720p instead of 1080p resolution, and Angry Birds--but it's got all of the important online services, including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and hundreds more. At $49, it's easily the best value in home video that we've seen in years.
This one comes with a qualifier. With no screen and limited capacity, the iPod Shuffle should really only be purchased as a second iPod--one that's exclusively used while working out in the gym or jogging. That said, it's the cheapest iPod you can buy. More-full-featured alternatives include the sub-$50 SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip (see following slide) or the $129 iPod Nano.
It doesn't play nice with iTunes--you'll need to drag and drop your music files--but the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip is pretty much the closest you'll get to the iPod Shuffle with the added advantage of a screen, 4GB of storage, an FM radio, and voice recorder. Not too shabby for under $50.
We love Logitech's PC-programmable Harmony remote line, and you can get some great ones--like the Harmony 650--in the $55 to $75 price range. But at a mere $20, the Harmony 200 shown here is the most affordable Logitech remote to date. Just remember it only controls three devices (say, a TV, cable box, and disc player)--it's more appropriate for a bedroom or den than a sophisticated living room home theater system.
Cloud storage is great, but it never hurts to have a quick and easy USB drive handy--and what's handier than your keychain? That's why we love the Lacie IamaKey drive: the metal design is more durable than plastic USB drives, and leaving it on your keychain means you'll always know where it is. It comes in 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB capacities, with the smallest one starting at under $20.
We'll admit it: these aren't the most graceful headphones on the market. And the open design doesn't block out external noise. But considering the price--under $40--they offer great sound, and a collapsible design that makes for easy travel. But don't just believe us--page through the more than 100 user reviews showering the PortaPros with effusive praise.
Yes, if you've owned an Xbox console any time in the past decade, you've almost certainly played the original Halo--the game that pretty much set the standard for console shooters back in 2001. So why buy it again? Microsoft went back and gave the game a graphical makeover (compare the updated graphics on the left with the original on the right), and the game now supports online multiplayer on Xbox Live. And you can snag this one for under $40. (Note: The game is rated "M" for mature, but it looks and feels much more like a "T" (teen) game to us--basically an amped-up version of "Star Wars." if you're comfortable with your child watching PG-13 movies, this game is probably appropriate as well.)
There are a wealth of great games this fall for the PlayStation 3--Uncharted 3, Modern Warfare 3, Skyrim, Assassain's Creed Revelations--but nearly all of them are at the $60 price point. A notable exception is Batman: Arkham City, which you can snag for under $50. It's arguably one of the best games of the year. (Rated T for teen; also available for Xbox 360 and PC.)
Gift cards get a bad rap. Some will say they lack imagination, and have all the thoughtfulness and emotion of slipping someone a folded $20 bill. We disagree: gift cards are the no-lose scenario of gift-giving, where you finally get to go and buy the stuff you actually want. Among our favorites: iTunes, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. But we'll concede there are plenty of non-tech retailers, too.