Need to buy a gift for someone graduating from high school or college? We've got a great list of products to choose from that are cool, but won't break the bank. Each of the items that follows is available for less than $100.
Whether they're cord-cutters or "cord nevers," many younger people
aren't signing up for expensive cable TV subscriptions -- which makes
mini streaming boxes like the $70 Roku 2 a perfect gift. It leaves off the headphone jack and voice-control option on the included Wi-Fi remote, but otherwise performs as well the step-up Roku 3, which is why we call the Roku 2 the best Roku for the money. It still streams great
services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Amazon Instant, Watch ESPN,
Vudu, YouTube, Sling TV,
and literally hundreds of other channels -- most of which, of course,
require separate subscriptions or fees. The Wi-Fi remote -- which
doesn't require "line of sight" to the player -- also includes a
headphone jack for private listening.
If your laureate is invested in the Apple universe -- he or she owns an iPhone, iPad or Mac, or already has lots of movies, TV shows, and music on iTunes -- Apple TV is a better choice than the Roku. And even though it's coming up on its third birthday, Apple is keeping its box fresh new channels every few months, including Watch ABC and FX Now, HBO Go, and HBO's standalone subscription service, HBO Now. Better yet, it's price is now down to $69.
Amazon's Fire TV ($99), a Roku and Apple TV competitor, is another top streaming media box with particular appeal to Amazon Prime members who get access to lots of free content. And with the addition of HBO Go and some other improvements, we think it's a worthy pick. Like other Amazon products on this list, you'll occasionally see Fire TV discounted by $15-$20.
Yes, tablets and smartphones can double as e-readers. But the $79 Amazon Kindle has a long-lasting battery and a paperlike screen that avid readers will appreciate. And unlike more versatile devices, there won't be any calls, emails or texts to distract the reader, either.
Amazon's latest entry-level e-reader, which occasionally gets discounted to $59, adds a touchscreen, but leaves off the integrated light found in the step-up 2013 Paperwhite and Voyage models.
The UE Roll ($99.99) is a rugged, fully waterproof speaker that has a unique, slim, discus-shaped design. It's one of the better sub-$100 Bluetooth speakers we've reviewed recently and comes with an integrated bungee cord, so you can strap the speaker onto your backpack or hang it from a tree (or whatever you want to hang it from).
Most kids probably wouldn't run out and buy Logitech's new $99.99 MX Master on their own. But this is a high-performance wireless mouse with a built-in rechargeable battery that anyone would appreciate as a gift.
Plantronic's BackBeat Fit wireless sports headphone started out at $130, but can be had for around $90 online now. It comes in the green you see here or blue and is a good value if you're looking for a sporty wireless headphone.
The $100 Jawbone Up2 lacks a screen, but who cares? You interact with the
step and sleep tracking through its best-in-class Android and iOS apps,
and it's more stylish than most competing health trackers.
As much as we like e-ink readers, though, an extra $20 will get you a full-fledged color tablet. Sure, it doesn't have much storage (8GB) and it's not super-zippy, but the well-designed Fire HD 6 is one of the better options out there -- especially given its $99 price tag. It does come in a 16GB version for $20 more, and it's also worth mentioning that Amazon occasionally discounts both HD 6 model from time to time, making them even better bargains.
If your grad isn't on the Kindle platform and wants an e-book reader that's also compatible with ePub files, Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader is a good choice. The 2013 self-illuminated GlowLight model used to cost $119, but has come down to $99 and (unlike the Kindle) is totally ad-free.
The Seagate Seven 500GB portable drive ($99.99) may not offer the most storage bang for the buck, but it is the slimmest portable hard drive out there and offers excellent performance. It's great for backing up files from Windows PCs or Macs.
Wireless headphones are a perfect gift for students who use their smartphone as a music player. Sol Republic's Shadow Wireless has a flexible around-the-neck design. It's one of those Bluetooth headphones you can leave on all day and forget you're wearing it. It's available in a lighter gray color.
The Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 is perfect for idealistic millennials who want their tech to be eco-friendly. They can use it with a Mac, iPad or iPhone, and never worry about recharging the battery.
Young people love their digital music, and JBL's Flip 2 Bluetooth speaker will let them stream it from their phone, tablet or computer with style. It started out at around $130, but can now be found online for around $80. It sounds great for its size and comes in multiple color options.
The Jambox Mini initially retailed for $179, but has steadily dropped in price and now can be had for a couple of bucks south of $100. This wireless Bluetooth speaker is small enough to fit in a woman's purse, and it's available in a variety colors.
If your student prefers old-school wired headphones, we've got you covered. Beyerdynamic makes some great high-end headphones, but lately it's been putting out some value models with great sound. The on-ear DTX 350p, which comes in black or white, sounds better than a lot of headphones that cost twice the price.
An oldie, but a goodie. Despite being first released in the 1990s, the Sony MDR-7506s may well be the best-sounding headphones you can get for under $100. They're a perfect choice for students with a hipster streak.
We've got a few products here at the end of the round up that don't quite get in under the $100 mark, but if you're willing to stretch your budget a little, they're worth checking out.
First up is the Harmony Home Control. It costs close to $150, but it offers the biggest bang for the buck in the Logitech line, with an RF remote (no more line-of-sight issues) and the option to use iOS and Android devices as remote controls, too. It's a great gift for a grad who's moving into his or her own place.
Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite e-reader carries a list price of $119, but Amazon occasionally discounts it to $99. It's not quite as slick as the step-up Kindle Voyage, but Amazon's updated it with a sharper HD screen for 2015, and it's a good value, especially at $99.
The Bose SoundLink Color will run you around $130. It doesn't perform quite as well as the $200 SoundLink Mini 2, but it's an attractive little Bluetooth speaker that delivers big sound for its size, is easy to tote around, and recharges with a standard Micro-USB cable.