CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Best gifts for grads under $50

From awesome video streamers to great wireless speakers, there are plenty of great tech gifts that you can buy for a single Ulysses S. Grant.

David Carnoy
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
David Carnoy
Amazon Fire tablet
1 of 21 James Martin/CNET

Amazon Fire 7 tablet

The larger 8-inch Fire HD 8 tablet for $80 is still the better deal, but you won't find a better sub-$50 tablet than the Fire 7, which has been updated for 2017. 

2 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku Streaming Stick (2017)

We already loved this little $50 video streamer, which turns any HDMI-equipped TV into a gateway to online entertainment bliss: Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, YouTube, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, HBO Now and literally hundreds of other streaming channels. And now it gets better for 2017, with a new voice-activated remote that can also control your TV's power and volume.

3 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku Express (2017)

If $50 is too pricey, check out the $30 Roku Express. It loses the Stick's voice remote, but it has all of the same channels, and the 2017 model is considerably zippier than than its underpowered predecessor.

4 of 21 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Belkin Wemo Switch Mini-product-photos

With full Alexa and Google Home compatibility, the $35 Belkin WeMo Mini is a great smart-home starter gadget.

5 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku Express+ (2017)

Buying a gift for someone who's stuck with an ancient pre-HD tube television? Don't fret: You can still give them the gift of Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon and all the other great streaming video options with the Roku Express+, which connects to old-school RCA jacks (yellow, red, white).

6 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa

It's not quite as good as the Roku Stick, but the 2017 version of Amazon's Fire TV Stick is $10 cheaper and includes an Alexa-enabled voice remote.

7 of 21 Chris Monroe/CNET

TP-Link Kasa

Another affordable smart-home device, TP-Link's $30 Kasa Wi-Fi Smart Plug Mini adds scheduling, voice commands and remote access to everyday devices.

Google Chromecast (2015)
8 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Google Chromecast (2015)

Embrace the mobile lifestyle with the $35 Chromecast video streamer. Connect it to any TV, and use your phone as the remote control for services like YouTube, Netflix and many more. Just note that it doesn't offer Amazon Video.

Google Chromecast Audio
9 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Google Chromecast Audio

The Chromecast Audio isn't a wireless speaker in and of itself, but this $35 Wi-Fi gadget adds streaming audio to any old stereo. It offers universal compatibility with Android phones, and some (but not all) iOS apps can stream to it, too.

10 of 21 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Amazon Echo Dot (second generation)

In addition to providing a home for the Alexa voice assistant, Amazon's $50 Wi-Fi speaker handles music, too. The audio quality isn't fantastic, but you can connect it to any other stereo or speaker system.

11 of 21 Chris Monroe/CNET

Google Home Mini

Google's most affordable smart home speaker isn't quite as impressive as the Echo Dot -- and it lacks a line out. But it sounds a bit better than the Dot, and it puts all the smarts of Google Assistant at your beck and call.

12 of 21 David Carnoy/CNET

JBL Clip 2

The JBL Clip 2 can't respond to your voice, but this little waterproof Bluetooth speaker sounds great for its size. It's a great gift for anyone who does a lot of traveling. 

Anker SoundCore 2
13 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Anker SoundCore 2

The SoundCore 2 is the best speaker value in Anker's lineup, balancing good sound and a water-resistant body for about $40.

Oontz Angle 3 Plus
14 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Oontz Angle 3 Plus

It has a goofy name, but the Oontz Angle 3 Plus is arguably the sound quality champion for wireless Bluetooth speakers in the sub-$50 price range.

Creative Sound Blaster Jam
15 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Creative Sound Blaster Jam

It's still difficult to find good name-brand wireless headphones for under $50, but the Creative Sound Blaster Jam is one of the first models at this price that we liked.

16 of 21 Josh Miller/CNET

SanDisk Clip Jam

Yes, everyone's phone already doubles as a music player. But for as low as $30, this standalone mini MP3 player is useful for runners and gym rats who may want to set their phones aside for a workout. It works with both PCs and Macs, and -- best of all -- doesn't need to sync with iTunes: just drag and drop your music files.

17 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

BioLite PowerLight Mini

The $50 BioLite PowerLight Mini is a handy lantern, bike light and charger all in one. You clip it to a pocket or strap or mount to your bike (mount included) and its 1,350mAh USB rechargeable battery provides up to 52 hours of light. It can also give your phone a backup boost. Lighting modes include White Lantern, Red Night Vision, Red/White Strobe and White Point Light. It's a great choice for eco-minded students who enjoy camping or other outdoor activities. 

18 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Tribit XSound Go

There are lots of generic mini Bluetooth speakers out there. The Tribit XSound Go is one of the best ones for the money.

19 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

iFrogz Impulse Duo

The iFrogz Impulse Duo in-ear Bluetooth headphones deliver good sound for the money and have a nifty design.

20 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Anker SoundBuds Slim

Anker's SoundBuds Slim Bluetooth Sports headphones can be had for less than $30. They sound decent and fit well.

21 of 21 Amazon

BioLite Sunlight Solar-Powered Lantern

BioLite's new mobile light has a solar panel on the back so you can charge it during the day (you can clip it on the the backside of a backpack). It's only $25.

More Galleries

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera
A houseplant

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

20 Photos
Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

10 Photos
The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum
Samsung Galaxy S24

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum

23 Photos
Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design
The Galaxy S24 Ultra in multiple colors

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

23 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About

18 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos