You don't have to spend a lot to buy your grad a nice tech gift.
"Cheap tech" used to mean throwaway products -- but not anymore. Now, you can get some of the most convenient and useful gadgets available at amazingly low prices, including everything from headphones and video streamers to wireless speakers and fitness trackers. That's good news for you -- and good news for your wallet.
Google Chromecast (2015)
Let's start with some of the most indispensable tech you can buy today: video streamers. Google's Chromecast, updated for 2015, is the most affordable one on the market. For $35, it lets you stream hundreds of channels, including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Watch ESPN, HBO Now/HBO Go, Showtime and Vudu -- though your gift recipient needs to be a subscriber for each, of course, which often involves monthly fees or a cable/satellite TV account.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
For $5 more than the Chromecast, the Fire TV Stick gives your grad a nice dedicated remote control that'll ease the transition if they want to cut off their cable subscription in the future.
It's got most of the key streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Crackle, and Amazon Instant, as well as HBO Now/HBO Go and the "skinny bundle" cable alternative, Sling TV.
The 2015 model includes a voice-activated remote for just $10 more, and it's got some Alexa-enhanced smarts, to boot.
Roku Streaming Stick (2016)
If your grad is a cutting-edge shopper, the newly updated Roku Streaming Stick will blow them away. For just $50, the 2016 stick is supposedly eight times faster than the old one, and now it lets you listen to programming via headphones plugged into the jack on your phone.
Roku is accepting preorders for the 2016 Streaming Stick now, so check back with us for a full review when it drops later in April.
Google Chromecast Audio
If your grad is more of an audio person, the $35 Chromecast Audio is great because it turns any old stereo, boom box or dusty PC speaker set into a modern wireless music system. Just tap a button on a phone or tablet app like Spotify, Pandora, NPR One or iHeart Radio, and the music is transported to those bigger speakers via Wi-Fi. It works with iPhones and iPads with a few apps, but Android users can send any audio from their phones without restriction.
Bluetooth speakers, meanwhile, are also ideal for music-lovers who use their smartphones or tablets as a primary music source. The doughnut-shaped Logitech X100 is available in multiple colors and delivers good sound for its size and price (about $25).
Your grad may get nostalgic over the Philips BT2500's retro design, even if they weren't around to experience its design inspiration.
It looks like an old transistor radio -- with a nice big analog volume dial -- but the BT2500 travels well and delivers impressive sound for its size. (Step up to the double-wide BT3500 for $70 for more gusto -- and NFC pairing.)
Sol Republic Punk
Looking for a more rugged wireless speaker? The Sol Republic Punk is water-resistant, so it's great to take to the pool, beach or shower.
Originally priced at $70, it can now be found for under $50. But also note that its larger, better-sounding sibling, the Sol Republic Deck, can now be purchased for a few bucks more -- even though it once sold for $200.
Philips Shoqbox Mini
The Philips Shoqbox Mini continues the water-resistant theme. The 2015 model can be had for around $40.
As the name suggests, the JBL Clip+ can be latched on to nearly anything while it's streaming music from a smartphone or tablet, making it a great gift idea for the active set that want to soundtrack a day of exercise. And the "plus" version adds water resistance, to boot.
Divoom Voombox Travel Bluetooth speaker
Rounding out the outdoor-friendly Bluetooth speaker list is the Divoom Voombox Travel. It's one of the better-sounding water-resistant wireless speakers you can buy under $50.
Amazon Basics Portable Bluetooth Speaker
The largest Bluetooth speaker on our list is still small enough to travel well, and it delivers a bit more oomph than the micro-mini models listed previously. The Amazon Basics model is also available in blue, white and red. A smaller model, the Ultra-Portable Mini Bluetooth Speaker, retails for just $30.
JVC HA-S400 Carbon Nanotubes headphones
Everyone that uses the stock pair of headphones that come included with every smartphone these days can benefit from an aural upgrade. Granted, you won't find Beats headphones for less than $150 or so, but these stylish JVC headphones are a nice budget alternative, and they get the job done for under $25.
If your grad prefers in-ear headphones, the Moshi Mythro earbuds are some of the best you can buy for $30 or under. Unlike many supercheap models, the Mythros include an inline microphone for taking calls, and they exude pretty great sound quality considering the low price tag.
Creative Sound Blaster Jam
We're starting to see prices on wireless Bluetooth headphones dip to below $100. But the Creative Sound Blaster Jam is the first wireless model for under $50 that we can recommend.
It's perfect for the recent grad that likes listening to music on a smartphone or tablet, without being encumbered by wires.
If your grad's New Year's resolution this year was to get in shape, the Misfit Flash is one of the only real choices you can get for $30 or less. The standard Flash (linked here) includes the wristband shown above, which is a better investment than the $20 Flash Link, which only includes a clip-on holder. Both, however, work with Android phones and iPhones, making them nearly universal accessories to track steps.
Tylt Energi 2K
Best for anyone that's always running out of battery life on their phones, the Tylt Energi 2K does double duty as a standard USB charger (with fold-away prongs) and external battery pack. That's because there's a rechargeable 2,200mAh battery built into the unit, which comes in three different colors (blue, black, lime green).
When plugged into the wall, the Energi 2K charges your device first, then its internal battery. When on the go, it should almost double the battery life of your phone.
Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard
For just $40, the Logitech K380 is the best multidevice wireless keyboard we've seen to date. Toggle between three devices -- say, a PC or Mac, a tablet and a smartphone -- at the click of a button.
Amazon Fire tablet
We're not gonna say this is a great tablet. But if your grad is an Amazon Prime member, you could do a lot worse than the new entry-level Fire tablet, which costs just $50 but boasts a 7-inch screen and includes expandable storage.
Shortcut Labs Flic
Is your grad a tinkerer? If so, the Flic "smart button" will be right up their alley. This $34 gadget is literally just a button, but you can stick in anywhere and program it to do all manner of automated stuff by sending commands to nearby Bluetooth-enabled gadgets. Want a bunch? You can get four for $100 and hook up the entire family.