Best gifts for under $50
Belkin Bluetooth Music Receiver
Haven't you heard? Docks are dead. It's time to go wireless, and the Belkin Bluetooth Music Receiver is the easiest way to do it. Connect this $25 dongle to any stereo (or anything with a "line in" or "aux input" port), and you can wirelessly stream music from any Bluetooth-enabled device. That includes all iPads, nearly any smartphone, most iPod Touch models, and most new tablets.
With no screen and limited capacity, the iPod Shuffle should really only be purchased as a secondary music player -- one that's exclusively used while working out in the gym or jogging. That said, it's the cheapest iPod you can buy, and it does a good job fulfilling its singular mission: playing music. More-full-featured alternatives include the sub-$50 SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip (see following slide) or the $149 iPod Nano.
SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip
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.
Logitech Harmony 300
Logitech has pared down its line of PC-programmable universal remotes to just a few models. The best price you'll find on the awesome Harmony 650 is probably $55 or more, which puts it just out of our price range here. But the cheaper Harmony models, while technically discontinued, are still widely available. At a mere $30, the Harmony 300 controls just four devices (say, a TV, cable box, an Xbox/disc player, and streaming box), but that's probably more than enough for a bedroom or den.
Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120
Think headphones under $50 are a good deal? How about headphones under five bucks? Believe it or not, the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120 fit the bill. You can score these in-ear models for as little as $3, depending which color you go for (at least nine, including basic black).
Who said a stereo amplifier had to be expensive? If you have an old pair of speakers in the attic, this little digital amp -- available for less than $20 -- could bring them back to life. Given the bargain basement price, it actually sounds pretty good, too.
Dayton Audio B652
And speaking of...speakers, you don't have to overpay for them, either. The Dayton Audio B652s are, quite simply, the best-sounding stereo speakers you can buy for under $50. Just make sure to invest in an amp (like the aforementioned Lepai), since they're not self-powered.
D-Link DIR-605L Cloud Router
Have a friend or relative who's still using a painfully slow 802.11g or 11b router? Give the gift of fast Wi-Fi. The D-Link DIR-605L Cloud Router uses the fastest mainstream 802.11n standard, and it's available for under $40.
For whatever reason, Panasonic seems to have become the go-to choice for cheap-but-good headphones. The full-size but lightweight RP-HTX7 do a good job of blocking out external sounds, and they sound great for the price. They're available in at least three colors (black, white, and green) for as little as $32.
It's lacking a few features -- no Ethernet port (Wi-Fi only), 720p instead of 1080p resolution -- but this tiny video box delivers hundreds of "channels" over the Web to your TV. That includes everything from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Crackle, and HBO Go to sports services like Major League Baseball, the NBA, and more. (Of course, most -- but not all -- of the good stuff requires separate fees.) At $49.99, it's easily the best value in home video that we've seen in years.