Got a gift card for the holidays? Here's the tech to spend it on.
Gift cards aren't as much fun to unwrap as a new console, but they do let you buy exactly what you want. Of course, we can't help if you some well-meaning but technologically unenlightened friend gifts you with $50 of iTunes when you're all about Android -- if that happens, look into gift card exchanges or arrange a swap with some friends -- but we can offer some suggestions as to what tech you could spend your plastic cash on. And even if you've got cards for non-tech retailers such as Macy's, never fear: You won't necessarily have to spend it on a sweater.
I've broken the options down to into $25, $50, and $100 increments, which seem to be the most popular denominations.
Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET
$25: Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120
Technically, you could buy these with a $10 gift card from Amazon, but it'll take a $25 card if you need to spend Walmart plastic.
The SSD hard drives in today's laptops don't get you as far as the old spinning-platter versions yet, so these tiny USB drives are an inexpensive way to increase your storage. You can get up to 64GB with a $25 card. Toss in about $5 more and you can bump that to 128GB.
Photo by: Sarah Tew
$25: Google Chromecast (2015)
If you've got a $25 of Google credit, this is the cheapest way to sling video from your phone or tablet to your TV.
$50: Logitech K380 Multi-device Bluetooth Keyboard
This $30 keyboard can connect to most iOS and Android devices via Bluetooth -- up to three at once -- for your typing needs. I have an earlier model, and the first time I used it to take notes on my phone was like a revelation. It's relatively small and light and has full-size keys that are comfortable to use.
Though they fall into the $50-card club, these in-ear headphones cost just $30. That's a great price for lightweight, comfortable earbuds with an integrated microphone and a remote for making calls. And for the money, our reviewer says they sound pretty good.
If you're into Snapchatting, this Bluetooth stylus is designed specifically for scribbling. Plus, it has a remote shutter on it for taking selfies and attaches magnetically to your phone. It'll take a $30 chunk out of your $50.
Photo by: Adonit
$50: Creative Sound Blaster Jam
Our most recommended on-ear Bluetooth headphones that also tick the cheap checkbox. Reviewer David Carnoy says these will last 12 hours, fit comfortably, and sound good for the money.
If you're entrenched in the Amazon ecosystem -- and have an Amazon gift card or credit -- this is a great value option for streaming from Amazon's own video service. It can handle other services but prefers its own.
Another one for the iPhone family -- or for a kid that got a gift card for the holidays -- the Shape to Life Studio manages to make Play-Doh even more fun by slightly animating your creations. This one's only good if you have an Apple gift card or a generic "cash" one since it's only available from the Apple Store at the moment.
Sure, it's for preschoolers, but I bet it could teach you a few tricks while you're playing together. How you snap the modules together determines its behavior. It's available from a lot of places for less than $50, but you can use your Bloomingdale's gift card if you've got $100 and are willing to overpay.
Though kind of cheap looking, this is a lightweight, flexible collar-style Bluetooth headphone that offers decent sound, reasonably good battery life and a comfortable fit. That's a pretty good value for $40.
It's not the latest or greatest, but if you're an Apple devotee then this provides an entry into Apple's video-streaming ecosystem for less than $70, with access to some of the big players including Netflix, Hulu, HBO and YouTube.
Who cares what it does -- this Bluetooth speaker is cool-looking enough to just leave on display in the pool! It's waterproof and slides in at just under the $100 limit. Our reviewer says it has very good sound for its size with decent battery life.
For $80, this e-reader gives you a solid entry point into the Kindle books ecosystem to see if it's really for you. Then, if you want, you can buy a better model next year when the price drops with new gift cards.
Our Roku 3 recommendation stands firm, but if you've got a 4K TV -- or just got one for the holidays -- you'll need the more recent Roku to take full advantage of it. The price varies, but if you've got an Amazon or generic gift card you should be able to get it for less than $100.
This instant camera is a fun one for the kids or family. You can often find it in places that aren't technology focused, such as Michael's or Toys R Us, if someone gave you gift cards from non-tech retailers.
Photo by: Fujifilm
$100: Razer Deathadder Elite mouse
A gamer? Splurge about $70 of your $100 on one of the most fast and precise gaming mice we've seen.
This 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 1,350 mAh USB rechargeable battery provides up to 52 hours of light or a backup boost to your phone. Lighting modes include White Lantern, Red Night Vision, Red and White Strobe and White Point Light. If you've got a generic cash card, you can get it at a lot of sporting goods sites but Amazon offers it as well.
Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET
$100: Google Daydream View
If you've got a Daydream-compatible phone -- or think you'll be getting one soon -- and want a cheap and easy way to try out immersive VR, you can get this for $80 with your Google or Best Buy gift card.