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Top tech gifts under $500

Here's a look at some of the best tech gifts that cost less than $500.

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, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
David Carnoy
Xbox One X
Xbox One X
1 of 23 Josh Miller/CNET

Xbox One X

If you're looking for the most powerful game console this holiday season, Microsoft's new Xbox One X is it. It'll still play your old Xbox One games, but a growing list of over 100 titles have been "enhanced" for output to 4K TVs using the new console. 

2 of 23 Sarah Tew/CNET

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is a full-size, around-ear wireless Bluetooth headphone that also includes active noise-cancellation and doubles as an advanced headset for making cell phone calls. This freshly updated version features a dedicated button that directly connects you to Google Assistant. 

3 of 23 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro

Sony's top-end console delivers improved processing power and graphics as well as support for 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) games and video. However, unlike the latest Xbox, it won't play 4K Blu-ray discs.

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Nintendo Switch

Nintendo's popular Switch game console will hopefully be more readily available this holiday season than it was in its early launch phase. The bare-bones model costs $300. 

Sony WH-1000X M2 headphones
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Sony WH-1000XM2

Sony's MDR-1000X is one of our favorite noise canceling wireless headphones and this is the new enhanced version of it, the WH-1000XM2. Priced at $350, it looks very similar to the original and also comes in beige or black, but the finish is slightly different and Sony's reduced the number of buttons on the headphone to help simplify things.

The real changes are on the inside as the headphone's already excellent noise canceling has been upgraded with Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing, Ambient Sound Control, an Equalizer and Surround and Sound Position Control. The added features are supposed to help you better tailor the sound to your environment and the Atmospheric Pressure Optimizer, which is designed for plane use, is currently unique to this headphone. Sony's Headphones Connect app further allows you to tweak all those new features. 

6 of 23 Sarah Tew/CNET

Bose SoundLink Revolve Plus

Bose's SoundLink Revolve Plus ($300) is about 25 percent larger than the SoundLink Revolve and features slightly bigger sound and with better bass response, as well as a built-in handle for easy transport. It's expensive but one of the best designed and best sounding portable Bluetooth speakers.  

Beats Studio3 Wireless
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Beats Studio3 Wireless

Beats next-generation Studio Wireless headphone features slightly improved sound and much better battery life and noise canceling. It comes in a variety of colors for $350. 

8 of 23 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sonos Play:5

The second-generation Sonos Play:5 is a sleek, well-designed Wi-Fi speaker that delivers rich sound for its size as well as strong bass. It offers the full Sonos wireless experience, controllable from iPhone, iPad and Android apps, with compatibility with nearly every key music service, including Pandora, Spotify, Tidal and Amazon.

9 of 23 Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple iPhone SE

The iPhone SE is a great choice for fans of small phones that are looking for an "iPhone 6S Mini."

The SE still packs every worthwhile feature (processor, good camera, Apple Pay, always-on Siri) into a smaller, more affordable 4-inch phone.

10 of 23 James Martin/CNET

Apple Watch Series 3

The Apple Watch Series 3 is faster than its predecessor, has GPS is waterproof to 50 meters in salt or fresh water and comes in a version with LTE support for making calls directly from the watch (you have to pay $10 a month for cellular service).

Samsung T5 SSD
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Samsung T5 SSD (1TB)

Solid-state external drives offer much faster transfer speeds than external HDD products and are also much smaller and lighter. The only downside is that they cost significantly more per GB of storage. Case in point: The 1TB version of Samsung's fast-performing T5 costs $400 while a 1TB external HDD such as the Western Digital My Passport costs around $60. 

The T5 also comes in 256GB ($130) and 500GB ($200, as well as 2TB version that lists for $800. It's a nice drive if you can afford it. 

12 of 23 Sarah Tew/CNET

Audio-Technica LP120-USB

The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB has been around for awhile now, and there's a reason you see it for sale at so many of your local record stores: at $300, it offers customers an affordable way to listen to records without a complicated setup process. Its built-in preamp means that no additional accessories are required when connecting the turntable to a stereo or set of powered speakers, and it includes a replaceable, precalibrated cartridge and needle that sound great with all kinds of music.

13 of 23 Sarah Tew/CNET

Audeze Sine

The swanky, sturdily built Audeze Sine is among the smallest and most affordable headphones to use planar magnetic drivers, which offer a unique mix of revealing, spacious sound in a closed-back design.

For an extra $50, you can get the company's Cipher Lightning headphone cable, which plugs directly into your iOS device's Lightning port -- making it iPhone 7-ready.

14 of 23 Sarah Tew/CNET

HiFiMan HE-400i

HiFiMan is known for making superior sounding headphones that outperform sleeker-looking headphones from name brands like Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser. The HE-400i is no different, using thin-film "planar magnetic" flat drivers that produce clearer and more dynamically alive sound than your typical headphone drivers.

If you've always wanted to own a pair of high-end "audiophile" headphones but can't quite justify dropping a grand on a pair, the superb sounding HiFiMan HE-400i is a good compromise.

15 of 23 Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple iPad

Apple's entry-level iPad lists for $329 but you can usually find it for less than $300. It's arguably the best value in iPads these days. 

Nikon D3400
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Nikon D3400

If you're shopping for a competent but inexpensive general-purpose first dSLR, the D3400 is a fine choice. You can find it for just less $500 online.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300

The Panasonic Lumix FZ300 has a best-in-class 24x f/2.8 25-600mm lens, excellent image quality for a small-sensor compact camera, and its body is resistant to all kinds of inclement weather.

Even though it's over a year old, it's still one of the best-in-class options for a single camera to shoot photos and video -- even in the rain.

18 of 23 Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple Mac Mini

The small-but-powerful Mac Mini is the least expensive way to get an OS X computer. It's powerful enough for everyday use, works as a hidden away desktop or home theater PC, or can even get tossed in a shoulder bag for easy travel.

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TCL 55S405 (2017 Roku TV)

The 55-inch TCL 55S405 Roku TV is the simplest, most comprehensive smart-TV experience on the market with a superb user interface that puts thousands of apps and streaming video on the same plane as regular TV.

Despite its "good enough" picture quality, the TCL Roku TV is one of our favorite entry-level 4K sets, thanks to an awesome smart-TV suite and rock-bottom pricing. It will only set you back $400.

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Logitech Harmony Elite

It isn't cheap, but Harmony's Elite remote, which features a touchscreen interface, is one of the top universal remotes you can buy. 

Bowers & Wilkins PX
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Bowers & Wilkins PX

Bowers & Wilkins latest wireless is also its first to feature active noise cancellation. While its noise canceling isn't as strong as Bose's, this is well designed headphone with excellent sound.

22 of 23 Josh Miller/CNET

Moto Z2 Play

Moto's Z2 Play costs either a little more than or a little under $500 depending on where you buy it, but we're throwing it in here because its strong battery life, clever software and magnetic Mod add-ons make the it a very compelling midrange Android choice.

Video: Best tech gifts for under $500
Video: Best tech gifts for under $500
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Video: Best tech gifts for under $500

Looking for that perfect gift and ready to splurge? Check out our holiday tech ideas for under $500.

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