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7 great graduation gifts under $100

Whether you're buying for a recent graduate from high school or college, there are plenty of great gifts that won't cost a fortune.

2020 will be a graduation season like no other, with virtual commencement addresses, Zoom graduation parties and drive-in ceremonies with social distancing guidelines in effect. Suffice it to say, it's not going to be very fun or familiar. That's why it's doubly important for you to step up with a good high school or college graduation gift for anyone you know who's graduating under these surreal circumstances. To kickstart your gift-giving, we've put together a guide of graduation gift ideas at various budgets. Whether you can spend up to $30, $50 or -- right here, below -- $100, we've got you covered. Each of these graduation gifts under $100 have been fully reviewed or anecdotally tested by CNET editors.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, you'd love to give your graduate a pair of AirPods Pro, or maybe the new Pixel Buds 2, but they cost upwards of $250 and $180, respectively. The Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 true wireless headphones deliver a good portion of the features found on those more expensive name brand models and still sneak into our under-$100 budget by a penny. They're available in black or white, offer USB-C and wireless charging and they're great for making calls or listening to music.

Read our Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Earbuds are great, though maybe you're looking for a graduation gift for someone who prefers full-size wireless headphones. Bose and Sony models cost upwards of $300 or more, but this model (yes, Anker again) delivers solid sound for just $60 -- and with passable noise cancellation and great battery life, too. Quoting CNET headphone guru David Carnoy: "It's fairly well balanced with a reasonable amount of clarity and plump bass that's not bloated or muddy (there's a bass boost or BassUp mode if you want an extra helping of bass with your music)."

Dale Smith/CNET

Yes, Amazon's Echo Show 8 is a fantastic smart display and a great gift for anyone with an Alexa household, but some of us prefer the Google Nest Hub. It's less likely to push Amazon products on the screen, the voice assistant is a bit more intuitive and there's no camera, so it feels more comfortable in the bedroom. Whichever you choose, seek out a discount: These are often on sale for $80, or even less.

Read our Google Nest Hub review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

We love Sonos Wi-Fi speakers but the cheapest models generally start at around $180. Unless, that is, you go for the this Sonos-designed Symfonisk speaker that's sold through Ikea. This is the perfect gift for delivering similarly great Sonos wireless sound at half the price of the Sonos One. You lose compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant, but for privacy-minded grads, that's a feature, not a bug.

Read our Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf WiFi Speaker review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

Bluetooth speakers are the ultimate commodity these days, but if you're going to spend upwards of $75, the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is an excellent choice. It's fully waterproof -- it floats, in fact -- and the sound is excellent for its size. Given that it's about as small as a softball, it will easily travel with the recent grad from back yard to bedroom, or anywhere in between.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While the new Fitbit Charge 4 adds runner-friendly GPS, the older Fitbit Charge 3 is now on sale for $99. This makes it it a slam-dunk choice for a new grad if you're looking to give a basic fitness tracker without spending a bundle. The Charge 3 syncs with iPhone and Android phones, it's water-resistant, it supports notifications and its days-long battery life puts smartwatches to shame.

Read our Fitbit Charge 3 review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, the Kindle app is available for free on phones and tablets. But if you're buying a graduation gift for a book lover, the Kindle Paperwhite beats the phone app because it offers distraction-free reading. Unlike a phone, the Paperwhite is readable in full sunlight or in a darkened bedroom, it's fully waterproof and its battery lasts days or weeks, not just a few hours. The Paperwhite normally retails for $130, but it's often on sale for as low as $90, which is why we're including it here.

Read our Kindle Paperwhite review.

 

More gift ideas at CNET