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8 great gifts under $250 for high school and college graduates

If you're looking to reward your graduate, here are the best gifts we've found, from a new gaming console to the best wireless headphones.

Russell Holly
Russell Holly is a Managing Editor on the Commerce team at CNET. He works with all of CNET to assemble top recommendations as well as helping everyone find the best way to buy anything at the best price. When not writing for CNET you can find him riding a bike, running around in Jedi robes, or contributing to WOSU public radio's Tech Tuesday segment.
Expertise 7 years experience as a smartphone reviewer and analyst, 5 years experience as a competitive cyclist Credentials
  • Author of Taking your Android Tablets to the Max
Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He majored in Cinema Studies when studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Russell Holly
Ty Pendlebury
3 min read

Graduation season is upon us. Whether high school or college, the act of graduation is something well worth celebrating. And that's something people will be doing in person far more this year than last, thanks to rising vaccination rates. Whether you're buying for a high school graduate on their way to college, or a college graduate going out into the real world, the best thing you can do for the graduate in your life is find them something that will actually improve their life -- and that's exactly what we recommend in our roundup of gift ideas here. Take a look!


A great audio experience is a perfect way to dramatically improves any visual experience, and very few televisions come with speakers worthy of the shows, movies and games experienced on them. That's why your graduate deserves a great soundbar. This one from JBL comes with a wireless subwoofer so you can place it in the best spot for any room without a problem.

Read our JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass review.

David Carnoy/CNET

This gift is sure to please any grad: their very own mini percussive therapy device. The 1.5-pound Theragun Mini massager is designed to be portable, easily fitting in a backpack or purse. While this unique gift doesn't have quite the power of one of Theragun's full-size devices, it's surprisingly powerful considering how small it is. We've tried larger massage guns in this price range and it's just as powerful but half the size. Still too pricey? Check out our list of more affordable massage guns, and our hands-on experience of the Theragun Mini.

David Carnoy/CNET

Available in white or black for $169, the Roam is currently Sonos' smallest and most affordable speaker (if you don't count those $99 Sonos-compatible Symfonisk Ikea Wi-Fi bookshelf speakers), though it's fairly expensive for a mini wireless speaker. This model, like Sonos' earlier Move portable speaker ($400), is equipped with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and can tap into an existing Sonos multiroom audio system and link with other Series 2-compatible Sonos speakers. It makes for a good starter speaker for recent grads new to the Sonos world. Read our Sonos Roam review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon offers a number of ways to read just about anything: comics, newspapers, magazines and lots and lots of books. While the Fire Tablets are a fine way to enjoy things in full color, the self-illumination and light weight make the Kindle Paperwhite a great graduation gift and is always an easy thing to recommend because it can be used anywhere. And, really, who among us couldn't use more books in their life? (Keep in mind that the price on this one should bottom out during Amazon's Prime Day event in June.)

Read our Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018) review.


Why are we suggesting a $150 jump rope? Great question. Weighted jump ropes are a fascinating twist on an old-school workout, making it a very good gift for the new grad. Even a half-pound increase in a performance jump rope can leave your arms screaming after a 20-minute workout. Crossrope makes these unique handles that allow you to quickly swap ropes for different kinds of workouts without changing your handles, and the difference it makes is worth every penny. 

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

If your grad doesn't need the TV connection or team-play capabilities of the original Switch -- which is still in short supply -- the Switch Lite is a capable and pocketable console that plays nearly all of the same great games.

Read our Nintendo Switch Lite review.

Josh Miller/CNET

If the last year has taught us anything, it's that having some skill in the kitchen is incredibly important. And even if you're not the most adventurous eater, cooking things sous vide can yield some incredible results. A thoughtful gift, Breville's Joule cooker makes it easy to get started, and once you start having fun with this machine you're very unlikely to stop.

Read our Joule review.

Sarah Tew/CNET
Battery Life Rated up to 6 hoursNoise Canceling Yes (ANC)Multipoint NoHeadphone Type Wireless earbudsWater-Resistant Yes (IPX4 -- splash-proof)

The AirPods Pro aren't necessarily the best-sounding true wireless headphones out there, but they integrate seamlessly with Apple devices, their noise canceling is excellent and the transparency mode is great for listening without shutting out the world around you. Any iPhone-owning grad will dig this perfect graduation gift.

Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.