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Best gifts for $100 or less

Don't want to spend too much on a gift but also don't want to spend too little? Here are some picks in the $50 to $100 range that are sure to please.

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Looking for the best holiday gifts under $100, without resorting to a scarf, coffee mug or gift card? Our picks include thoughtful and meaningful presents, including tech gear for gamers, treats for music lovers and even some items that may just help soothe your aching muscles. 

We've either comprehensively reviewed or anecdotally tested each product.

David Carnoy/CNET

This massage gun was one our top budget massage gun picks until Sportneer came out with an upgraded model that costs about $50 more. However, this remains a high-value massage gun and it's worth trying if you want something in the $75-to-$100 price range.

Razer

Buying for someone who's gaming on their phone? Whether they're iPhone users subscribed to Apple Arcade or Android owners using Xbox Cloud gaming or Google Stadia, the Razer Kishi is a top option. Similar to the $80 iPhone-compatible model (the iPhone version is MFi-certified and will work with the iPhone 6 Plus and any newer model), the Android version allows Android phone owners to play Xbox Cloud gaming with a Game Pass Ultimate subscription). It connects via USB-C and has pass-through charging but no built-in battery to supply extra juice. There's an Xbox-optimized one for Android owners, too, for a few bucks more.

The controller works nicely with mobile games that have game-controller support (and benefit from it) and anybody who plays a lot of games on their phone would appreciate it as a gift. Just make sure you're matching the right model to their phone. We do prefer the Backbone controller for iOS users (see below). Alas, no Android version of that controller exists yet.

Read our Razer Kishi review.

 

Lori Grunin/CNET

It's amazing how good this Lightning-connected controller from startup Backbone is compared to the alternatives. It turns any iPhone 6S or later into a Nintendo Switch-style gaming experience, with added smarts for social and chatty gamers. Like the Razer Kishi, it connects via Lightning with pass-through charging but has no built-in battery. The big advantage it has over the Kishi is that it's just a more ergonomically sound controller and feels better in your hands.

David Carnoy/CNET

I like Hyperice's Hypersphere Mini ($99) massage ball, but Theragun's new Wave Solo massage ball is arguably a tad better and definitely $20 cheaper at $79. It's also about the size of a softball (3.4 inches, or 8.7 cm, in diameter), charges with a USB-C cable (a full charge offers up to 200 minutes of battery life) and has three vibration speed options.

It's good for pinpointing such problem areas as hip flexors that you might roll out with a lacrosse ball. There's also a Wave Duo version for $99 that's good for rolling on either side of the spine or placing at the top of your shoulder behind your neck while lying down.

Amazon

Whoever you're getting this for may be a little embarrassed if you get him this gift but he'll most likely appreciate it. Panasonic says its new ER-GK80-S has a unique V-shaped head that's "built to go everywhere" -- and with precision. It comes with two attachments, has almost two hours of battery life and can be used wet or dry. A travel case is included. It's an excellent manscaping device.

David Carnoy/CNET

I never tried the original Fiil CC earbuds, but the next-generation CC2 improves on the performance of the originals, with better battery life (they're rated at five hours on a single charge) and no audio latency issues when watching videos.

These did stay in my ears better than the standard AirPods. They pair quickly -- they're equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 -- there's a Fiil companion app for tweaking settings and they sound quite decent for open-style buds, with just enough bass to keep you from feeling they're bass shy. They're also decent for making calls and have touch controls. 

One of their distinguishing features is their open case, which makes it easy to access the buds and put them back in their case. Thanks to some integrated magnets, they stay in the case securely -- you can turn it upside down and the buds won't come out. Unlike the AirPods, these have square rather than rounded stems, which seems a little weird at first, and they do fit in your ears slightly differently to AirPods as a result.

Juan Garzon/CNET

There are plenty of great Alexa-powered Echo products, but in this price range, we're fans of the new Google Nest Hub (2nd gen). The upgraded smart display delivers more bass along with a new Sleep Sensing feature. It also gives you instant access to a world of answers whenever you say, "Hey, Google," and allows you to cast content directly to the screen from any Android device. 

Read our Google Nest Hub (2nd gen) review.

 

Lenovo

We liked the original Google-Assistant Lenovo Smart Clock and this Version 2 model is also pretty nifty and includes a wireless charging pad. The touch screen is only 4 inches, so it's pretty small, but it's easy to set up and the inclusion of the wireless charging is convenient. The feature set is somewhat limited compared to the Google's Nest Hub (2nd gen) -- there's no YouTube streaming available -- but if you're looking for a smart alarm clock with weather forecasts built-in and decent enough sound for its small size, this is an attractive option. It's available in three color options. 

Read our Lenovo Smart Clock 2 review.

 

For a lot of people, Apple's original HomePod was too pricey at $350. That speaker has been discontinued, but the HomePod Mini is still around. It's a very compact Wi-Fi speaker that costs a lot less ($99) and plays bigger than you'd expect for its small size. Yes, it's more appealing to those invested in Apple's ecosystem and comfortable with Apple's voice-assistant Siri, which drives the speaker, but the price is right and you can pair two HomePod Minis to create stereo sound or combine several to create a multiroom audio system (you can link them to the original HomePod, of course). 

While music playback is tied into Apple Music, you can use AirPlay 2 to stream audio from other music services, including Spotify, from your iPhone and other Apple devices (read this for AirPlay requirements).

Read our Apple HomePod Mini review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

Anker's Soundcore Wakey may be the best clock radio you can buy for the money. Not only does it sound better and play louder than your typical clock radio, but it has an integrated wireless charging dock for Qi-enabled smartphones, which includes all the iPhones and Samsung smartphones from the last few years. What's also appealing about this holiday gift idea is that there's a companion app (yes, it's also a Bluetooth speaker) that allows you to program in your preset FM radio station favorites and dim the LED clock to your liking. 

The Wakey comes in white and black; sometimes the black model goes on sale.

Jabra

The Jabra Elite 3 headphones are Jabra's most affordable true-wireless earbuds to date and have a fairly basic feature set, though they offer strong sound and call quality for the money. They have 6mm drivers, four-microphone call technology and Jabra's HearThrough transparency mode. Qualcomm aptX HD audio is supported for aptX-enabled devices.

Battery life is rated at up to seven hours on a single charge at moderate volume levels, with the case storing an extra three full charges (28 hours total). They have an IP55 water-resistance rating, which means they can take a sustained spray of water and are also dust-resistant. As with the other new buds, you can use either bud independently in a mono mode. 

While they don't have such extras as active noise-canceling, the Elite 3 earbuds offer solid performance and a comfortable fit for a reasonable price.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Luxe is SanDisk's latest iXpand Flash Drive that allows you to move photo and video files from a Lightning-enabled iOS device to a USB-C-enabled computer or Android phone. It also has an automatic back-feature for iOS devices (you'll need to download the iXpand Drive companion app). 

The 128GB version I tried costs $60 (though it's on sale now for $50), while the 256GB version costs $90. 

David Carnoy/CNET

Ember makes 10-ounce (284 grams, $100) and 14- ounce (397 grams, $130) versions of its temperature-controlled smart mug, which keeps your hot beverage of choice hot while you sip it over a longer drinking session. While it won't keep coffee or tea warm for hours, the idea is that you can select your ideal temp via the companion Ember app for iOS or Android and keep your beverage at a high temp during the 30 minutes or so it takes to casually drink it.

I personally prefer the larger version, but it does cost more. A good insulated mug with a top on it will also keep your beverage hot (and they are cheaper), but this Ember mug allows you to drink a cup of Joe like you normally would and not sip it through a small hole in the top.

This smaller 10- ounce model is available in a variety of colors, including the snazzy bronze pictured here, while the larger version only comes in black or white.

Read our Ember Ceramic Mug preview.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

There's nothing like a little blending on the go for your loved ones' protein shakes. That's where the BlendJet 2 comes in. Equipped with a rechargeable battery, it's more powerful than you think and is able to whip up smoothies without having to plug in anywhere. It charges via USB-C (you get about 15 blends per charge) and is fully waterproof. Drink right from the blender!

David Carnoy/CNET

This insulated water bottle has built-in UV technology in the lid that, with a press of a button, kills off bacteria in three minutes and purifies your water. (There's an integrated rechargeable battery that uses a proprietary USB charger.)

The UV light breaks the DNA of the bacteria," Glo says, "eliminating the bacteria that cause bad smell and taste." So not only does the bottle clean water, but it cleans itself.

The bottle also keeps your water cold or hot for up to 12 hours.

 

Biolite

BioLite has several portable lighting options and the Alpenglow 500 is one of its more recent additions to its line. It's a portable "lantern" that has multiple modes and color options. As its name implies, it delivers 500 lumens of light, and it is indeed pretty bright.

The step-down Alpenglow 250 offers 250 lumens for $30 less. Both are rated for 5 hours of battery life on the high setting and up to 200 hours on the low setting. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The 2021 version of Amazon's smallest smart display adds a higher resolution camera than its predecessor for a list price of $85. If you're looking for a video-enabled Echo device for a nightstand or home office, this is the most affordable option (though the 1st-generation model is often on sale for $45 or less). The new Echo Show 8 lists for $130 and sometimes goes on sale for less than $100. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Logitech's MX Keys is one of our favorite everyday Bluetooth keyboards and now it comes in two smaller versions that leave off the number pad and some other keys: MX Keys Mini and MX Keys Mini for Mac. Both cost $100, the same price as the standard MX Keys. Colors include rose, pale gray and graphite. 

While you're getting less keyboard for the same amount of money, the MX Keys Mini does have three new keys, giving you shortcuts to dictation (available in select countries for Windows and MacOS users), emojis and the all-important muting and unmuting of your microphone for video-conference calls. Also, Logitech says that its "minimalist form factor aligns your shoulders and allows you to place your mouse closer to your keyboard for less hand reaching, resulting in better posture and improved ergonomics." From my tests, I agree with that assessment.

The keyboard is similar in size to Logitech's popular and less expensive K380 keyboard ($30). But MX Keys Mini, equipped with Perfect Stroke, Logitech's "best nonmechanical typing technology," has a more premium look and feel. And, like the standard MX Keys, it has backlit keys that light up as your hands approach and automatically adjust to the lighting conditions, dimming or even turning off to conserve energy.

Note that the link below goes to the standard MX Keys Mini. The MX Keys Mini for Mac can be found here.

Read our Logitech MX Keys first take.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

A couple of years ago, Logitech unveiled the MX Master 3 ($100), the third generation of its premium home/office mouse. Then last year we got the $80 MX Anywhere 3, the third iteration of the company's premium "mobile" mouse, and it may just be my favorite Logitech mouse yet.

The MX Anywhere 3 comes in a couple of versions. There's the standard "universal" version that works with Windows, MacOS, iPadOS (13.4 or higher), ChromeOS and Linux computers via Bluetooth or Logitech's Unifying USB dongle, which is included. MX Anywhere 3 for Mac works only via Bluetooth and is optimized for Macs and iPads. Both mice are available in pale gray and the MX Anywhere 3 (with the dongle) is also offered in rose and graphite.

Read our Logitech MX Master 3 first take.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Roku Ultra has always been a fine 4K HDR streamer. As the flagship in Roku's extensive line of sticks and players, its bag of nifty tricks includes a remote finder and a remote with programmable remote buttons. This version adds better Wi-Fi, a faster processor and the ability to stream in Dolby Vision -- a long-awaited feature that allows it to better compete with the best streamers from AmazonApple and Google

Yes, the Roku Express 4K Plus, which costs around $40, is a better value, but the upgraded Ultra is often on sale these days for $70 (it lists for $100) and has an Ethernet port for those who want to go with a wired connection.

Read our Roku Ultra (2020) review.

 

CNET

Yes, the Echo Dot sells for half the price, but it's worth splurging for the full-size Amazon Echo -- especially if it's marked down. In addition to its zillions of smart home functions, this voice-controlled speaker delivers better-than-average sound quality and doubles as a straight-up Bluetooth speaker, too. 

Read our Amazon Echo (2020) review.

 

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