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 something for your favorite quarantine cook.
We've either either comprehensively reviewed or anecdotally tested each product.
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 Christmas git 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.
Currently, the black version is less expensive ($74) while the white version costs $89.
For a lot of people, Apple's original HomePod was too pricey at $350, though it's now come down in price to $300 and sometimes less. Enter the HomePod Mini, 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).
Anker's Soundcore Motion Plus came out in 2019 and managed to slip beneath my radar, which is a shame because it's arguably one of the best-sounding speakers under $100, if not the best. A little larger than many mini Bluetooth speakers, it's still compact and manages to sound quite a bit fuller than much of the competition under $100, with bigger bass, more volume and better clarity. It's also fully waterproof (IPX7 rated) and has support for the aptX streaming codec for devices like Samsung's Galaxy phones that support it. Read our Anker Soundcore Motion Plus review.
The Lumenus ioLight USB bike light isn't your standard bike light. For starters, it's Bluetooth-enabled with a GPS-guided app that automatically tells the light to flash red when you come to a stop and display a turn signal when you turn left or right. It's also really bright (200 lumens) and is rechargeable and water-resistant, with a rubber cover and gasket that covers the Micro-USB charging port. The cover also glows in the dark should the battery die (the ioLight is rated at five hours at maximum brightness and 30 hours in power-saving mode). You can easily mount it to the front or back of your bike or scooter with the included strap.
The EarFun Air distinguishes itself with a comfortable fit, decent noise canceling (though not great) and nicely balanced sound with good clarity and well-defined bass. They're smooth-sounding earbuds and a bargain at $56 (there's a 10% instant coupon to clip on Amazon, and then if you add the code EFAIRPRO2, the price drops to $55.99 before tax. The deal is good through Dec. 13).
Voice calling is also above average -- noise reduction outdoors was decent and callers said they had no trouble hearing me (there's a light sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the buds as you talk). Battery life is rated at up to seven hours with noise canceling on and these have a IPX5 rating, which means they're splashproof and are fine for working out (I ran with them).
Hyperice's original Hypersphere massage ball ($150) is quite powerful but a bit on the large side and requires its own power adapter to charge. Meanwhile, the new smaller Hypersphere Mini ($99), with a three-inch diameter about the size of a softball, charges with a micro-USB cable. A full charge offers more than two hours of battery life and, with three speeds to choose from, it actually works better for rolling out your muscles. Its size means it also travels better. It's currently on sale for $79.
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 $100.
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.
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. Read more.
Bose's SoundLink Micro ($100) delivers impressive sound for its size and is fully waterproof. Since it's been out a while it frequently gets discounted, particularly during the holidays -- usually to $79 -- which makes it a perfect pick for any audiophile on your list. I haven't heard of anyone not liking this as a gift.
The Upright Go 2, a little device you stick onto your skin at the top of your back (between your shoulder blades), is a unique gift that monitors your posture and vibrates when you're slouching. Using the companion app for iOS and Android, you can set up training regimes and keep track of your progress. This new second-gen version is 50 percent smaller than the original. Additional adhesives cost $10 for a 10-pack but some people use double-sided tape to save money.
The adhesives (10 are included) kept the Upright Go 2 on my back just fine -- I barely noticed the device was there except for when it vibrated -- and you can wear it for several days without replacing the adhesive. Eventually the adhesive needs to be replaced, however, or you risk having the device fall off your back.
The JBL Clip 3 is arguably the best travel-friendly wireless speaker, but if you're looking for stocking stuffer ideas, the UE Wonderboom 2, which offers improved sound and battery life over the original, is a great choice. This wireless speaker is available in about a dozen fun colors, it really can float and it sounds great, too. Its list price is $100, but sometimes goes on sale (it's currently $50 for Black Friday).
If you're looking to do some Xbox Cloud gaming on your Android phone, the PowerA Moga XP5-X Plus is both a wired and wireless game controller for Android smartphone that's also compatible with PCs. It includes a detachable phone clip, integrated power bank and mappable Advanced Gaming Buttons, plus combo micro-USB and USB-C cables to charge or play in wired mode. The Razer Kishi controller is a more compact solution but the PowerA Moga operates like a standard Xbox controller with better ergonomics.
Amazon's 5-inch Echo Show 5 is its most affordable smart display, but we'd suggest stepping up to the larger Echo Show 8 (8-inch screen), which is currently on sale for $80. It's been as low as $65 but $80 is still a good price for it.
Last September, Logitech unveiled the MX Master 3 ($100), the third generation of its premium home/office mouse. Now, a year later, we get 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.
While many Roku players, including the $50 Roku Streaming Stick Plus, offer 4K resolution, Dolby Atmos audio and standard high dynamic range video, the 2020 Roku Ultra is the first to include Dolby Vision HDR. In CNET's tests Dolby Vision can look a bit better than standard HDR in some cases, but the difference is largely dependent on the TV and the video source. Even so, many owners of Dolby Vision-compatible TVs are likely to want a streamer that can deliver the format. Competing 4K devices with Dolby Vision include the $50 Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, the $150 Nvidia Shield TV and the $180 Apple TV 4K.
According to Roku, the updated Ultra has a faster quad-core processor, 50% better Wi-Fi range and support for Bluetooth audio so you can stream music and podcasts from your phone to your TV (it will also soon add Apple's AirPlay 2 so you can cast HBO Max from your iPhone or iPad to your TV via the Ultra). Just note that this unit is slated to go on sale later in November for $70 at Best Buy (and possibly elsewhere).
The ultimate gift for someone who's always losing things, Tile Stickers are little round trackers that pair with your phone. To find one, you just tap the app to make it ring. But you can also use a smart speaker. Now, instead of having to find your phone before you can find your other stuff, just tell Google to help you locate the missing thing.
The MX Keys is arguably the smartest low-profile Logitech keyboard I've used. It has "spherically dished" keys that kind of cradle the tips of your fingers, and the keyboard is responsive and tactile. In that sense, it's similar to Logitech's Craft keyboard, which lists for twice the price.
The keys light up as your hands approach and there's a sensor that adjusts the illumination according to the lighting conditions. You can also turn off the light if you want to save battery life. The dual layout is designed for both Mac and Windows users, and MX Keys is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android systems.
Using illumination, you can get 10 days of operation on a full charge or up to five months with backlighting turned off. When it's time to recharge, the battery indicator LED glows red and you can continue using the keyboard while charging via USB-C.
If you want to keep appealing to your computer-tethered giftee, a gaming mouse would likely be a welcome addition.
Assuming there's still someone who doesn't own one of these, an Instant Pot is a perfect gift both for people who love to cook and those who hate it. It can pressure cook, slow cook and just about everything in between. Right now, the best deal is at Amazon, where the six-quart model is $79.
Check out CNET's list of the best Instant Pot deals for the latest bargains.
This fitness tracker smartwatch has been out a while but if you want to give your loved ones a smartwatch within your sub-$100 budget, the Amazfit Bip is still your best bet. Despite the low price, it's got an always-on display, water resistance, heart rate tracking and -- most importantly -- battery life that blows away the Apple Watch. This thoughtful gift really goes above and beyond any other stocking stuffer ideas we've seen.
Fitbit has several fitness trackers under $200, but only one new adult model in this price category: the Inspire 2. If you want the name-brand cachet and superior smartphone apps, this Fitbit is a good trade-up from the Amazfit mentioned above.
It's pretty easy to fill up the storage space on your gaming console, and that's when an external drive like the WD Black P10 comes into play. Starting out around $75 for the 2TB version, this compact drive attaches to the USB port on your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One and immediately gives you a lot more room to store your games. No more need to delete titles as you add new ones. The drive also comes in a 5TB Xbox version with a white trim (pictured on right), but it costs $140. Either version can be used with PCs and they use a USB 3.2 Gen 1 interface. It's not as fast as more expensive solid-state drives, but the P10 has transfer speeds of up to 130 MBps. Your games will run just fine from it.
Yes, the Kindle app is available for free on phones and tablets. But if you're buying a gift for a book lover, the Kindle Paperwhite beats a phone app because it offers distraction-free reading. Other ways the Paperwhite beats a phone: It's 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. While this great gift normally retails for $130, it was $80 to $85 for Prime Day and Cyber Monday, and it may return to that price before year's end.