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Best Gifts Under $500 for 2023

Feeling generous? Here are some of our favorite gift ideas for one lucky recipient.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
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, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
4 min read
$328 at Amazon
Sony WH-1000XM5
Best noise-canceling headphones from Sony
$149 at Purple
Sponsored - Purple Harmony Pillow
20% off Purple's bestselling, most comfortable pillow
$250 at Amazon
JBL PartyBox 110
Best portable party speaker
$369 at Amazon
The Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler XT is a wheeled duffle that converts into a backpack
Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler XT 32-inch
Durable wheeled duffle bag
$500 at Best Buy
A Meta Quest 3 VR headset on a table, with orange straps
Meta Quest 3
Best new mixed reality headset
$279 at Walmart
sonos ray
Sonos Ray
Value Sonos soundbar
$240 at Amazon
The Kindle Scribe and a stylus on a blue background
Amazon Kindle Scribe
Jumbo e-reader you can draw on
$350 at Amazon
The UE EpicBoom Bluetooth speaker is not only fully waterproof but floats
UE Epicboom
Premium Bluetooth speaker
$329 at Apple
iPad Mini and 9th Gen iPad
Apple iPad 9
Entry-level iPad
$290 at Amazon
Vitamix Explorian
Best overall blender
$248 at Amazon
Sony WF-1000XM5
Best Sony earbuds
$299 at Therabody
The Theragun Sense has a built-in heart-rate sensor for breathwork exercises
Therabody Theragun Sense
Massage gun with heart sensor and haptic feedback
$350 at Best Buy
a Nintendo Switch OLED with red and blue controllers sits next to a TV
Nintendo Switch OLED
Portable gaming with a bigger, better display
$320 at Best Buy
Skylight Calendar
15-inch photo frame with family organizer
$329 at B&H Photo-Video
Vizio V-Series
Vizio V-Series
Best budget TV for picture quality

When looking for decent gifts, you can certainly pick up something cool for $100 or less or even $50 or less. However, if you're on the lookout for a spectacular present for that special someone on your list and have no qualms about shelling out some extra dough, there are some great higher-priced items worth considering. With that in mind, we've highlighted a selection of our favorite gift options in the $200 to $500 range. 

David Carnoy/CNET
Battery Life Rated up to 32 hoursNoise Canceling Yes (ANC)Multipoint YesHeadphone Type Over-ear wireless headphonesWater-Resistant No IP rating

When you have a product that a lot of people love, change can be risky. Such is the case for Sony's WH-1000XM5, the fifth generation of the 1000X series headphones, which were first released in 2016 as the MDR-1000X Wireless and have become increasingly popular as they've improved with each generation. Over the years, Sony has made some tweaks to the design, but nothing as dramatic as what it's done with the WH-1000XM5. Other than the higher $400 price tag ($50 more than the WH-1000XM4), most of those changes are good, and Sony's made some dramatic improvements with voice-calling performance as well as even better noise canceling and more refined sound.

Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review.


Using the same cushioning technology developed for its mattresses, the Purple Harmony Pillow features a layer of honeycomb-patterned grid surrounding a supportive inner core of hypoallergenic ventilated latex. Wrapped in moisture-wicking breathable mesh material, the no-pressure, supportive combo offers cool comfort all night long and never falls flat. Available in three heights -- low, medium and tall -- so you'll sleep comfortably no matter your sleep position.

David Carnoy/CNET

Released in 2021, the PartyBox 110 packs some serious punch and delivers bigger sound than many portable boombox speakers, including JBL's own Boombox 3. There's an integrated handle for toting the speaker, but the PartyBox 110 is pretty hefty, weighing in at 23 pounds and measuring slightly more than 22 inches tall. You can stand this Bluetooth boom box up vertically as shown in the picture above or place it horizontally, as it has rubber feet on both sides of the speaker.

It's rated for up to 12 hours of playback time at moderate volume levels and has a redesigned light show that syncs to the beat of your music (you can customize the light show from the speaker itself or use the JBL PartyBox companion app). 

The speaker has Bluetooth or a wired USB connection and there are guitar and mic inputs. It's also worth noting that the speaker is IPX4 splash-proof and you can wirelessly link two PartyBox 110 speakers together for stereo sound. 

The Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler XT is a wheeled duffle that converts into a backpack
Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Eagle Creek's Cargo Hauler XT wheeled duffle comes in a few different sizes, starting with a 21.5-inch model that qualifies as a carry-on bag (even internationally) and costs $269. The model shown here is the 32-inch "large-checked," which is a fairly large bag but not huge. Like the other Cargo Hauler XT models in the Eagle Creek line, this one is water resistant and also has hideaway backpack straps built in it so you can carry it on your back up stairs or on dirt paths and everything in between. (The travel lock in the photo is not included.)

Available in four color options (charcoal, earth red, glacier blue and safari brown), the bag is made out of recycled materials and looks and feels quite durable and has a few grab straps and extra pockets. I also thought its wheels operate quite smoothly. It's an ideal bag for a three- to seven-day trip, while the carry-on version is more suitable for weekend or overnight trips. 

A Meta Quest 3 VR headset on a table, with orange straps
Scott Stein/CNET

As a game console, the Quest 3's advantages over the Quest 2 are clear, according to CNET's Scott Stein. There are better graphics, a higher-resolution display, improved controllers and the added mixed reality function. Is it good enough to merit an upgrade? If you're a die-hard Quest gamer, yes. For casual VR users, maybe not, considering it's also $200 more expensive than the Quest 2, which remains on sale and could see discounts.

Read CNET hands-on first take of the Meta Quest 3.

sonos ray

Sonos' entry-level soundbar features the company's excellent multiroom music system onboard. A two-channel soundbar with Dolby Digital decoding, it's roughly two-thirds the size of the also excellent Sonos Beam (gen 2) but delivers a surprisingly wide soundstage through the use of proprietary waveguides.

While it doesn't support Dolby Atmos surround sound or have an HDMI port to connect to your TV (you connect it to your TV with an included optical cable), we were impressed with the sound quality for music and movies. You can pair it with a couple of other Sonos speakers like the Sonos One to create a surround sound system.

Read our Sonos Ray review.

The Kindle Scribe and a stylus on a blue background

Amazon late last year released a large-format 10.2-inch E Ink e-reader that includes a stylus. One might say it is the spiritual successor to the defunct Kindle DX, which had a 9.7-inch screen. The standard stylus model is regularly priced at $340 -- and is currently on sale for $240. For the model with the premium stylus, the normal price is $370 but is now discounted to $265.

A handful of competing stylus-equipped touchscreen E Ink e-readers that double as digital notepads are available from other companies, including Kobo and ReMarkable. But the Kindle Scribe is the only front-lit 10.2-inch e-reader with a high-resolution 300 ppi (pixels per inch) E ink display.

Read our Amazon Kindle Scribe review.

The UE EpicBoom Bluetooth speaker is not only fully waterproof but floats
Ultimate Ears

The Epicboom's oval design is a bit of a departure for UE, which is owned by Logitech and has primarily designed Bluetooth speakers with more of a cylindrical shape except for its boxy Hyperboom. UE says the oval design "creates an impressive internal acoustic volume, and is coupled with a 4.6-inch woofer for bass clarity." It doesn't sound quite as good as Sonos' similarly shaped and more expensive Move 2 portable speaker that features both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity (this speaker is Bluetooth only). But the Epicboom packs a good punch and sounds very good for its size, with the ability to fill a small- to medium-sized room with sound. Fully waterproof and dust-proof (IP67 rating), it also seems durable. 

iPad Mini and 9th Gen iPad
Scott Stein/CNET

Apple's latest iPad is the iPad 10 or iPad 10th Generation. But the ninth generation iPad, released in 2021, is the current entry-level iPad and often sells for less than its list price. It has an A13 Bionic chip processor that's still plenty zippy for most people, and despite this model being on the market for a couple of years, it remains the best budget iPad option. (The Apple Pencil in the photo is not included.) The $329 base version only comes with 64GB of storage, which may not be quite enough for a lot of folks, so look for the 256GB version ($479) to go on sale, which it frequently does. 


Vitamix makes some great blenders that are not only powerful but a pleasure to operate and built to last (they come with a free five-year warranty). That said, they tend to be quite expensive, which is why we like to recommend the entry-level Explorian, which is plenty of blender for people and lists for $350 but often sells for closer to $300. It's easy to use and a good value at that price.

David Carnoy/CNET
Battery life Rated up to 8 hoursNoise Canceling YesMultipoint YesHeadphone Type Wireless earbudsWater-Resistant Yes (IPX4 -- splash-proof)

When Sony's WF-1000XM4 earbuds came out in 2021, we awarded them a CNET Editors' Choice. And while they're excellent, we had some quibbles -- they're on the large side and aren't a good match for certain ears. Clearly, Sony took those gripes to heart when it set out to design its next-generation WF-1000XM5 flagship noise-canceling earbuds. Not only are the XM5s smaller, but they also offer improved performance pretty much across the board, with better noise canceling, sound and voice calling. Are the XM5s perfect? Not quite. And at $300 -- $20 more than their predecessor -- they're also costly. But overall they're really impressive -- easily among the very top earbuds on the market.

Read our Sony WF-1000XM5 review.

The Theragun Sense has a built-in heart-rate sensor for breathwork exercises
David Carnoy/CNET

Therabody says the Theragun Sense is "designed to relax both mind and body," combining percussive massage therapy with calming breath work via a companion app that you link to via Bluetooth. When doing the breathing exercises, you hold the Sense up to your chest in both hands and close your eyes. There's a built-in heart-rate sensor that you grip with your finger, as well as haptic feedback that helps guide you through the exercises.

The Theragun Sense isn't as powerful as the step-up Theragun Pro Plus ($599), nor does it have all its bells and whistles, but it's certainly powerful enough for most people. It comes with four attachments: the dampener, standard ball, thumb and micro-point.

a Nintendo Switch OLED with red and blue controllers sits next to a TV
Stephen Beacham/CNET

If the person on your list doesn't already have a Nintendo Switch or needs an upgrade, you can't go wrong with this gaming system. This fourth iteration of Nintendo's Switch hybrid handheld adds a bigger, better built-in display (now an OLED screen), plus a redesigned kickstand and TV dock. It's a splurge, but it provides hours and hours of fun with games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Pikmin 4 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Skylight sells a standard 10-inch photo frame that lists for $160 and has dipped to as low as $120 this holiday gift-buying season. But the Skylight Calendar is more than just just a photo frame. It's a 15-inch Wi-Fi-connected digital calendar and planner touchscreen display that allows you to create and show a daily schedule for each member of your family, assign chores and even map out meals (each family member gets their own highlight color). You can prop up the Calendar on a table using the included stand or hang it on a wall with the wall mount that comes in the box as well. 

You can choose to auto sync your Google, Apple, Outlook, Cozi or Yahoo calendars to the frame or just use the Skylight mobile app to update the schedule and make assignments. I had no trouble setting it up for my family, which includes four kids. It was also easy to send photos to it and the photos looked good on the 1,920x1,080 HD display (you can set them to appear as a screensaver), though you shouldn't expect the sharpness and color saturation that you'd get with an iPad screen. While Skylight does charge $39 a year for the photo service, that's a pretty reasonable price. 

Vizio V-Series

As far as budget TVs go, we've always liked TCL's 4-Series TVs partially because they came with Roku built-in. But TCL appears to be gradually phasing out Roku in favor of Google TV (as its smart TV interface). The TCL 4-Series and 5-Series remain very good budget TV values (the 6-Series is a little more premium), but Vizio's V-Series has slightly better picture quality and is the best overall entry-level TV that we tested.

As CNET's video guru David Katzmaier says, "The Vizio offered the most balanced and accurate picture during our comparisons, and it comes with some useful extras such as Dolby Vision support, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth compatibility and variable refresh rate for potentially smoother gaming." He adds that the biggest downside of the Vizio is its smart TV platform, Vizio SmartCast, which is a bit sluggish and cluttered with ads for platforms such as Tubi and Kidoodle TV. But you can always buy a Roku 4K Express Plus streaming device for around $40 if you don't like it.

The price shown is for the 50-inch model, but the TV also comes in a variety of other sizes up to 75 inches.