Got a gift card for the holidays? Here's the tech to spend it on.
Gift cards aren't as fun to unwrap as a new console; on the other hand, you get to buy exactly what you want with them, within reason. Of course, we can't help if you some well-meaning but technologically unenlightened friend gifts you with $50 of iTunes when you're all about Android -- if that happens, look into gift card exchanges or arrange a swap with some friends -- but we can offer some suggestions as to what tech you might want to spend your plastic cash on.
I've broken the options down to into $25, $50, and $100 increments, and I even threw in a few more expensive products worth throwing in some extra bucks for.
Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET
$25: JVC HA-S400 Carbon Nanotubes headphones
If you're like me and erode over-the-ear headphones quickly -- or have cats who like to chew cords -- spending $25 for a pair is about my max. And according to the reviewer, these are relatively comfortable, fold up and fold flat, and sound more expensive than they are.
If getting in shape is among your New Year's resolutions but you aren't quite ready to commit, go for this cheap-but-does-the-job fitness tracker. It's waterproof, comes with a wristband and clip-on accessory, and tracks steps and sleep. Plus, even if your resolution doesn't last for six months, its charge will.
Given its feature set, which includes a boatload of apps and a real remote, this HDMI plug-in stick turns your TV into a streaming machine. If your TV's HDMI port is on the side you may see it or its USB cable poking out, but for $40 it's a great way to treat yourself.
Though they fall into the $50-card club, these in-ear headphones cost just $30. That's a great price for lightweight, comfortable earbuds with an integrated microphone and a remote for making calls. And for the money, our reviewer says they sound pretty good.
This small device attaches to USB for power and a 3.5mm jack for sound, allowing you to stream any Chromecast-compatible audio apps and devices to speakers via Wi-Fi. If you don't like it, you can always use it as a hockey puck.
$50: Logitech K380 Multi-device Bluetooth Keyboard
This $40 keyboard can connect to most iOS or Android devices via Bluetooth -- up to three at once -- for your typing needs. I have an earlier model, and the first time I took notes in a meeting on my phone was like a revelation. It's relatively small and light and has comfortable-to-use full-size keys.
It's not the latest or greatest, but if you're an Apple devotee then this provides an entree into Apple's video-streaming ecosystem for less than $70, with access to some of the big players like Netflix, Hulu, HBO and YouTube.
Who cares what it does; this Bluetooth speaker is cool-looking enough to just leave on display. In the pool! It's waterproof and has a built-in bungee cord and a life preserver (though you probably can't get that with your gift card, since it's only available via UE's web site). Oh yeah -- it's only $80, and our reviewer says it has very good sound for its size with decent battery life.
For less than $80, this e-reader gives you a solid entry-point into the Kindle books ecosystem to see if it's really for you. Then, if you want, you can buy a better model next year when the price drops with new gift cards.
$100: WD My Passport Ultra (2015) 2GB portable hard drive
For less than $100, these drives are a great deal for their capacity, speed and portability. Sure, it's not a very gift-to-yourself type of purchase, but sometimes convenience is the gift that gives all year.
Not every artist can afford an iPad Pro, and not everyone wants to schlep around a steroidal iPad. These styluses probably don't feel as good as the Apple Pencil (because the older iPad screens don't have the necessary tech in them), but they've served people well while waiting for Apple to cave. For a far more affordable $60-$80, the Adonit Jot Touch and Wacom Creative Stylus 2 provide about 80 percent of the experience.
You've committed to upping your fitness regimen in 2016, but can't really afford to splurge on one of those fancy, high-end fitness bands. At less than $140, you can subsidize this with your gift card and get what our reviewer thinks is the best all-around band for the money.
These $140 in-ear headphones will run you an extra $40 over your $100 gift card, but if you can tell the difference between $20 and $140 models it's probably worth it. Our reviewer says they're one of the most comfortable set he's tried, deliver solid sound, and have an in-line remote.
Our Roku 3 recommendation stands firm, but if you've got a 4K TV -- or just got one for the holidays -- you'll need the more recent Roku to take full advantage of it. It will run you about $30 above and beyond the $100 gift card, though.