25 Awesome Tech Gift Ideas Under $250
More Americans will buy tech-related gifts in 2016 than ever before, according to data from the Consumer Technology Association. Prices, however, seem to be surging right along with popularity -- but you don't have to blow your entire holiday budget just to please the techie in your life. Here are 25 awesome tech gifts you can pick up for less than $250.
Insert a smartphone into this projector to display images, movies, and games on a 40-inch screen from anywhere. The ultimate in low tech/high tech, this portable device demands almost no setup, requires no batteries, and has no wires. The lens is adjustable and can magnify up to 10 times. Just aim the projector at a flat wall, insert a phone, and enjoy the show.
Put all the muscle of Amazon's popular and powerful Alexa voice-controlled home manager in any room in the house with the hockey-puck-size Echo Dot. Seven far-field microphones can pick up voice commands from long distance, even when music is playing. Although multiple Dots can be linked to a central Amazon Echo system, Echo isn't required. Dot can function as a standalone tool to command Alexa to play music, control the lights, call an Uber, or place an order on Amazon. With a built-in speaker, it can double as a smart alarm clock, or it can connect to speakers or headphones via Bluetooth to serve as a primary music player.
The ultimate gamer throwback, NES Classic is a plug-and-play miniature of the groundbreaking original 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System -- complete with an original, full-size, A/B-button controller. It can also be used with NES Virtual Console or connected to a Wii remote. It's preloaded with 30 classic games, including "Donkey Kong," "Super Mario Bros.," "Metroid," and "Pac-Man." It's also one of the season's hottest gifts, with retailers finding it difficult to keep supplies on hand.
Far more than just a wind-up toy, Cozmo is a tiny robot with a big personality and even bigger brain. It explores its environment on tank treads, remembers what it encounters, and learns as it goes. Emotional and competitive, the mini robot challenges his owner to games, which he plays to win. He reacts to household pets and learns to talk from interactions with people. He comes ready to use out of the box -- all the owner needs is a smartphone.
Bamboo Spark is a notebook for the modern age. Write notes on real paper, push a button, and whatever was written is sent as an email or message. Scribbles and doodles can also be sent to the cloud. Users can store notes for later editing, archive whatever they write, and access it from anywhere. Even without Wi-Fi, Spark can save up to 100 notes locally, so a good idea will never be lost.
Is a gamer on your shopping list? The Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum is a pro-grade mouse designed specifically for high-level gaming. It can be wired or wireless. With a highly optimized 2.4 GHz wireless connection and a 1-millisecond report rate, the mouse is a top choice among eSports athletes. Among the features on the ambidextrous mouse are a pixel-precise optical sensor and super lightweight construction.
Bring the bookworm in your life into the modern era with this high-resolution e-reader. Available in black and white, the 300 ppi reader has twice as many pixels as the previous version, producing crisp, sharp text. The Paperwhite can run for weeks on a single battery charge, unlike some readers that must be plugged in after several hours. Unlike with a tablet, there is no screen glare, even in direct sunlight. There's a built-in light for night reading.
Google's leap into the virtual reality market is the Daydream, a lightweight headset made of soft cloth. It works with Pixel and other phones that are Daydream ready. It comes with a controller that lets the user steer the action and become fully immersed in shows, videos, games, sports, and concerts. With 360-degree panoramic imagery, Daydream inserts users into the action while keeping them comfortable in a breathable fabric headset.
Polaroid was synonymous with instant photographs before digital cameras were a concept. Now, the brand has re-imagined the instant photo with the Polaroid Zip Instant Printer. In less than a minute, users can print directly from a tablet or smartphone using Bluetooth or NFC. The tiny printer produces smudge-proof photos in full color. Each comes out on peel-back sticky paper. Zero Ink technology produces photo-quality images without ink, ribbons, or toner.
Vowing to revolutionize how we cook, the Joule Sous Vide might be this year's hottest kitchen tech item. From venison and chicken to chops and vegetables, just about anything can be cooked perfectly in water without worrying about undercooking or overcooking. With submerged bath cooking, meat can be precisely controlled all the way from raw to medium rare. An included app helps along the way, and the software gets smarter the more the device is used. Simply put food in a plastic bag with seasoning, put the bag in a Joule Sous Vide-controlled pot of water, and wait until the app says it's perfect.
An absent-minded friend or relative will never get locked out again with this electromagnetically controlled deadbolt. A smartphone opens and closes the lock, which features an industrial look, a magnetic faceplate, and micropatterns for enhanced grip. A chrome indicator at the top of the circular device, which works with the Apple HomeKit system, shows if it's locked or unlocked.
The TP-Link Wi-Fi Range Extender can expand he reach of a Wi-Fi network up to 10,000 square feet simply by plugging into an outlet. Corded devices can be connected via an included gigabit Ethernet port. A two-year warranty and 24/7 tech support are included. High-powered amplifiers make three dual-band external antennas even more powerful, and a Smart Signal indicator helps find the best spot.
Netflix binges are much better when you don't have to hold a tablet, balance it, or squint at it from afar. The AboveTek tablet arm is strong but flexible, so it can bend any whichway without drooping or slumping. The base clamps to virtually any surface, including a nightstand for watching movies in bed or a kitchen counter for easy access to recipes. It can rotate 360 degrees and extend to 24 inches. Fully adjustable, it can secure smartphones, phablets, and e-readers, as well.
Cut from solid marble and hand polished, the Native Union Dock+ makes a minimalist style statement while charging Apple devices (with Lightning ports). Since the marble veins are different on each slab, no two docks are the same. When a device is docked, the screen is at an ideal viewing angle, and each package includes a 4-foot, braided, reinforced, MFi-certified Lightning cable. The dock can accomodate devices with or without cases up to 3.5mm thick.
Make dumb devices smart by plugging them into the Wemo Switch, which fits into any regular outlet. The switch links to an existing Wi-Fi connection, and users control it -- and anything plugged into it -- through a smartphone. With the free Wemo app, the phone becomes a remote control for lights, appliances, fans, and anything else plugged into a Wemo Switch.
A Tile Mate Bluetooth tracker can be attached to anything valuable that's easy to misplace, from car keys to to a wallet. Placing a Tile Mate in a car can show where it's parked on a map from a smartphone app. What if the phone gets lost? Click the button on any Tile Mate to make it ring. Maintenance-free for a full year, Tile Mate doesn't require a charge or replacement battery, and the tiny Bluetooth device within never needs updating.
Google Chromecast has proved to be a simple and reliable entry-level streaming device. The upgraded Chromecast Ultra offers everything from the original, plus 4K, UHD, and HDR capability for ultra-high-definition streaming. This holiday season the purchase comes with a complimentary three-month subscription to HBO Now.
Whether the people on your shopping list are techies or not, chances are they get frustrated by how quickly their phone batteries die. You can change all that with the Mophie Powerstation, which features twin 2.1-amp, high-output charging stations to charge two devices simultaneously. The small, sleek device is powerful enough to provide up to 100 hours of extra battery life. When connected to an outlet, the Mophie unit prioritizes attached devices before recharging itself.
Although undoubtedly stylish, Even H1 headphones are touted as much for their performance as for their sophisticated look. EarPrint technology adapts to the wearer's listening profile. In just 90 seconds, the technology maps the listener's frequencies in each ear to deliver the perfect sound. The headphones come with a charging cable, a carrying case, and an inline remote. The over-ear H1 set features call control, a built-in microphone, and 50-millimeter drivers. The product comes with a one-year warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The Canary Flex (available for preorder) is a high-definition, indoor/outdoor security camera that can be plugged in or rely on a lithium-ion battery. Weatherproof and tolerant of extreme temperatures, the Flex has a night-vision camera that lets users see clearly in the dark. Its wide-angle lens records high-definition video and audio, and its magnetic base swivels a full 360 degrees. Since it runs on dual-band Wi-Fi technology, the Canary Flex doesn't require a hub, and the device integrates with the Canary app.
The Aurora Light Kit is a system of nine interlocking LED panels that can create more than 16.7 million colors, from cool blues to warm oranges and reds. Users can adjust the ambiance of any room with a smartphone. Since the system runs on Wi-Fi, it requires no hub, but it responds to voice commands through Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa. The kit includes mounting strips and stencils, so the panels can be hung without damaging surfaces.
Perfect for photographers and drone enthusiasts, the Syma X8G is a quadcopter with technology that pushes the drone in a continuous forward motion, no matter the nose direction. It boasts an 8-megapixel camera and supports 1080p high-definition MOV video. The camera's case can hold a GoPro, and the drone can sustain flight for 10 minutes at a distance of up to 100 meters (328 feet).
From screwdrivers and lifters to prying and gripping tools, the iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit is comprehensive enough to help tech pros and DIYers take on virtually all electronics repairs. It contains spudgers, jimmies, tweezers, and opening picks, as well as safety devices like anti-static wrist straps. The 64-bit driver kit has been redesigned to reflect the fasteners used in the modern consumer electronics market, and the case doubles as a magnetic sorter.
Cellphones are, in a word, disgusting. PhoneSoap 2.0 claims to be the only charger that simultaneously cleans devices while it re-energizes them. It disinfects, sanitizes, and destroys bacteria without heat, liquid, or chemicals. Instead, it uses UV-C light that is safe for all electronics yet devastating to the cell walls and DNA of bacteria and viruses.
This solar-powered USB charger gathers energy from the sun and delivers it to a device for reliable off-the-grid power. The PowerPort Solar Lite attaches to any backpack for juicing up while on the move, and it weighs less than a pound. Not only is it portable, it's durable and rugged, with solar panels sewn into tough polyester canvas.