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- Best Battery: Anker PowerCore 13000 Portable Battery at Amazon, “The large 13000mAh capacity of this Powercore model means even the most recent smartphones can be fully charged multiple times.”
- Best Streaming Device: Amazon Fire Stick 4K at Amazon, “The new Amazon Fire Stick 4K delivers a complete, immersive streaming experience in an unassuming, and affordable, package.”
- Runner-Up, Best Streaming Device: Roku Premiere at Amazon, “The Premiere box lets you watch 4K content from nearly every streaming channel including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Now, Showtime, and more.”
- Best Tablet: Fire 7 Tablet at Amazon, “The Fire 7 is a surprisingly useful device to have around the house, whether it’s for reading on the sofa or looking up recipes at meal times.”
- Best Outdoor Gadget: BioLite CookStove at Amazon, “The stove can make use of twigs, pinecones and other biomass, or standard wood pellets, and can boil water in under five minutes on the highest setting.”
- Best Charger: Anker PowerPort+ USB-C 60W Wall Charger at Amazon, “It’s the perfect gift if the sight of endless changing cables hanging out of power sockets is driving you nuts.”
- Best Drone: SYMA Mysterystone X5C-1 Quadcopter at Amazon, “The SYMA X5C-1 doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles but as a way of getting started with flying, it can’t be beaten.”
- Best Smart Bulb: TP-Link Kasa Smart Light Bulb at Amazon, “The TP-Link Kasa doesn’t require an expensive. It connects directly to your home Wi-Fi network and works on Android or iOS.”
- Best Speaker: Anker Soundcore 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker at Amazon, “The Anker Soundcore 2’s dual drivers provide an enjoyable, and loud, listening experience, while the battery lasts up to 24 hours.”
- Best Voice Assistant: Amazon Echo Input at Amazon, “This device turns your audiophile friend’s beloved speakers into an Amazon Echo with a single 3.5mm input or Bluetooth connection.”
Our Top Picks
Best Battery: Anker PowerCore 13000 Portable Battery
If you know a person who’s always on the go — and always on their phone — then this Anker portable battery is the perfect gift.
The large 13000mAh capacity of this Powercore model means even the most recent smartphones can be fully charged multiple times from a gadget smaller than the average wallet. Fast-charging support is included, at up to three amps, while the 2A input means the battery itself won’t take forever to charge back up either.
It’s not limited to charging smartphones — it’ll work for most USB-powered devices smaller than a laptop, including tablet computers, Bluetooth headphones and plenty more, just by plugging in whichever charging cable is required. Dual USB ports means two devices can be powered at the same time, which a nice touch.
It’s an inexpensive, reliable way of making battery concerns a thing of the past.
Best Streaming Device: Amazon Fire Stick 4K
Meet the little stick that can do it all — and then some. The new Amazon Fire Stick 4K delivers a complete, immersive streaming experience in an unassuming, and affordable, package. Featuring a 1.7GHz processor and 8GB of storage, the stick has fast loading times and offers access to over 500,000 movies and TV shows, including live TV and sports, so everyone’s tastes and needs are met. Not interested in streaming? The stick also has access to millions of websites, music streaming services including Spotify, podcasts, and live radio stations.
However, perhaps one of the stick’s most impressive features is its integration of Amazon Alexa. The virtual assistant will help you with anything from finding something to watch to dimming the lights or checking the weather. For a crystal-clear picture and audio, the stick is compatible with Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HLG, and HDR10+ and streams 4K Ultra HD at up to 60fps.
Runner-Up, Best Streaming Device: Roku Premiere
In the under-$50 price range, it’s hard to find devices that will “do everything” and seemingly offer no compromises. But the Roku Premiere might be the exception to that idea, as it offers a world-class streaming experience for a shockingly low price. The Premiere box lets you watch HD, HDR, and 4K content from nearly every streaming channel including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Sling TV, HBO Now, Showtime, CBS All Access, and more. If you want to just watch 4K content (and who would blame you?), there is a dedicated 4K Spotlight channel that will simply show you 4K TV show and movie options.
The Premiere also works with the Roku mobile app for iOS or Android, which means you can control the device with either the included remote or with your phone. Simply put, the Premiere works well as both a starting point for in-home streaming or as an upgrade to an old Roku device that does not support 4K content. It’s a great gift for nearly anyone.
Best Tablet: Fire 7 Tablet
Tablet computers come in all shapes and sizes, but for a while now the best budget model has been offered by Amazon. For under $50, the Fire 7 is a surprisingly useful device to have around the house, whether it’s for reading on the sofa, looking up recipes at meal times or watching a favorite show in the evening.
Amazon’s Alexa service is built in, so the tablet can answer spoken questions, make video calls (there’s a camera on the front for that purpose) or control smart devices such as light bulbs, thermostats and much more.
The lightweight device has a bright screen, up to eight hours of battery life and a microSD slot for adding extra storage up to 256GB. That last part is particularly useful when traveling since it means dozens of movies and shows can be download for watching on the plane.
Best Outdoor Gadget: BioLite CookStove
It’s not always easy to find inexpensive yet useful gifts for lovers of the outdoors, but the Biolite Cookstove is an exception. This small wood-burning stove has a battery-powered fan attached to the side, which can be set to one of four speeds to help circulate air through the stove for better combustion and efficiency.
The stove can make use of twigs, pinecones and other biomass, or standard wood pellets, and can boil water in under five minutes on the highest setting. The battery lasts up to 30 hours depending on fan speed and can be charged from a portable battery or any other USB power source. Four LED lights on the side give an indication of how much juice is left.
Whether it’s being used for making coffee, cooking dinner or staying warm once the sun has gone down, the CookStove is ideal for any tech-lover heading into the outdoors.
Best Charger: Anker PowerPort+ USB-C 5-Port 60W USB Wall Charger
If the sight of endless changing cables hanging out of power sockets is driving you nuts, this USB wall charger will be a gift for both you and the recipient.
The PowerPort+ has five USB sockets — four standard ports with PowerIQ for charging multiple high-draw devices at the same time, plus a port with Power Delivery (PD) that can power recent Macbooks and other laptops that charge over USB-C.
It’s a simple but effective way of eliminating cord clutter, especially since the PowerPort+ comes with an adhesive strip for attaching it to the side of or underneath a desk. Just plug the included power cable into a single wall socket and you’ve got a neat little self-contained system for charging almost any USB gadget you can get your hands on, quickly and easily.
Best Drone: SYMA Mysterystone X5C-1 Quadcopter Drone
Radio-controlled drones are great fun and can take incredible video, but until recently, cost a few hundred dollars for even a basic model. Prices have fallen dramatically, however, and it’s now possible to pick up a low-end drone for under fifty dollars.
The SYMA X5C-1 doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles of premium versions, but as a way of getting started with flying (and not crashing!) a drone and recording the experience, it can’t be beaten.
This small drone is easy to handle, even in windy conditions, and comes with a transmitter, spare battery, SD card and reader, plus extra blades in case they break or wear out. Flight time is around eight minutes per battery, and the X5C-1 is durable enough to handle a few “heavy landings” without being destroyed.
Best Smart Bulb: TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi LED Light Bulb
If the idea of turning down the lights without having to get off the sofa sounds appealing, take a look at TP-Link’s Kasa smart bulb.
It’s controllable via Google, Microsoft, or Amazon’s voice assistants (including the Fire TV stick mentioned above), but it also works with the company’s iOS or Android app. Once it’s connected to the home Wi-Fi network, just a few words or taps on a screen turns the light on or off, manually changes the brightness or switches to a pre-existing setting.
Unlike other smart bulbs, it doesn’t require expensive hubs or other hardware to get started, and screws straight into most fittings.
Available in 50W and 60W-equivalent versions, in soft white, daytime or multicolored, it’s the perfect way to get started with smart lighting and connected homes without spending a fortune.
Best Speaker: Anker Soundcore 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
While many inexpensive Bluetooth speakers sound terrible, the Anker Soundcore 2’s dual drivers put out 12W of bass-boosted stereo sound for an enjoyable, and surprisingly loud, listening experience.
Battery life is impressive, with up to 24 hours of non-stop music. In practical terms, that means most people won’t need to charge it up more than once a week.
Anker made the speaker appropriate for outdoor use as well, with rugged construction and dust and water-resistance. You won’t want to take it in the pool with you, but a few splashes or a bit of sand won’t bother it at all.
Easy to set up and available in a small range of colors, with a better-than-usual 18-month warranty, the Soundcore 2 is a great, inexpensive gift option for almost anyone.
Best Voice Assistant: Amazon Echo Input
If there’s an audiophile on your list who would never trade their beloved speakers for the built-in speakers on an Amazon Echo, the Echo Input can give them all the convenience of an Alexa assistant without committing to a whole Echo device. How? By turning their existing speakers into an Echo. The tiny Input connects to a speaker of your choice with a 3.5mm cable or Bluetooth connection and adds all of Alexa’s voice-assistance powers. It can’t play any audio on its own — instead, if you ask it a question, Alexa will answer through the connected speaker.
Want to know about today’s weather or news? Just ask Alexa. Stream music from all your favorite services including Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora or SiriuxXM. Like the larger Echo units, the Input is also capable of setting alarms or timers, adding items to your to-do list, or controlling smart home devices. The Input is equipped with several far-field microphones that can hear across a room, ensuring it won’t miss a voice command.