This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.
The holiday buying season is fast approaching and that means you’ll start to see loads of holiday gift guides, including plenty here at CNET. This list of the best tech gifts under $100 is one of our most popular because it’s got lots of quality, affordable gifts for those of us who don’t want to spend too much but also don’t want to spend too little (it’s a fine balance).
Each product has been either comprehensively reviewed or personally tested to bring you the best tech gifts for $100 or less. And if you need more gift ideas before you check out the contents of your online cart, here are some more gifts for under $100 that we love, as well as great gift ideas for $50 or less if you’re looking to spread some joy on a budget.
Amazon’s Smart Thermostat sets a new standard for the category. It has a clean, modern touchscreen design, and it’s easy to use, whether you’re adjusting the temperature at the thermostat, through the Alexa app or with Alexa voice commands with a compatible Alexa-enabled speaker or display. It is an affordable gift that earned a CNET Editors’ Choice Award for best value smart thermostat.
In the past, we’ve recommended Earfun’s AirPro SV and Air Pro 2 as excellent budget noise-canceling earbuds choices (they’re still good values). But the new-for-2022 Earfun Air S may be the best of the trio, with multipoint Bluetooth pairing, the latest Qualcomm QCC3046 SoC (system on a chip) with the AptX audio codec for Android and other devices that support it. It has the same 10mm wool drivers as the AirPro SV and features surprisingly impressive sound for its modest price point. They also work well as a headset for making calls with decent background noise reduction.
The buds have an IPX5 water-resistance rating, which means they’re splashproof and can withstand a sustained spray of water. Note that through Sept. 30, 2022, you can get them for $49 when you click the 10% instant coupon on the product page and apply the code EFAIRS05 at checkout at Amazon, which gets you an additional 20% off.
Solo Stove, which makes some of the best smokeless fire pits, recently released its second-generation Ranger 2.0 (small), Bonfire 2.0 (medium) and Yukon 2.0 (large) fire pits. Now it’s going extra small for its new Mesa fire pit that’s currently on sale for $85, $35 off its list price of $120.
As its name implies, the Mesa is designed to sit on a tabletop and is small enough to slip into a backpack for mobility. Naturally, you could also set it on the ground, but when you put it on a table, it’s at a good height for comfortably roasting marshmallows. It has the same 360-degree Signature Airflow system as Solo Stove’s larger fire pits and is the spiritual successor to the Solo Stove Lite, a mini camp stove (whether we’ll see some camping accessories for the Mesa is unclear at this point).
Amazon has released a new baseline Kindle E Ink e-reader for $100 that no longer seems so entry-level. While its 6-inch screen makes it a smaller and lighter e-reader than the step-up Kindle Paperwhite ($130), its display has the same 300-ppi resolution as the Paperwhite. However, that step-up model adds waterproofing and incorporates a more sophisticated front lighting scheme, with 17 LEDs compared to the Kindle 2022’s four.
In the past, we’ve recommended stepping up to the Paperwhite if you could afford it, mainly because it had a higher resolution display than the entry-level Kindle, which allowed text to appear more crisp. But with both models now featuring similar displays (at least as far as resolution goes), we may have to revise that recommendation, especially when the new Kindle 2022 potentially sees $20 to $30 discounts during the holiday season.
The new e-reader is available for preorder now in black or denim blue and ships on Oct. 12.
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What’s cool about Anker’s 622 magnetic battery is that it’s a wireless battery that has an integrated magnetic flap that converts into a stand. You won’t get fast wireless charging from this 5,000-mAh battery (it charges at up to 7.5 watts) but it’s slim and easy to carry around.
It charges via USB-C and if you use a USB-C to Lighting to charge your iPhone, it will charge at a faster rate of 12 watts. That’s not as fast as what a 20-watt USB-C power adapter can deliver, but it’s faster than 7.5 watts.
Buying for someone who likes to game on their phone? Whether he or she is an iPhone user subscribed to Apple Arcade or an Android or iPhone user using Xbox Cloud PS gaming, PS Remote Play or Google Stadia, the improved second-generation Razer Kishi smartphone controller is a good option.
The new V2 versions for iOS and Android users cost more than the original models but offer substantially improved ergonomics and more responsive buttons.
Similar to the 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 instead of Lightning and like the iPhone version, has pass-through charging but no built-in battery to supply extra juice.
The controller allows you to game in style with mobile games that have game-controller support (and benefit from it). Just make sure you’re matching the right model to their phone. We prefer the companion app for the Backbone controller for iOS users (see below), but the design of the Kishi V2 controller now measures up well against the Backbone. Alas, no Android version of the Backbone controller exists yet.
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Anker’s upgraded compact charger can charge a MacBook Pro 13 at full speed. Not only is it small for how much power it can deliver (it has foldable prongs), but it also has three ports (2 USB-C and one USB-A) that allow you to charge multiple devices at the same time. Be aware that its 65 watts of power is split between the ports if you charge more than one device. though. It uses the next-generation GaN 3 technology.
Back in 2020, Tribit released the StormBox Micro, a budget version of Bose’s excellent SoundLink Micro speaker that delivered surprisingly good sound for its size and modest price. Now we get the StormBox Micro 2, which offers improved sound and battery life, along with a charge-out feature that turns the speaker into a power bank for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. An integrated strap allows you to clip it to your backpack or your bike’s handlebars.
Like the original, it’s an excellent value and easy to recommend if you’re looking for a super compact portable wireless speaker.
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The JBL Go 3’s durable design, coupled with surprisingly decent sound for its tiny size, make it one of the top micro Bluetooth speakers out there.
Available in multiple color options, it has an IP67 water-resistance rating, meaning it can be dunked in water and is dust-proof. Battery life is rated at up to 5 hours.
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We really liked this Lightning-connected controller from startup Backbone when it first came out in its original black version. You can still get that model, but it now comes in a white PlayStation version for use with the PS Remote Play app.
Like the Razer Kishi, it turns any iPhone 6S or later into a Nintendo Switch-style gaming experience, with added smarts for social and chatty gamers. Like the Kishi, it connects via Lightning with pass-through charging but has no built-in battery. While the Kishi V2 is now more Backbone-like in its design (with better ergonomics) the Backbone controller still holds an advantage in the software department with a superior companion app.
Whoever you’re getting this for may be a little embarrassed but he’ll most likely appreciate it. Panasonic says its new ER-GK80-S has a unique V-shaped head that’s “built to go everywhere” — and with precision. It comes with two attachments, has almost two hours of battery life and can be used wet or dry. A travel case is included. It’s an excellent manscaping device.
I like Hyperice’s Hypersphere Mini ($99) massage ball, but Theragun’s new Wave Solo massage ball is arguably a tad better and almost $20 cheaper at $80. It’s also about the size of a softball (3.4 inches, or 8.7 cm, in diameter), charges with a USB-C cable (a full charge offers up to 200 minutes of battery life) and has three vibration speed options.
It’s a great option for pinpointing problem areas as hip flexors that you might roll out with a lacrosse ball. There’s also a Wave Duo version for $99 that’s good for rolling on either side of the spine or placing at the top of your shoulder behind your neck while lying down.
There are plenty of great Alexa-powered Echo products, but in this price range, we’re fans of the new Google Nest Hub (2nd gen). The upgraded smart display delivers more bass along with a new Sleep Sensing feature. It also gives you instant access to a world of answers whenever you say, “Hey, Google,” and allows you to cast content directly to the screen from any Android device.
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We liked the original Google-Assistant Lenovo Smart Clock and this Version 2 model is also pretty nifty and includes a wireless charging pad. The touch screen is only 4 inches, so it’s pretty small, but it’s easy to set up and the inclusion of wireless charging is convenient. The feature set is somewhat limited compared to Google’s Nest Hub (2nd gen) — there’s no YouTube streaming available — but if you’re looking for a smart alarm clock with weather forecasts built-in and decent enough sound for its small size, this is an attractive option. It’s available in three colors.
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For a lot of people, Apple’s original HomePod was too pricey at $350. That speaker has been discontinued, but the HomePod Mini is still around. It’s 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).
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The Roku Ultra has always been a fine 4K HDR streamer. As the flagship in Roku’s extensive line of sticks and players, its bag of nifty tricks includes a remote finder and a remote with programmable remote buttons. This version adds better Wi-Fi, a faster processor and the ability to stream in Dolby Vision — a long-awaited feature that allows it to better compete with the best streamers from Amazon, Apple and Google.
Yes, the Roku Express 4K Plus, which costs around $40, is a better value, but the upgraded Ultra is often on sale these days for $70 (it lists for $100) and has an Ethernet port for those who want to go with a wired connection.
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There’s nothing like a little blending on the go to create those healthy smoothies and protein shakes. That’s where the BlendJet 2 comes in. Available in multiple color options and equipped with a rechargeable battery, it’s more powerful than you might expect and it can whip up smoothies without having to plug in anywhere. It charges via USB-C (you get about 15 blends per charge) and is fully waterproof.
The model shown here has a 16-ounce jar, but you can now buy an XL 32-ounce jar for $30 extra. I’m hoping someday that you’ll be able to get the 32-ounce jar version as a standalone item but it’s currently an add-on accessory.
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BioLite has several portable lighting options and the Alpenglow 500 is one of its more recent additions to its line. It’s a portable “lantern” that has multiple modes and color options. As its name implies, it delivers 500 lumens of light, and it is indeed pretty bright.
The step-down Alpenglow 250 offers 250 lumens for $15 less. Both are rated for 5 hours of battery life on the high setting and up to 200 hours on the low setting.
Logitech’s MX Keys is one of our favorite everyday Bluetooth keyboards and now it comes in two smaller versions that leave off the number pad and some other keys: MX Keys Mini and MX Keys Mini for Mac. Both cost $100, the same price as the standard MX Keys. Colors include rose, pale gray and graphite.
While you’re getting less keyboard for the same amount of money, the MX Keys Mini does have three new keys, giving you shortcuts to dictation (available in select countries for Windows and MacOS users), emojis and the all-important muting and unmuting of your microphone for video-conference calls. Also, Logitech says that its “minimalist form factor aligns your shoulders and allows you to place your mouse closer to your keyboard for less hand reaching, resulting in better posture and improved ergonomics.” From my tests, I agree with that assessment.
The keyboard is similar in size to Logitech’s popular and less expensive K380 keyboard ($30). But MX Keys Mini, equipped with Perfect Stroke, Logitech’s “best nonmechanical typing technology,” has a more premium look and feel. And, like the standard MX Keys, it has backlit keys that light up as your hands approach and automatically adjust to the lighting conditions, dimming or even turning off to conserve energy.
Note that the link below goes to the standard MX Keys Mini. The MX Keys Mini for Mac can be found here.
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A couple of years ago, Logitech unveiled the MX Master 3 ($100), the third generation of its premium home/office mouse. Then last year we got 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.
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