17 Best Gifts for Under $50 – CNET

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17 Best Gifts for Under $50     – CNET
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This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

Gift-giving comes from the heart, but it’s important to consider your wallet, too. Between birthdays, celebrations, graduations and other big life events, there seems to always be an occasion to shop for something special. Buying gifts for a special person, family members, friends or any other loved ones can be challenging and overwhelmingly expensive. But there are gift options out there worth the investment that cost less than you’d think. So ditch the tired gift cards and grab one of these great gifts under $50.

With autumn upon us and the holidays quickly approaching, finding just what everyone wants might seem impossible, but we’ve taken the guesswork out of what to look for — and the earlier you begin thinking about holiday presents, the more time you have to cash in on great deals.

From the perfect gift set to durable technology, this year you can buy a gift perfect for any occasion for under $50. We’ve researched the best gifts for under $50 that will fill any wish list. (Along with a few splurge ideas.) The trick is knowing what’s not only a good value but what can be useful too. Here are a handful of the best gifts under $50, so you can treat yourself or someone you love.

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Amazon

The JBL Bluetooth speaker that received the biggest improvements for 2021 is among the company’s smallest. The JBL Go 3 has a completely new look — it’s now covered in durable fabric instead of having the naked plastic design of its Go predecessors — and that new design, coupled with surprisingly decent sound for its small size, makes the Go 3 one of the top micro Bluetooth speakers out there.

Available in multiple color options, it has an IP67 water-resistance rating (it can be dunked in water and is dust-proof). Plus, the battery life is rated at up to five hours.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Here’s a gift that anyone who’s susceptible to losing things will appreciate. Apple’s new-for-2021 AirTags accessories work with any Apple device and use the company’s FindMy network — the same one used to locate lost iPhones. Attach them to keys, a backpack or just about anything else. It’s $28 for one and $99 for four, and if you buy through Apple, you can get free customized engraving, too.

Read our Apple AirTags hands-on.

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David Carnoy/CNET

Known for its value headphones and earbuds, JLab has released a pair of on-ear headphones with an integrated boom microphone — it can be rotated up when just listening to music — and multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect them to your phone and computer simultaneously. I’m more partial to the Jabra Elite 45h, which list for $100 but usually sell for around $75. But if you don’t want to spend quite that much, the Go Work is a solid pair of headphones, and headset, for its modest price. They’re also comfortable to wear, with a lightweight design. You won’t mistake these for premium headphones but the build quality seems fine. 

Battery life is rated at up to 45 hours at moderate volume levels, and you can mute calls using the multifunction button (an LED lights up at the end of the boom mic when the call is muted). I wouldn’t call the sound quality for music listening and the headset performance stellar, but it’s good, particularly for the price. For music listening, there’s ample bass and clarity and a cable is included for wired use. The headphones charge via USB-C. Bottom line: This is a solid gift for anyone who spends some or all of their time working remotely.

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I was a fan of the original Earfun Free buds, and now there’s an upgraded version called the Earfun Free 2. They’re not a huge upgrade, but like the originals they fit my ears well and deliver decent bang for the buck with strong sound — it has just a touch of treble and bass boost (there’s plenty of bass) — and extra features such as wireless charging.

Battery life is rated at up to seven hours at moderate volume levels, and these buds are fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating. These are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and use Qualcomm’s QCC3040 chip that includes support for the aptX audio codec if you’re using a compatible device (certain Android smartphones support that protocol).

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Roku

These days, it’s nearly impossible to get a TV without a bunch of “smart” streaming apps built in. But that’s not true of older TVs, and even newer ones don’t have all the top new services and simply don’t offer the faster performance of a dedicated video streaming box that plugs into an HDMI port. For under $50, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K (2021) boasts access to just about every online video service you can think of, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus and hundreds more, at resolutions up to 4K. The Streaming Stick 4K Plus comes bundled with a step-up voice-enabled remote for $20 more.

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David Carnoy/CNET

Tribit’s StormBox Micro lists for slightly more than $50, but often dips below the $50 mark, so I’m including it on this list. It’s one of the best sounding pocket-size Bluetooth speakers I’ve tested, with bigger bass and volume than most other tiny speakers. 

Aside from its great design, Bose’s SoundLink Micro stood out because it was able to deliver more bass than every Bluetooth speaker in its size class, and it also managed to limit distortion at higher volumes. And it’s the Tribit’s bass and overall volume level for its tiny size that allows it to stand out. 

It’s IP67-rated so it’s dust-proof and water-resistant (it can be fully submerged in shallow water for a short time) and has up to eight hours of battery life at moderate volume levels with USB-C charging. Like other speakers in this category, this Bluetooth model has an integrated strap so you can clip it to your backpack or bike’s handlebars.

Read our Tribit StormBox Micro review.

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David Carnoy/CNET

If you’re looking to gift a solid set of true wireless earbuds without spending a fortune, the EarFree Free Pro are a solid choice. They offer active noise cancellation with a transparency mode, wireless charging and Bluetooth 5.2. Rated for seven hours of battery life without the noise-canceling function on, or about six hours with it, they’re IPX5 water-resistant, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water.

They sound very good for the money, with relatively clean, balanced sound and bass that has some kick to it — they’re pretty open-sounding. Lightweight and comfortable to wear, they have little fins that help keep them securely in your ears, and they’re fairly discreet-looking.

Don’t expect them to cancel noise as well as the AirPods Pro, but they do provide some decent muffling. It’s worth noting that you can use either the left or right earbud independently, and there’s a low-latency mode for video watching (and presumably gaming). Call quality was decent, too — callers said they heard some background noise, but it wasn’t intrusive and they could hear my voice well. The touch controls were responsive.

They list for $60, but be sure to activate the 20% off instant coupon on the product page, which drops the price down to just $48.

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David Carnoy/CNET

Mophie’s magnetic power bank is similar to Anker’s PowerCore Magnetic 5K Wireless ($54) but has a more refined design. Like the Anker, this isn’t an official Apple MagSafe accessory, but it magnetically adheres to the back of your iphone 12 or 13 series or a MagSafe case — yes, it sticks nicely — and is svelte for 5,000-mAh battery. It can also be used with other phones that support wireless charging, as it comes with a stick-on magnet. 

Wireless charging speeds are limited to 7.5 watts for iPhones, but if you need a faster charge you can connect a USB-C to Lightning cable to bump the speed up to 12 watts. This has enough juice to fully charge an iphone 13 or 13 Pro once, but it’ll fall a little short of a full charge with an iphone 13 Pro Max.

While it’s a bit pricey at $50, it’s half the price of Apple’s option. First-time buyers on Zagg.com can get 20% off if you sign up for the Zagg newsletter and it’s also available on Amazon for $50.

Splurges Under $100

The following items are some of our favorite gifts for just a little more than $50 — but often you will find these items discounted at close to or under $50. So keep your eye out for deals and decide if you’re willing to put a little bit of cash with that gift card to grab one of these indulgent finds, which could be a great option as a gift or for yourself.

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David Carnoy/CNET

Edifier has a few different new true-wireless earbuds and most, including the TWS 330NB, are great values. While the TWS 330NB buds are missing a sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take them out of your ears, they feature very good sound quality for the money, decent active noise canceling with a transparency mode, and solid voice calling (they have three microphones in each bud for noise canceling and noise reduction during calls). 

They fit my ears well — they’re essentially AirPods Pro clones — and while the touch controls are a little limited, they are programmable using the Edifier Connect app for iOS and Android (you can set the level of touch sensitivity). They have an IP54 rating, which means they’re splash- and dust-proof, and battery life is rated at four hours with noise canceling on and five hours with it off, at moderate volume levels. That’s only OK, but you do get an additional two charges in the charging case. Note there can be considerable variation in how much the different colors cost.

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