It’s easy to think that the best gadget gifts are the fanciest and most expensive things. But there are plenty of options out there for the techie in your life that don’t require you to empty your wallet. If you’re struggling to come up with the right present for the early adopter in your life, we’ve gathered some of our favorite things that are both small and affordable. The best part? Everything comes in at $50 or less.
Chromecast with Google TV
If you’re at a loss when it comes to a good, cheap gift for the techie in your life, you can’t go wrong with a Chromecast. The latest Chromecast with Google TV is the one to get right now and it doesn’t matter if your giftee uses Google products already. Like other Chromecasts, this one lets you stream movies and TV shows from major services like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu andHBO Max, among many others.
The Google TV interface has always been pretty easy to navigate, but it’s simpler than ever thanks to the remote that now comes included with the Chromecast. It has an Assistant button, giving you quick access to voice commands, plus a circular D-pad, shortcut buttons for YouTube and Netflix, and support for HDMI-CEC and IR, allowing you to control your entire TV with it. And, unlike larger set-top boxes or smart TVs that your recipient may already have, the Chromecast is portable, so they can take it with them to make binge-watching their favorite shows easier when they’re not at home.
Most of us have someone in our lives who misplaces everything — their keys, wallet, purse or backpack, the list goes on. If that person in your life happens to also own an iPhone, AirTags make great gifts and you can buy one for only $30. (You could even get an AirTag case for them, too, and still spend less than $50.) These quarter-sized Bluetooth trackers pair almost immediately with iOS devices and can then be tracked using the Find My app.
You can use them to keep track of nearly anything, but they work best on items that take clips or keyrings or things like backpacks that have small pockets. In addition to showing their location, the Find My app also lets you force the AirTag to play a loud chime so you can more easily find it in your home. And if you’re close enough to the missing item, Apple’s Precision Finding feature can literally guide you to it using the tech in your iPhone’s U1 chip.
KeySmart Classic key holder
Those who have a mess of jangling keys weighing down their pockets may benefit from a KeySmart holder. The $23 Classic model is the best for most people as it’s slim and holds up to 14 keys in a neat little sandwich of sorts, in between two aluminum and stainless steel pieces. It’s easy to stack all of your keys on either end of the KeySmart and, once installed, you can rotate out only the key you need to unlock your door. The Classic also comes with a loop ring so you can easily attach your stuffed KeySmart to something larger like your car key.
Anker Nano II GaN charger
Chargers like the Nano II GaN 65W adapter from Anker may not be the first things that come to mind when you’re exploring tech gift ideas, but they are some of the most useful gadgets out there. We all have so many devices — phones, tablets, smartwatches, headphones, earbuds, and more — and most of them need regular charging. An extra charger like Anker’s lets you power up more devices at once, but it also does so more efficiently. The gallium nitride technology inside this small cube prevents it from overheating even when charging up a larger device like a MacBook Pro. It’s also 58 percent smaller than the MBP’s own charging adapter, so it’ll take up less space in a bag or backpack when you’re on the go.
Most bricks of this size aren’t able to support fast-charging for multiple devices, but the 65W capacity of this Nano II model makes it a good option for all of your devices. Just before publishing this story, the 65W model went up in price by a few dollars, pushing it over our $50 threshold — but Anker sells 45W and 30W models as well, so you can get the same charging technology for even less.
Anker USB-C to Lightning cable
As with chargers, we all could use an extra cable on hand in our living rooms, backpacks, on our desks at work or anywhere else where we need to power up. Anker’s got plenty of Powerline II charging cables for all types of devices, but arguably the two most useful are the MFi-certified USB-C to Lighting cable and the USB-C to C connector. The former supports fast-charging and has been tested to withstand the bends and twists necessary to fuel your iPhone in strange places. The latter can fast-charge many devices and it works with larger tablets and laptops as well, making it a good all-purpose cable for your various USB-C gadgets.
Joby GripTight One GorillaPod stand
Joby’s GorillaPod stands aren’t just for aspiring social media stars or photographers. The GripTight One stand in particular is a handy tool that anyone will find useful when they need to take a quick family photo, prop their phone up to watch a YouTube video, or hold their phone at a better angle to take a selfie. Its clamp grip can hold all smartphones and its rubber feet prevent it from slipping. But the flexible legs are the kicker here — they let you wrap the stand around objects like railings so you can get the best angle possible when shooting photos or videos. And considering how compact and lightweight it is, Joby’s stand is one of the best options out there for a travel phone stand.
Mophie 15W Wireless Charging pad
Charging pads are like charging cables: It never hurts to have an extra wireless charging pad lying around. Mophie’s 15W pad is one of the nicer looking ones we’ve seen with its rounded square design, ultrasuede finish and LED indicator light. It’s compact enough to fit on a crowded side table next to your couch or on your desk. With 15W of power, it’ll fast-charge most smartphones and it works with cases up to 3mm thick. And, since it supports the Qi standard, you can use it to power up almost anything else with a wireless charging case, like those wireless earbuds you just bought.
Bandai Original 90s Tamagotchi
Suckers for ‘90s nostalgia will be thrilled to find an original Tamagotchi in their stocking. The digital pet from 1997 is back and, at least with this model, not much has changed. You’ll still be tasked with feeding, cleaning and taking care of your Tamagotchi using the three buttons on the egg-shaped device. Yes, you can even discipline the creature when it’s bothering you — just make sure not to neglect it to the point of starvation.
Bellroy Classic Pouch
Some people have started to go back into the office and maybe you know someone who’s been trying to bring some small comforts from home into the workplace. Shuttling mice, charging cables, power banks and keys to and from anywhere can make it look like a bomb went off inside your bag. Bellroy’s Classic Pouch is a good way to tame that mess. Measuring 5.5 x 8.9 inches, this half-moon, zippered pouch can fit most small essentials that you’d want to keep with you at all times. Inside are a few organizational pockets, including one with a magnetic closure,. We also appreciate the nine sophisticated colors that it comes in, and many of the pouches are made of water-resistant, woven fabric created from recycled plastic bottles.
Samsung EVO Select microSDXC card (256GB)
It can be easy to underestimate the value of having more storage. Flash drives, memory cards, portable SSDs and the like are gadgets that many people don’t have when they need it the most. Samsung’s EVO Select microSD card would make a good gift for any number of people in your life: photographers, gamers and all-around nerds. Samsung’s memory cards are some of the most reliable out there and also the most versatile — this one has read speeds up to 100MB/s and write speeds up to 90MB/s. That makes this a great option for those who want more storage on their smartphone or tablet. It also comes with a full-sized adapter so those with DSLR cameras will make good use out of it, too. Lastly, this would make a great gift for someone whose Nintendo Switch is packed with games, allowing them to download and play more titles than they could before.
Yubico Yubikey 5 NFC
Having a good password isn’t always enough, which is why you should turn on two-factor authentication for your most precious accounts whenever possible. The Yubikey 5 NFC gives you a physical way to unlock your devices when you’re asked to authenticate for a second time. This particular model has NFC, so you can simply tap it to a compatible device to verify your identity. It’s also a USB-A dongle of sorts, so you can plug it into your laptop so you’ll always be recognized when you’re using it. Yubico sells a USB-C NFC version as well, but at $55 it’s just a bit too expensive for this guide. We also appreciate that the entire Yubikey NFC series works with Windows, Mac, Chrome OS and most mobile devices, and that the keys are made from durable water- and crush-resistant fiberglass.
PopSockets PopGrip for MagSafe
If you scoffed at PopSockets when they first came out, you’re not alone. But these circular doodads are actually great ways to better grip and prop up your phone. The only “problem” with older PopSockets is that they were a bit inconvenient to take off if you wanted to go socket-free for a time. But those with new iPhones don’t have to deal with that annoyance anymore thanks to the PopGrip for MagSafe, which is basically just a magnetic version of the classic PopSocket. It’ll attach to the back of any compatible iPhone and pop off which ease whenever you want to switch out your case. Also, the PopSocket itself has a swappable top, so you can add more of your personality to it with some of the company’s many interchangeable tops.