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I don't know about you, but I've never gotten a tech gift I wasn't excited about—it's true. Tearing through the wrapping paper and getting a new pair of headphones or an out-of-the-box gadget is almost always fun, even if it isn't something I thought I wanted.
The one caveat to this rule: getting a techy gift that doesn't... uh... work. That's the problem with trying to buy a fun new tech gift for a giftee: How do you single out the small margin of great products from the ocean of sub-par stuff? Easy—you check out our picks below. Reviewed tests tech all year long and this list is chock full of our favorite gadgets.
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1. For the binge-watcher: Roku Ultra
Roku's fancy "Ultra" media streaming device has been our favorite for a couple years running now, and for good reason. Processing is snappy and the UI is extremely friendly and intuitive, making it easy to settle in for a night of Netflix (or Hulu, or Amazon Prime, or YouTube, or Twitch or anything else) without a hitch. This box also comes with a very easy-to-use remote and a pair of headphones that plug right into it for private listening, as well an ethernet cable input so you can easily stream 4K/HDR content, if that's your bag.
2. For the techy type: Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen.)
If you're shopping for a tech generalist or somebody who just really loves asking Alexa to tell jokes, why not pick up the Echo Dot? This tiny smart speaker integrates with your Amazon account, meaning you can ask it for shopping recommendations, what the weather's going to be, to play music or to integrate with your existing smart home fixtures (like turning lights on and off). This isn't the ideal music-lover's smart speaker (it's a bit too small for great sound), but as an all-around device it's a great addition for any technophile you're shopping for. If you're looking for better sound, you can also spring for the futuristic Echo Dot (4th Gen)!
3. For the book lover: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite, technically the 10th generation model, is the best one yet. Not only does it continue to do what Kindles do best—hold hundreds, perhaps thousands of novels, short stories, poems, comics and PDFs—it's also waterproof, and features multiple colors and storage options with a battery that lasts weeks. It's no wonder the Paperwhite is #1 in our best Kindles roundup.
4. For the one who's sick of wires: Samsung Galaxy Buds+
If your giftee has been pining for the pure wireless freedom of true wireless earbuds, Samsung's Galaxy Buds+ make a great gift. These were ranked our best affordable headphones, and they deliver high-quality sound, different listening modes and a comfortable fit for a price that notably undercuts the competition. In fact, they're altogether a better choice than Apple AirPods ($197), and they're cheaper, too.
5. For the dedicated listener: Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony's WH-1000XM4 are simply amazing headphones—in fact, we think they're the best you can buy right now. Not only do these sound awesome, they're packed with the most useful headphone features you can get: stunning noise canceling (that automatically listens and adapts to your environment), wireless/Bluetooth connectivity and a lightweight, comfortable design that you can wear for hours. If your giftee is serious about listening to music (and nothing else), these pricy cans will make their day.
6. For the music lover: Sonos One SL
Sonos has been a leading name in home audio solutions for years, and the Sonos One SL is a testament to that legacy. We loved the One for its clean audio presentation, including crispy trebles and booming bass, as well as how easy it is to set up and interface with existing Sonos speakers in the home. While it's not a take-it-to-the-park speaker, as a home solution it offered better audio than anything we tested, and will definitely impress any music lover you might be shopping for.
7. For the podcast addict: Apple AirPods Pro
While they've been on the market for a couple of years, Apple's AirPods Pro are still some of the best true wireless earbuds you can buy—especially for iPhone users. While we've had some qualms about the comfort and audio quality of the original AirPods, the Pro variant is a major upgrade: much more comfortable, with better audio and great noise canceling.
8. For the home theater enthusiast: 55-inch TCL 6 Series TV
If you've got a giftee on your list this year who has been hoping to upgrade to a 4K/HDR TV, the 55-inch TCL 6 Series is an awesome pick. You're not paying nearly as much as you normally would for a bright, colorful, crisp picture bolstered by fancy tech like microLEDs and quantum dots. The 6 Series is HDR compatible, too, meaning it can play the latest and greatest video format. And to sweeten the pot, the built-in Roku platform is still our favorite TV smart platform, both robust and very easy to use.
9. For the music lover on the go: JBL Flip 5
JBL's "Flip" line of portable, waterproof Bluetooth speakers continue to top our list of the best Bluetooth speakers you can buy. These rounded, meticulously designed speakers produce warm audio with plenty of bass and midrange. They've also got rubber-capped ends and water-sealed inputs so you can bring your new speaker along on hikes, beach trips or just out to the backyard without fear of damage. If your giftee likes to bring the jam wherever they go, a Bluetooth speaker may be the perfect gift.
10. For the serious cinephile: 55-inch LG CX 4K OLED TV
If you want the best of the best in TVs, it isn't cheap, but for dedicated, movie-loving, AV-club-attending, home-theater-having cinephiles, price might be no object. LG has been the uncontested leader in OLED TV production for many years now, and the company's 2020 CX series OLEDs continue the tradition of being one of the best TVs you can buy. OLEDs use emissive display technology that allows each pixel to produce its own light, making for purer colors and truly black shadows. That's not to mention the CX OLED is kitted out with a fetching design, snappy smart features and all of the HDR/Dolby Vision/HDMI tech you can shake a stick at.
11. For the PC gamer who wants to be comfy: HyperX Cloud Alpha S
HyperX's comfy, gaming-facing line of headsets continue to warrant praise amongst console and PC gamers, and the HyperX Cloud Alpha S is one of our favorite gaming headsets currently. It may not be wireless, but if you've got a PC tower or laptop setup to stick by, these comfortable cans deliver excellent audio and microphone support, and feature very effective virtual 7.1 surround sound. They're also compatible with Sony's PS4, if you're more into gaming on the couch.
12. For the movie lover on a budget: Vizio V-Series 2.1 soundbar
Let's face it: TV audio tends to suck. While we love reviewing TVs, usually listening to them isn't amazing: that's why we also review soundbars. One of our favorite soundbars is Vizio's "V-Series," a soundbar and subwoofer combo that provides seriously good audio for the price. There's nothing too fancy going on here, but it's an easy plug-and-play solution for anyone looking to majorly upgrade their stock TV audio at a reasonable price.
13. For the one who wants movie theater sound: Sonos Arc
There's some great affordable soundbars out there, but if you want cinematic, room-filling sound that actually competes with the bone-rattling audio you'd get at a movie theater, check out the Sonos Arc. This is Sonos' first-ever Dolby Atmos-compatible soundbar, meaning it's capable not just of great stereo sound presentation, but also of implementing Dolby's proprietary object-oriented and height-channel based audio solution, placing sound all around you in a room—yep, even overhead. Naturally, a soundbar this awesome doesn't come cheap, but if your giftee never misses movie night, this gift will blow them away.
14. For the one who loves to game: Nintendo Switch
If you're shopping for a gamer and they don't have a Nintendo Switch yet, now's the time. Nintendo's popular home console delivers fun for kids (and adults) of all ages, and doubles as both an on-the-TV and handheld device, giving it an unsurpassed amount of flexibility where gaming goes. With award-winning titles like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey at hand, the Nintendo Switch is a winning gift for any gamer in 2021.
15. For the one who needs a budget TV: 50-inch TCL 5 Series
To be honest, you don't need to spend $1,500 to upgrade your giftee's TV situation, especially if they haven't made the jump to 4K yet. The TCL 5 Series is one of our favorite options in this regard: you can get a solid mid-size 4K HDR TV from this series at a price that feels like a steal (because, honestly, it is).
16. For the serious mobile gamer: SteelSeries Arctis 1
If your giftee likes playing games wherever they go—on a smartphone, tablet, Nintendo Switch Lite or whatever—SteelSeries' Arctis 1 gaming headset is an awesome choice. It's compatible with PC, PS4, Nintendo, Xbox and basically all mobile devices for a very reasonable price. It also delivers solid sound, features good microphone clarity and offers plenty of comfort.
17. For the one whose big house needs better WiFi: Google Nest Mesh System
Maybe you've never heard of mesh WiFi systems—but we have, and we've tested lots of 'em. A mesh WiFi system is an excellent solution for essentially blanketing your entire home or apartment with high-speed WiFi. If you've got a giftee whose place is full of WiFi "dead zones," a mesh system might be just what they need. The Google Nest system is one of the best we tested, so it doesn't come cheap, but it's an excellent solution for anyone who just can't seem to stay connected.
18. For the committed distance learner: HP Envy x360 15.6-inch laptop
Whether your giftee is earning an online degree or simply forced to distance learn due to the global pandemic, a good laptop is a must. Even if you are attending school in person or on campus, HP's Envy x360 is a solid choice. It's flexible, powerful and—for the specs you're getting in the 15.6-inch version—priced very fairly. If you've got a giftee who needs to gear up for school, this laptop is a solid pick.
19. For the one upgrading their home office: HP V24 FHD Monitor
A lot of people are still working remotely, and a year or work-from-home means it's time for some upgraded tech. If one of your giftees is in dire need of a new device, why not gift them with a flexible, affordable computer monitor? Sometimes, a bigger, higher-contrast screen is all you need to get things done.
20. For those seeking luxurious streaming: Apple TV 4K
There's a lot of ways to stream content. If the "blech" end of the spectrum is watching hyper-compressed Netflix on your tiny phone during a 12-hour bus ride, the "yay" end of the spectrum is Apple TV 4K. This marvelously zippy, perfectly polished streaming box is for that giftee who loves binging and wants to do it in style.
21. For the shutterbug traveler: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX10
If you've got a giftee who loves traveling and taking photos, needs something more robust than a smartphone, but doesn't want a huge, clunky camera, say no more. The longstanding Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX10 is one of our very favorite travel cameras. It's not cheap, but it's slightly more affordable than many high-end DSLRs, powerful enough to take excellent photos and compact enough to slide into a pants pocket.
22. For the aspiring vinyl record collector: Crosley C6 turntable
It's a big debate about whether analog vinyl recordings actually sound "better" or "warmer" than digitally formatted audio files, but one thing's for sure: the ritual of laying a well-loved record on a vinyl player and listening to it as the musicians and producer intended will always be a special experience. If you've got a giftee who might be eager to collect records but needs a viable record player, the Crosley C6 is one of our top picks. It delivers modern turntable fixin's with a classic look and feel.
23. For the one with too many remotes: Logitech Harmony
We all know that one giftee whose living room feels like a defunct Radio Shack. A remote for the TV, the soundbar, the Blu-ray or DVD player etc., scattered haphazardly about the room. Enough's enough—gift that friend a Logitech Harmony, one of the best universal remotes we've tested. Sure, they might have to do a bit of programming and tinkering to bring all their disparate devices into the Harmony hive-mind, but we promise they'll thank you for being so thoughtful.
24. For youngsters who love to listen: Puro Labs PuroQuiet Kids' Headphones
If you've got kids who love listening to music, we think that's marvelous—but, younger kids need to be extra careful about protecting their ears from excessive noise. That's where these awesome Puro Labs headphones come in: they're tuned not to exceed volumes that would cause damage while ensuring balanced sound and noise-canceling to also deliver beautiful music to those young ears.
25. For the one who wants a smarter wrist: Apple Watch Series 6
Ranked as our all-time favorite smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 6 features an upgraded S6 processor and a new blood oxygen sensor along with a slew of other fitness tracking features. If your giftee loves staying connected to all their apps and notifications but is always busy with their face buried in their smartphone, this smart accessory is the best gift.
26. For the careful driver: Crosstour CR300 dash cam
If you've got a giftee who likes to be extra cautious while out on the road, the Crosstour CR300 dash cam is an awesome gift. It's one of the more affordable dash cams we tested, so while your giftee won't be getting high-fidelity 1080p video recording, they're still getting the kind of footage they could use for something like an insurance claim.
27. For those looking to rock out poolside: Anker SoundCore 2
Let's face it: the only thing better than swimming in a pool is doing so while sweet tunes fill the air. If you've got a giftee this year who loves hanging in the pool but doesn't want to risk dousing their smartphone, a good waterproof Bluetooth speaker might be the perfect gift.
28. For the one who loves photo albums: Polaroid Hi-Print
If you're buying gifts for anyone who loves snapping photos and printing them out in tangible form, the Polaroid Hi-Print is the perfect gift. This accessory was named our favorite portable photo printer and we especially loved its sleek, colorful design and ability to easily connect to our smartphones. You've also got step-by-step instructions with the Hi-Print’s companion app that allowed for quick set-up as well as basic editing tools for the perfect picture.
29. For the one who needs basic portable computing: Apple iPad (8th gen)
Ranked our most affordable tablet, this entry-level iPad was great for web browsing, streaming, social media, gaming and more. It might not feature an edge-to-edge display like its pricier counterparts but it still boasted a vivid, bright LCD display. It's even got compatibility with Apple's Smart Keyboard and Pencil so your giftee can easily turn it into a two-in-one device.
30. For the one whose WiFi is always too slow: D-Link DIR-878
When we tested the best WiFi routers, the D-Link DIR-878 really blew us away with its sheer speediness. This dual-band router outed all the others we tested in terms of combined 2.4 and 5 Ghz WiFi channel speeds. Naturally, performance like this doesn't come cheap, but if your giftee really needs a boost to their internet juice, this is the router to get them.
31. For the fitness lover: Garmin Vivosmart 4
If you're looking for a gift for that fitness-loving friend of yours, consider the Garmin Vívosmart 4, ranked as our most affordable fitness tracker. This nifty health gadget could automatically detect and track workouts, monitor our stress levels, and came equipped with GPS tracking. It also features an extremely slim design so it won't feel bulky on your gift receiver's wrist.
32. For the one whose phone is always dying: Yootech wireless charger
A wireless charger can be the perfect gift for that giftee whose phone is always at critical battery levels. For most newer phones, you just set your phone down on the charging base, and it gets charged back up without needing to be plugged in. In our roundup of the best wireless chargers, this Yootech model took the #1 spot, which is great news considering how utterly affordable it is.
33. For the kid who loves screen time: Amazon Fire 8 Kids Edition
Some kids just can't get enough screen time, and if one such youngster is a giftee of yours this year, you should consider the Amazon Fire 8 Kids Edition tablet. This tablet took our #1 spot in our best tablets for kids roundup for its great durability features and wide range of built-in kid-friendly content, making it an awesome choice for the screenophile youngster on your gift list.
34. For the one who's always misplacing things: Tile Mate
We've loved Tile's products for years thanks to their high degree of reliability and functionality. These little Bluetooth trackers are a huge boon for any giftee who tends to misplace their keys, bags, or smartphone, and the Tile Mate can be had for a very giftable price.
35. For the pro PC gamer: Corsair Dark Core RGB Pro
If you've got a giftee on your list this year who uses their mouse and keyboard for a lot more than browsing the web, you might want to consider gifting them a top-end gaming mouse. The Corsair Dark Core RGB Pro recently swept the best overall spot for our roundup of the best gaming mice, thanks to its perfect balance of comfort, customizability, performance, and price.
36. For the one who needs to glow up an office: LIFX Z LED light strip
Our #1-rated LED light strip, the LIFX Z LED smart light strip is a seriously cool way to spruce up a home theater or office. It's a snap to sync these smart LEDs up with assistants like Alexa or Siri, or integrate the LIFX into an existing SmartThings or Nest ecosystem—from there, it's really up to your giftee's imagination whether they have ambient, soft mood lighting or a demonic red glow lighting up the room.
37. For the one who needs a better alarm clock: Echo Show 5
We loved the Echo Show 5 when we reviewed it: it's a great gift for anyone who needs a low-key screen or a better alarm clock. It's also a great way to keep in touch with relatives via video chat or to catch up on Hulu or Prime Video content in the background while you're working. Not to mention, it's perfectly sized for smaller spaces like bedrooms or apartment kitchens, especially if you don't want to spend a couple hundred on a small TV or monitor screen.
38. For the one who needs more space: SanDisk 500GB External SSD
If you've got a tech-savvy giftee who keeps running out of space under the duress of too many photos, videos or the neverending updates to Windows 10, a portable, sizable external SSD could be the perfect gift. Our editors swear by the SanDisk Extreme external SSD for its lightweight, durable build quality and ample 500 GB of room.
39. For the dedicated keyboard warrior: SteelSeries Apex
If you've got a giftee who is a dedicated gamer and loves their keyboards to be covered in radical RGB lights, the SteelSeries Apex is our one of our favorite gaming keyboards for that very reason. Despite being a full, numpad-including board, the Apex Pro takes up a marginal tabletop footprint and is outfitted with great clicky keys and, of course, customizable lighting.
40. For the one who needs more space for games: Seagate expansion card
Microsoft's new Xbox Series X and Series S consoles were the biggest launches last year, and while it's almost impossible to buy them right now, if you (or your giftee) did manage to get one, having more storage for games is almost a must. Seagate's proprietary expansion card allows you to smartly expand the console's storage capacity without having to move games back and forth between an external hard drive and the console in order to play them. While it's a bit pricy, it's the kind of advanced and thoughtful gift that's sure to pleasantly surprise the gamer in your life.
41. For the one who needs more freedom: Logitech MX Anywhere 3
Logitech's MX Anywhere 3 wireless mouse is our favorite wireless mouse, and for good reason: as long as you've got the USB dongle in tow, you really can use it basically anywhere. It tracks reliably on any surface—even glass—and with roughly a 70-day battery life you could basically take it on a two-month journey without needing to seek out a mousepad or AC adapter.
42. For the one who needs a sharper picture: AmazonBasics HDMI Cable
If you've got a giftee who likes to watch DVDs or cable but is still dealing with AV/component cables (the red, yellow, etc. ones), an upgrade to HDMI cables is a very affordable way to make their viewing experience a lot easier. As long as their TV is semi-new (i.e. they got it in the last 10 years or so), it should be equipped with an HDMI in port; likewise with cable boxes and disc players. This 2-pack from AmazonBasics is super cheap, but in our testing it was just as capable as HDMI cables that were dozens of dollars pricier, making them a great choice for that giftee who needs an upgrade.
43. For the one who always needs more power: GoalZero Sherpa 100PD
If you've got a giftee who always seems to chronically suffer from poorly-charged devices—a laptop, smartphone or tablet, for example—a portable battery pack like the GoalZero Sherpa 100PD might be just what they need. This was our favorite power bank for its huge selection of ports, support for wireless charging and large, 25,000 mAh battery. It's even got Power Delivery technology so your giftee's devices will be powered up faster than ever before.
44. For the gamer who needs a visual upgrade: Acer Predator XB253Q
Our top-rated gaming monitor may seem like a huge indulgence for the non-PC-gamer crowd, but for anyone hoping to trounce the competition, the 24.5-inch, Acer Predator XB253Q is a necessary tool. Testing revealed outrageously smooth performance, not to mention high refresh rates, excellent response time, and a thin bezel design. You've even got an adjustable stand so your gamer friend can adjust it any way they want.
45. For the musician who loves listening on the go: Marshall Stockwell II
If you're buying a gift for a musician this year—especially a guitarist—Marshall's Stockwell II portable Bluetooth speaker is an undeniably fun gift. Modeled to look like a miniature version of one of Marshall's iconic amplifiers, the Stockwell II features a guitar-style carrying strap, full on-set EQ control via bass and treble knobs along with enough sound to fill up a backyard—or garage, if that's your jam space—with aplomb.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: 45 best tech gifts 2021 - Cool gift ideas from Apple, Samsung and more