Thinking of keeping the spend low for the holidays? We hear you, so here are some gadget ideas under $100. Mostly, anyway.
Let’s start this off with earphones under $100, because it is possible to give the gift of portable audio in that price range, though the quality can be hit and miss.
We’ll suggest picking brands you know over the ones you don’t, simply because typically the ones you know have had some of that research trickle down into an inexpensive pair, whereas those brands you’re less familiar with have probably just found something cheap and rebadged it.
Earphones under $30
Price: $19 to $39
That starts with inexpensive AirPods clones, which might look like the real deal to some, but clearly aren’t.
We checked out a cheap pair earlier in the year and found sub-par sound quality, but a fairly reasonable price. Kids may not care too much, though we’d recommend spending a little more to get better quality overall.
JBL Tune 500BT
Kicking around the $50 mark, the JBL Tune will likely be a little better than what the cheapest of cheap can offer. Don’t expect noise cancellation here, but for $50, at least you’re getting a brand that has been doing audio as its main thing for years.
Beats Flex wireless earphones
A little more expensive, the Beats Flex delivers a good sound in a wireless earphone for a good price, offering a style that also can feels like it double as a necklace, locking into place using magnets when they’re not in use.
Beats hasn’t ever had a pair of wireless earphones at this price point before this year, so this is an interesting pair to check out, not just delivering decent sound, but that element of “cool” the Beats brand is known for.
Next up are speakers made for a budget, because there are more than a few of those this year.
Much like the cheap options in earphones, if you opt for a brand you’ve never heard of, there’s a good chance you’re going to end up with something of mediocre quality, if that, but if you find something that’s been pushed to discount, you may see something significantly better.
For the 2020 holiday season, we’ve seen some of the speakers from both Amazon and Google take a bit of a tumble in price, which may well mean a great speaker option is around the corner if you don’t want to spend too much for something good.
Speakers under $30
Price: from $15 to $30
Much like earphones and headphones, there is such a thing as too cheap, and you can typically learn why in speakers. You can find budget speakers everywhere — from Officeworks to Kmart to Big W to JB to likely a supermarket — but that doesn’t mean it’ll be good, or even the same as other speakers.
We haven’t tested every speaker on the market, but you can typically bank on budget speakers being overly bright and tinny, or exerting too much bass overall. Some people won’t care, which makes them ideal for young listeners or folks who don’t care about quality at all, but frankly, we’d look a little higher.
Google Nest Mini (2nd gen)
And that starts this year with Google’s Nest Mini, a pint-sized speaker that offers a good dose of sound and microphones to let you call up music from the likes of Spotify and YouTube Music.
At $40, it’s hard to beat, but it’s a speaker that’ll stay plugged into the wall. It’s down to around $39 this year for the holiday season, from the regular price of $79.
Amazon Echo Show 5
Also down in price this year is Amazon’s pint-sized 5 inch smart display, the Echo Show 5.
It’s a small speaker that normally sells for $129, but this year can be found for around $50, providing a small speaker, a video camera, and voice control, as well, using Amazon Alexa instead of the Google Assistant used on the Google Nest.
Sony Extra Bass XB12
A pretty well established brand as far as audio goes, Sony’s small and pudgy can of sound aims to deliver a good burst of audio with a little more oomph in the low ends than you might expect.
Unlike either the Google or Amazon speakers, this one can’t be spoken to or ordered around, but it can play your tunes with no fuss, and doesn’t need to be plugged into a wall, making it highly portable.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2
One of the speaker brands that kind of set this whole portable audio in a can thing off, UE’s Wonderboom 2 takes the “Boom” brand of audio and squishes it into a compact can of sound, keeping things water resistant as well.
It’s a cute and quaint little speaker, and one that even has a little loop so you can attach it to your backpack when you go for a walkabout.
Budget tablets and entertainment
Next up is tablets and reading material, an area we might have to stretch the budget just a little given we’re getting into more complex technology that tends to cost a little more.
Excuse us for this one as we’ll have to go just beyond $100, but we’ll try to keep the budgets down altogether and stay on-brand for this budget holiday gift guide.
Laser 7 inch 16GB tablet
As a cheap as cheap can be for a tablet, you may not want to expect too much out of Australia’s Laser Co 7 inch tablet, which will likely provide a way to surf the web, use apps, and play games over WiFi, but not much else.
Lenovo Tab E10
Marginally bigger but still not likely to do much better in performance, Lenovo’s cheap tablet offers a 10.1 inch screen with the light version of Android, Android Go, providing just enough power under a 10 inch HD screen.
There’s not a lot of memory or storage here, so don’t expect blazingly fast performance, but for some, just having a tablet may well be as close to luxury as it gets.
The least expensive of the Kindle eReader range, the latest edition comes in black and white, arrives with a 6 inch screen, and uses a front-lighting technology so you can see in the dark.
Plus the whole thing is a touchscreen, allowing you to quickly turn the page simply by touching the screen. Neat.
Finally there’s the budget wearable, which can see folks getting up from their seats and paying more attention to their fitness levels for not too much money.
Garmin Vivofit 4
One of those gadgets that has seen a price drop for the 2020 holiday season, shop around and you might just find Garmin’s smartband for $79 instead of its usual $159 price, providing a rough year of battery life, water resistance, and a way to track health while still syncing back to a phone.
V Fitness smart watch
Garmin isn’t the only brand with a relatively low price for wearables. Laser’s “V-Fitness” brand has one, too, offering a smartwatch with a stainless steel case and strengthened glass for just a buck below $100.
Well below the cost of an iPhone or Galaxy Watch, this one offers up to two weeks of battery life dependent on use, plus water resistance, and sleep tracking, but no mobile payments or majorly known operating system, as you do.