We’re in tough economic times, so while buying as gift that costs hundreds of dollars might be the case for a few special people on your list (read: kids), chances are you’ll be looking for something more affordable to stay within budget. That’s especially so if you’re buying for numerous people. A sweet spot might be under $150, especially if the family has decided to do Secret Santa this year with everyone buying for only one person. Whatever the reason, we have rounded up some great tech gifts that won’t break the bank.
iFi Audio Uno DAC/Headphone Amp
Want to get better sound quality from your mobile device? The iFi Audio Uno is a Dac/headphone amp that can improve sound quality, whether you’re streaming tunes from your favourite service, playing games, watching movies or TV shows, or even listening to a podcast. It’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and features a USB-C input to connect to Windows PCs, Apple Macs, and various smartphones and tablets. Once connected, it delivers an amplified analogue audio signal to headphones, powered speakers, or an amp and separate speakers. Selling for under $100, it provides big, bold, detailed sound thanks to the ES9219MQ/Q high-performance DAC chip from ESS Technology’s Sabre HiFi series and 32-bit HyperStream III architecture. This combines with Quad DAC+ and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator technologies, plus iFi’s dedicated clock circuitry utilising a specialised crystal oscillator, to deliver ultra-low distortion, excellent clarity, and impressive dynamic range. PCM audio data is supported to 32-bit/384kHz, alongside DSD up to 11.2MHz (DSD256), and MQA – the hi-res streaming technology used by Tidal’s ‘HiFi Plus’ tier. An illuminated ring behind the volume control changes colour to indicate the format and sample rate of the incoming digital signal. There are three specially tuned EQ modes – one for music, another for movies, and the third for games. The Uno has a 3.5mm headphone output for personal listening along with stereo RCA to connect to an amp or powered speakers.
Urbanista Brisbane Plus
This $130 mini Bluetooth speaker is perfect to use on the go, or in a bedroom for background music while you relax. Available in midnight black or white mist, it’s rain and splashproof so you can use it outside, too (as long as it’s not humid or pouring rain!) With a playtime of up to 60 hours per charge and voice assistant support, you can control playback without lifting a finger, and it will last for weeks of entertainment. With dual speaker support, you can connect two for bigger sound.
JBL Clip 4 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Even smaller is the JBL Clip 4, perfect for clipping to your backpack, purse, or even belt loop, to listen to tunes on the go. It comes in fun and vibrant colours, and at just $70, you can grab two for a pair of favourite people on your list and still be under budget. It’s IP67 water- and dust-proof and, despite its small size, you’ll still get that big, signature JBL sound. With up to 10 hours of playtime per charge, you can use the JBL Clip 4 for an hour every day and only need to charge weekly.
Urbanista Austin True Wireless Earbuds
A nice secondary pair of true wireless earbuds to have if they already own a pair of AirPods or higher end ‘phones are the Urbanista Austins. At just $49, they won’t break the bank and come in cool colours. It’s the perfect first pair of earbuds for a child or a pair to keep in your travel backpack to use on the go. You aren’t sacrificing on specs here either as they’ll get dual mics, touch controls, voice assistance support, water-resistant design, USB-C charging, and five hours of playtime, up to 20 total with the included charging case.
Tribit AquaEase Bluetooth Shower Speaker
For a simple speaker you can hang in the shower to belt out your best Mariah Carey or Chris Stapleton impersonation, the AquaEase Bluetooth Shower speaker has an IPX7 rating so it can stand up to your powerful shower jets and bathtub splashes. It uses Bluetooth 5.3 to ensure a stable connection, and you can grab two and pair them together for extra-long showers. You know, for those times when you want to use the wonderful bathroom acoustics to practice working those vocal cords through several songs, not just one. It’ll last through the entire family’s singing sessions, too, with a generous 18-hour battery life. Use the Tribit app to keep it updated with new features and adjust sound settings. You can even control lights to create a full-on shower party vibe. Hang it easily using the woven attachment loop. You can also bring it out to the pool, on the beach clipped to your shade umbrella, or even while camping. The best part? It’s just US$40, which, even with those hefty currency conversions and shipping charges, will still be well under $150.
Skullcandy Take a Hike Dime 2 True Wireless Earbuds
Along with the quirky name, the Skullcandy Take a Hike Dime 2 true wireless earbuds also come with a pretty cool price tag of just $25 on sale (regularly $40). A great stocking stuffer item, the limited-edition earbuds are among the most affordable in the category we have ever seen from a known, reputable brand. Finished in forest green, they offer 12 hours of battery life per charge along with a built-in mic and call, track, and volume controls. They are IPX4 sweat- and water-resistant and employ a secure, noise-isolating fit. Misplaced them? Don’t worry as bult-in Tile finding technology means you can use the app and Tile community to locate them if you left them at another location. Or, if you know they’re in the house, ring them to discover which purse, jeans or jacket pocket, or couch cushion has swallowed them up.
CLCKR MagSafe Stand & Grip
If they are lucky enough to own an iPhone 12 or up, this is the accessory to get for it. It functions as both a stand for watching or recording videos and more hands-free as well as a grip for securing while they walk or get the urge to snap a selfie or record a video while on vacay. With a strong 3,500G magnet, this piece isn’t going anywhere until you need to slide it out of the way to recharge. It attaches to the phone directly or, if they still want to keep the device protected, it can attach to MagSafe compatible phone cases as well. Oh yah, and the antimicrobial protection is an appreciated bonus. Grab one for $40.
House of Marley REWIND Cables
With a variety of options, grab a few House of Marley braided cables, which I reviewed earlier this year, as stocking stuffers. Everyone from teens to workers, students to parents will appreciate not only the durable design but also the fact that they are made of sustainable materials. The Lightning cables are MFI-certified to work with Apple devices, and the 1.5-metre length option sells for $60. There are other cable types in the line as well that sell for $40 ea. These are built to last: no matter how many times they stuff them in and take them out of a backpack, leave them in the car, or use them while out and about, the cables will take a beating. The cable management strap, made from upcycled REGRIND silicone and recycled aluminum, is a super handy addition to the set-up.
Apple’s answer to the Tile Bluetooth tracker, the Apple AirTag is designed to be used specifically with iPhone owners. If you lose the item it’s attached to, you can leverage the Apple Find My app to track it down. Someone who finds your tag, meanwhile, can scan it to get your personal information if you set this up, making good citizen acts even easier. Don’t forget to get it engraved for them with their initials (it’s free from the Apple Store online!) Apple AirTags are just $39 or you can get a pack of 4 to hand out to all your aunts or co-workers for $129. Make sure to grab them a keyring to easily secure it to an item: they start at $16 and go all the way up to $449 for a designer Hermes ring.
Travelpro Essentials 3-Pack Expandable Packing Cube Set
I recently bought packing cubes and they are a lifesaver for longer trips but can come in handy for shorter business trips, too. Not only does it make it simple to divide up clothing, from intimates to tops and bottoms, shoes, and more, you can also dedicate one for dirty laundry to keep things neat and tidy for the trip back home. This Travelpro Essentials packing cube set includes a medium, large, and extra-large sized cube for organizing enough clothing for a two-day business trip (or, for some guys, a full week away in Costa Rica). Once you fill each cube, they compress to take up less room in your luggage. At $70, it doesn’t come cheap, but for notorious over-packers who need several outfit options per day, or layers (you know, just in case!) it’ll be worth every penny.
Great for note-taking workers, students, or even studious stay-at-home parents, the Rocketbook Pro will also help you reduce paper waste. It features erasable, reusable Page Packs that you can write on using a Pilot FriXion pen, marker, or highlighter, then wipe the page clean with a damp cloth to erase. Before wiping clean, however, you can scan the notes and upload them to a favourite cloud app, like DropBox or Google Drive, as well as e-mail. With a reinforced hardcover and 360° flip design, it can lay flat in any position. Swap the page inserts that are made of Rocketbook’s patented reusable paper. Each Page Pack contains 20 back-and-front pages bound together with magnetic clips so you can easily interchange them thanks to the Pro’s magnetic spine. To plan your day, for example, use the Daily To-Do Page Pack. For taking notes during a client call, swap for a Meeting Notes Page Pack. It comes in black, Sage Green, or Coast Blue in executive size for US$55 or letter for US$60. Each one comes with a Lined/Dot-Grid Page Pack, a Pilor FriXion pen, and a cleaning towel. Additional Page Packs starts at US$18 ea.
Ring Video Doorbell (2nd-Gen)
Did you know that you can get a video doorbell for under $150, and in fact, even under $100? The Ring Video Doorbell (2nd-Gen) is just $80 and offers 1,080p HD video with night vision, two-way talk, and quick replies. You can set customizable motion settings (so it doesn’t ping every time a car or neighbour walking their dog goes by) and receive real-time notifications when someone approaches or rings the doorbell. With a 30-day trial of Ring Protect, the gift will cost more via a recurring subscription if they want to keep it going. But even if you sign them up for a year as well at $60, you’re still under the $1500 budget threshold. And then you have a built-in recurring gift to send them every year by renewing if they want to keep it going.