2016 Tech Gifts: Best Gadgets Under $100
While expensive tech toys like the iPad Pro and PlayStation 4 always get lots of attention, there are a ton of awesome tech gifts that won’t bust your budget. We have put together a list of ten of the best gadgets under $100 that will keep your holiday spending to a minimum.
Buy This Gift for Someone That’s an Amazon Prime member
The second generation of the Amazon Echo Dot reduced the price by nearly half and packs quite a punch for smart home voice control. Call out “Alexa” and you can tell it to play music, check the weather, order items on Amazon or a huge number of smart home features assuming you have accompanying hardware.
MSRP: $49 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $49
- Pros: Amazing price for a 2nd gen product. Always on. Alexa voice assistant is significantly better than rival products.
- Cons: Requires a sound system or speaker to take full advantage of music.
Buy This Gift for an Old-School, Retro Gamer
While Nintendo die-hards are waiting for the Switch to come out next year, you can hop in a time machine to take you back to the 1980’s with the Nintendo Classic Mini system. Updated with an HDMI port, the Mini comes preloaded with 30 games built-into teh system. No need for blowing on cartridges anymore! (Release Date: November 11th)
MSRP: $60 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $60
- Pros: Relatively cheap against other gaming systems. Extra controllers are only $10.
- Cons: Unlikely that Nintendo will release more games for system.
Buy This Gift for Someone That’s Really into Drones
One of the most popular quadcopters for hobbyists, the Syma X5C 6-Axis quadcopter is well-reviewed on Amazon and is reportedly easy to control in various wind conditions. It takes crashes fairly well and includes a HD camera with a 2GB memory card to record your flight for YouTube videos. There’s also a button on the remote control for 360 degree flips.
MSRP: $64 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $45
- Pros: Wind resistant, 6-axis Gyro stabilization system, remote range of 50 meters, average of 5-8 minutes of flight time, camera takes photos as well as video.
- Cons: Likely need to purchase multiple batteries for extended flight sessions, batteries take more than 1.5 hours to charge.
Buy This Gift for Someone Who Loves to Watch Netflix & Hulu
Upgrading from the 2015 model, the 2016 Chromecast Ultra is a $70 HDMI dongle that plugs into your HDTV and allows you to stream 4K video content from your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet as well as computers. It’s significantly faster than the basic 1080p model and supports tons of great streaming video services like Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, Hulu, Pandora, HBO GO, Showtime Anytime, Spotify, Plex and Starz Play.
MSRP: $69 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $69
- Pros: Faster than the original Chromecast. Installation takes just a couple minutes. Streams media content from many supported apps with minimal effort.
- Cons: More expensive than base model. Not as useful without a 4K HDTV. Mobile Gaming is hit or miss, right now.
Buy This Gift for Someone Who Travels With Family Constantly
But, wait, more dongles! The SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick is basically a twist on the standard USB storage drive. Specifically, the device doubles as a wireless network drive compatible with Android and iOS devices. In other words, you could stream high definition video content to multiple devices in an area that doesn’t have Wi-Fi. This would be perfect for a family on a flight or an extended car ride, for instance.
MSRP: $40 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: n/a
- Pros: Streams HD video to up to three mobile devices at once. Supports up to 128GB memory if larger storage capacity is needed.
- Cons: Limited to USB 2.0 speeds when transferring files. App is slightly buggy.
Buy This Gift for Someone Who Loves Shooting Smartphone Video
Ideal for anyone that’s trying to get a YouTube channel off the ground, the Ampridge MightyMic S shotgun microphone significantly reduces background noise when shooting in noisy areas. This type of mic is ideal for action shots, basically anything that will require quick movements with the camera. (If you are shooting interviews on the go, consider the Rode smartLav+ Lavalier microphone.)
MSRP: $99 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $70
- Pros: Increases sensitivity compared to built-in mic, unwanted sounds from sides and behind reduced, small size ideal for travel.
- Cons: Doesn’t provide the same sound quality of an actively powered mic.
Buy This Gift for Someone Who Loves to Work Out
There’s a reason why Apple doesn’t need to redesign the iPod Shuffle as often as other iOS devices. It’s basically been perfected. It’s small enough to clip on clothing during a workout, the battery lasts for at least 15 hours and it can store plenty of songs for short-term use. It’s a device that’s great for travel as well.
MSRP: $49 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $24
- Pros: Ideal for cardio exercise. Includes option for randomly playing songs. Supports playlists.
- Cons: No option for a higher storage capacity. Can be easy to lose due to small size.
Buy This Gift for Someone That Isn’t Great with Wi-Fi Tech
Taking all the worry out of setting up a Wi-Fi network for the home, the Securifi Almond includes a touchscreen that walks someone through the process of setting up wireless access. Installation only takes a few minutes and all security settings are pre-configured to avoid open network issues. For anyone more familiar with home networks, it also doubles as an excellent Wi-Fi range extender if you are having trouble using Wi-Fi on the opposite side of your home.
MSRP: $99 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $65
- Pros: Provides Wireless N access for compatible devices. Wi-Fi signal will likely be extended a couple hundred feet.
- Cons: More expensive than a basic router. Doesn’t support the latest 802.11ac standard.
Buy This Gift for Someone Who Loves to Share New Music with Friends
While it’s not going to win any design awards, 4,000+ Amazon reviews averaging 4.5 / 5 stars can’t be wrong about the Anker Classic bluetooth speaker. Reviewers praise the range on the device as well as the sound quality (for the size) and the extremely long battery life. It also includes a microphone for anyone that wants to take smartphone calls.
MSRP: $79 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $28
- Pros: Impressive 15 to 20-hour battery life of playtime. Range of up to 33 feet, microphone range up to two feet. Auto-connect to the last connected device.
- Cons: Definitely won’t provide the powerful bass that larger speakers can offer.
Buy This Gift for Someone Who Loves to Read
While the 2015 refresh of the Kindle Fire tablets have received tons of attention, the standard Amazon Kindle got a boost this year. It continues to receive positive praise due to the ability to read books in sunlight as well as its storage capacity. You can easily load up 1,000+ books on the device and take your entire library with you while on the go.
MSRP: $79 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $40
- Pros: Weighs less than 7 ounces. Typically battery life lasts about one month. Amazon Prime users can find significant discounts on Kindle books.
- Cons: You won’t be able to read books in the dark. Costs an additional $20 to remove advertising from the device.
Buy This Gift for Someone Who Has Older Speaker Technology
Brand new this year, Google has improved the wheel, so to speak, with the release of the Chromecast Audio (full review). The device connects to your existing “dumb” speakers and lets you stream music over you home’s Wi-Fi network. We believe it will become the standard of wireless home audio, especially if multi-room support is added in the future.
MSRP: $35 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $35
- Pros: Excellent sound quality. Dual-band 802.11ac 5GHz Wi-Fi. Higher quality audio than Bluetooth. Guest mode support.
- Cons: No Apple Music or Amazon Music support yet. No multi-room audio support yet. No Windows phone app.