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Gifting can be difficult at any time, but it’s been particularly hard over the past year. Budgets remain tight, but you still want to give that grad in your life something that can help make the transition to post-school life a bit easier (and more fun). The tech gifts that come to mind immediately — iPhones, smartwatches, game consoles and the like — are not exactly budget-friendly. But there are handy gadgets out there that won’t drain your wallet completely. Here’s Engadget’s list of the best tech gifts under $50 for new graduates.
Anker PowerPort III Nano Charger PIQ 3.0 USB-C charger
A spare charger can be a lifesaver and Anker’s PowerPort III Nano is a great one for those that have new smartphones. Although it was designed as an alternative to Apple’s own 20W charger for the latest iPhones, it’ll work just as well with Samsung’s latest handsets, too. It supports fast charging for both iPhones and Galaxy devices, and you can use it to provide speedy power-ups to most other USB-C mobile devices. Not only is it roughly half the size of Apple’s charger, but it’s also slightly cheaper as well.
Aukey 2-in-1 wireless charging stand
Aukey’s 2-in-1 wireless charging stand is a great addition to a nightstand or a work desk. It can charge up to two devices simultaneously: one smartphone and one other Qi-compatible device on the flat, back panel. Apple lovers will find their AirPods fit perfectly back there, but it’ll charge up non-Apple earbuds, too. Aukey’s compact stand is rated for 10W fast charging for Samsung devices and 7.5W fast charging for iPhones. Plus it supports smartphone cases up to 3mm so you don’t have to remove yours before you use it.
Google Chromecast with Google TV
Whether they’re still mooching off their parents’ subscriptions, or have finally sprung for their own Netflix account a streaming device is a great gift for a recent grad. The latest Chromecast with Google TV makes the original Chromecast experience much better by adding a physical remote to the mix, along with the new Google TV interface. The remote makes it easier to navigate and the on-screen menus, and the software will serve up TV and movie recommendations based on subscriptions you have. The Chromecast with Google TV supports services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max and more, and it’ll stream in 4K HDR with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Plus, you can still cast even more content from your smartphone or tablet to your TV.
8Bitdo Pro 2
We’ve been fans of 8Bitdo’s affordable, multi-platform controllers for quite some time, and the new, $50 Pro 2 is no exception. You can use it with the Nintendo Switch and on Windows, macOS, Android and Raspberry Pi, and you’re able to map functions to buttons using its companion smartphone app. The Pro 2 also adds new bumper buttons under each arm, something the previous version did not have. In general, 8Bitdo’s controllers are more ergonomic than, say, relying on a keyboard and mouse when playing PC games. They’re also a dramatic improvement over the Switch’s Joy-Cons which, if we’re honest, aren’t the most comfortable controllers to use for long stretches of time. The Pro 2 charges up via USB-C, but you can also remove the battery pack and replace it with AA batteries if you know you won’t be able to charge up frequently.
RavPower 16,750mAh portable charger
A portable changer is truly a gift that keeps on giving and RavPower’s 16,750mAh brick is strong enough to charge up smartphones and tablets alike. That’s enough to top off your iPhone 11 Pro Max 2.5 times or an iPad Air once. It has two iSmart output ports so you can power up two devices simultaneously, and its indicator lights will give you an idea of the brick’s remaining power level. Even with a larger-than-average capacity it’s surprisingly compact, measuring 5 x 3.15 x .9 inches, and its built-in flashlight can help you find lost items in a pinch.
Tile Pro tracker
Sure, many smartphones have some way of tracking them down if you’ve lost them — but what about all of the other important items in your life? That’s where Tile’s Pro Bluetooth tracker comes in — just clip it onto your keys, wallet, backpack or anything else and you’ll be able to keep track of those items using the Tile mobile app. It’ll show you the most recent location of your item and, if you’re within 400-feet you can make it ring loudly so you can find your misplaced stuff. We like the Tile Pro’s tiny size, water-resistant design and replaceable battery — the cell included with the tracker will last for one year before you can replace it yourself, something you weren’t able to do on older Tile models. Apple lovers may want to check out the company’s new AirTags, but those will only connect to iOS devices whereas Tile trackers work with both iOS and Android.
Whether your grad will commute to their first office job or work from home, a wireless mouse is a must-have when on a computer all day. Logitech’s Pebble is a solid option because, not only can it easily disappear into a bag thanks to its slim profile, but it will also run for up to 18 months on its single AA battery. It’s not an accessory they’ll have to worry about charging up each night. We also like its ambidextrous design and its relatively quiet nature — unlike other mice, it makes little noise when you’re clicking and scrolling away. You’ll also have the option to connect it via Bluetooth or USB receiver, and there are a handful of fun colors to choose from.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo true wireless earbuds
While not the newest true wireless earbuds from Anker, the Soundcore Liberty Neo are still great. Weighing only 0.2 ounces, the Liberty Neo are easy to wear both in an office setting and while working out. Their IPX7 water resistance helps during the latter, protecting the buds from sweat while you’re working out. They also come with a number of ear tips and wings in various sizes so you can get the best fit — and once you do, those buds aren’t going anywhere. Continuous battery life is a bit short at 3.5 hours, but you’ll get an extra 12 hours of juice with its charging case.
Greens Steel Beast insulated tumbler
It’s important for grads, busy with job applications, internships, new jobs and side hustles, to stay hydrated. Green Steel’s Beast insulated tumblers are not only good for hot and cold drinks, but they cost $10 to $15 less than some big-name competitors. They’re made of 18/8 food grade steel that’s dishwasher safe, and they come with metal straws and a splash-proof lid. And regardless of which size you get (20-, 30- or 40-ounce), they’ll all fit into standard sized cup holders. A 20-ounce model has been my morning companion almost every day for the past year or so and it still looks fresh.
Bodum Chambord French Press
If your grad is a coffee (or tea) lover, elevating their brewing game can make a big difference in their daily lives. Bodum’s Chambord French Press is a simple, affordable vessel that will be a step up from your standard drip coffee machine or aging teapot (while it’s marketed as a coffee maker, it could be used as a tea press instead). The container is made of borosilicate glass and you can get the frame in either plastic or stainless steel. Instead of paper filters a french press uses a plunger and mesh filter that pushes coffee grinds and tea leaves down, infusing flavor into the water above. That should save you money over time and creates less waste.
Tribit XSound Go
There are plenty of Bluetooth speakers out there, but Tribit’s XSound Go stands out for its simplicity. Measuring 6.7 x 2.2 x 2.3 inches, it’s nearly pocketable and can stay on your desk all day long while you work and then transition to a backyard party with ease. It’s IPX7 waterproof so it’ll withstand a dunk in the pool, and its 24-hour playtime lets you use it all day long without interruptions. It has good sound quality with deep, but not overpowering, bass and it includes a built-in mic with which you can take calls. Just pair it with your smartphone or tablet, choose your tunes and let the speaker do the rest of the work.
Repel Windproof Double Vented travel umbrella
Hear us out — a good umbrella is an unexpected yet invaluable gift. Few things are worse than getting stuck in a downpour on your way to work, especially if you use public transit to get there. Repel’s windproof travel umbrella is just the right size — not too big or too small at 11.5 inches in length — and its nine reinforced fiberglass ribs prevent it from being blown inside-out easily. We also like its single-button design, allowing you to open or close it with one hand. Repel’s umbrella is one of those practical gifts that your grad will be glad to have at the most crucial times, and they’ll save money in the long run by not needing to buy a new, cheap umbrella every time the skies open up.