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Best tech gifts under $250 (2015 holiday guide)
Finding a good gift for that special someone with a tech inclination is no easy feat. And it’s not only a matter of preference; there’s plenty of lackluster gadgets out there you really don’t want to buy. Then there are the obviously good gifts that happen to cost a fortune. Where are the options that won’t necessarily break the bank and are worth your cash?
We already gave you a list of our favorite gifts under $50 and $100. Now it’s time to step up the game and curate a list of products under $250 for those who have a higher budget or want to treat a special someone to a nicer gift. This post includes smartphones, wearables, tablet, media streamers, Chromebooks, headphones, cameras, speakers and more. Pretty exciting stuff, right? Let’s get right to the goods!
Looking to spend even more? Be sure to check out our guide for gifts at $500 and under.
Motorola may no longer be the only one making affordable handsets that are actually good, but they sure started a trend and the Moto G series continues to offer some of the best value around. The latest version (3rd generation/2015) Moto G is currently only $219 off-contract and unlocked. That would be for the higher-end version, by the way.
And it’s no weakling. This phone can handle most casual tasks thanks to its modest, yet very capable specs. This little phone sports a 5-inch 720p display, a 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage, a 13 MP rear-facing camera, a 5 MP front shooter and a 2470 mAh battery. You could also opt for the cheaper $176.85 version, which has half the RAM and internal storage.
ASUS ZenFone 2
We told you the Moto G was no longer alone in the battle for the best affordable handset, and one of its closest competitors is definitely the ASUS ZenFone 2. Be sure this is no bad contender. It’s actually a favorite among Android fans, thanks to its accessible price, good size, awesome build quality, vivid screen and more. To be honest, this is the affordable handset I recommend the most, these days.
The only things we complained about during our review were battery life, average camera quality and a weak speaker. But come on, the phone is only $199, and it makes up for those caveats in plenty other areas.
Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3
The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is more expensive than the smartphones listed above, but it’s for good reasons. This phone is worth every penny you will spend on it! Especially for those of you who like larger handsets, as this big guy’s screen measures in at 5.5 inches. It’s also more powerful thanks to its Snapdragon 615 processor.
Other specs include 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage, a 13 MP rear camera, an 8 MP front camera and a nice 2910 mAh battery. By the way, I happen to love this phone’s attractive, slim and strong design. It will take care of all casual tasks and even some gaming. Furthermore, those front-facing speakers make it sound much better than many other devices (even more expensive ones).
Smartwatches and fitness trackers
LG Watch Urbane
Once we hit the $250 price point much better wearables start showing up on the list. Of course we will list Android Wear devices here, and the LG Watch Urbane is one of our favorites. This thing is beautiful, has a great battery life, good performance and a classic look that will match even the most elegant suits. It’s one of the best Android wear devices around, and that price point really shows it.
Customers will have to pay $242.79 right now, but it’s worth it for the user who wants a high tech smartwatch without sacrificing on looks. Whoever said high-tech watches had to be ugly?
ASUS ZenWatch 2
LG’s smartwatch may be better looking to some, but the ASUS ZenWatch 2 is definitely not ugly. And considering it’s about $100 less, we know many of you will much rather go with Asus for your wearable needs.
The ASUS ZenWatch 2 has a great battery life, a fast magnetic charger, different sizes and good performance. Our only complaint is that its bezels are pretty large, just like its predecessor’s. Otherwise, it’s one hell of an Android Wear product!
I am a loyal Pebble user, and it’s mainly for one reason – battery life. Thanks to its e-paper display, these wearables are able to last nearly a week on a single charge! That’s simply unheard of in the Android Wear world, at least so far. I also happen to like that the UI is simpler and does less things. This is mostly a notification device, and though it can do a few other things, it doesn’t go overboard with fancy animations and gimmicks. What it does, it does very well. And it just so happens to do everything I need it to.
The newer Pebble Time happens to come with a color display, too, which is definitely a plus. The team has also included voice input, new software, more app storage and performance improvements.
Pebble Time Steel
And if you want to get fancy, you can also go for a Pebble Time Steel. This is pretty much a Pebble Time made with quality materials. It’s also worth more, though.
Fitbit‘s activity trackers are very popular, but only those who really care about their performance will go for the Fitbit Surge. This wearable can track your steps, monitor your sleep and display call & text notifications. It has even been upgraded with a heart-rate monitor and GPS. Not to mention that 5-day battery life, which will also keep you active without being tethered to an outlet all the time.
Fitbit Charge HR
We know the Fitbit Surge can be a bit of an overkill, but some of you still want a good activity tracker from the same manufacturer. The Fitbit Charge HR costs only $139.97, only sacrificing the heart-rate monitor and GPS. It also has a smaller screen, but does manage to take care of all the other features. Yes, even call & text notifications. Oh, and it does last a little longer (7-day battery life).
Withings Activite Pop
What I love about the Withings Activite Pop is that it has this classic look that will match any style. Its appearance is just like that of a regular watch, and it even has the classic clock hands we all know so well. But don’t mistake this for your typical dumb watch; it can count your steps, measure distance, keep record of your runs and even monitor burned calories. Your inactive time will also be recorded, as the Activite Pop monitors your sleep.
Worried about battery life? Don’t even! This thing will last about 8 months between battery replacements!
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8-inch
The Samsung Galaxy Tab A may not be the cheapest tablet around, but it is below the $250 threshold we have set ourselves here. It has a low resolution display and performance could be improved, but it makes up for those downsides by offering great audio quality and a battery life that won’t disappoint.
Specs include an 8-inch 1024×768 display, a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, 1.5 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage, a 5 MP main camera, a 2 MP front shooter and a 4200 mAh battery.
Amazon Fire HD 10
Frequent users of Amazon’s services should really look into getting a Fire HD 10. This device harnesses all that’s good about Amazon’s ecosystems and puts all that content right at your fingertips. And even though it is only $229.99, it shouldn’t leave many of you disappointed. Some sacrifices were definitely made, though.
Specs include a 10-inch 1280x800p display, a quad-core MediaTek processor, 1 GB of RAM and 16/32 GB of internal storage.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
When it comes to compact, affordable tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is actually still among my favorites. This pad is super thin, light and has really small bezels. Factor in the good specs, solid battery life and high-res display and you truly have a winner.
The tablet comes with an 8.4-inch 2560x1600p display, a Samsung Exynos 5 Octa processor, 3 GB of RAM, 16/32 GB of internal storage, an 8 MP camera, a 2.1 MP front shooter and a sizable 4900 mAh battery. Not bad at all, especially starting at $204.22 from Amazon. Honestly, I would say this is the best deal out of the 3 tablets listed here.
NVIDIA Shield Android TV + Remote
Whoever said Android TV devices weren’t good for gaming? The average set-top boxes do casual gaming pretty well, but if you want to get serious you go for something like the NVIDIA Shield Android TV. This beast may not look intimidating, but it packs an NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor, 3 GB of RAM, 16/250 GB of internal storage and more. It is 4K-ready and will take care of all your playing needs. And we really mean all… it can even do console games via NVIDIA GeForce NOW and NVIDIA GameStream. It is the ultimate gaming Android TV.
Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition
Don’t need too much gaming power and would rather take advantage of Amazon’s platform? The Fire TV is a great little device that will connect you to all the apps and content the popular retailer has to offer. Not to mention, that controller will help you dominate your favorite mobile games (over 800 available titles). You can also use voice commands to navigate and access your favorite content.
We are huge fans of Android here, but we also understand you don’t need to have this complex OS in every single device you own. Some users prefer Roku’s UI and ecosystem, and the Roku 4 is definitely a viable option. This set-top box gives access to over 2500 channels with plenty of content. It also includes features like voice search, and the remote can also work as a Wii-like controller. Or simply plug in your headphones to turn it into your audio device.
ASUS Chromebook Flip 10.1
Guess what? You can buy a perfectly good computer for under $250 nowadays! The ASUS Chromebook Flip takes advantage of Chrome OS to bring a simple and fast experience without breaking the bank. Packed inside you can find a 10.1-inch 1280x800p screen, a 1.8 GHz quad-core processor, 4 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. You can also opt for a version with 2 GB of RAM for $30 less.
But all those specs are standard for Chromebooks nowadays. ASUS manages to differentiate itself in another way – the screen flips over a la Lenovo, giving you flexibility and portability all around.
ASUS Chromebook C201
Maybe you don’t need your laptop to bend over backwards for you. In which case the ASUS Chromebook C201 may be a better option, as well as cheaper. Like the Chromebook Flip, this PC comes in two flavors, one with 2 GB at $154.99 and another with 4 GB at $184. Other specs include a Rockchip 3288 processor, 16 GB of internal storage and an 11.6-inch 1366x768p display.
Acer Chromebook 15
One thing that keeps the average user from switching to Chrome OS is the fact that Chromebooks tend to have tiny screen. It’s just not convenient for those who actually want to get some work done, which is the audience Acer had in mind when creating the Chromebook 15.
This bad boy comes with a large 15.6-inch HD screen, 2/4 GB of RAM, 16/32 GB of internal storage and your choice between a Celeron, Core i3 or Core i5 processor. The price for a decked out one can go all the way up to $469.99, though. Not exactly within our limit.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones are a favorite pick among audiophiles. They cost only $168 and offer better quality than many headphones that double this price. These are very comfortable, solidly made, portable and offer sound quality we can’t really complain about. Our friends over at Sound Guys did a more complete review, just in case you are interested in catching all the details.
Those who want something a little nicer can pay up and get the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7BK headset, which can be had for $192.31 right now. These are also amazingly comfortable and offer 45 mm True Motion drivers for better audio reproduction.
Sennheiser Momentum headphones
Sennheiser is known for its good quality headphones. Considering their large follower base, we would say you can’t go wrong with the Sennheiser Momentum headset at $189.99. These closed back, over-the-ear headphones are made with premium leather pads and metal. They are also fancy, as you can see in the image above. And if you are always on-the-go, its gorgeous case will definitely turn some heads.
Jaybird X2 Sport Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
While the other headphones listed above try to please audiophiles, Jaybird targets the general consumer with the X2 in-ear headphones. These are super user-friendly, wireless, small and great performers. The X2 headset also happens to be super comfortable, thanks to the foam tips that keep the earbuds in place. They also come with a nifty case. Our only complaint is that we wish it had better battery life, but we must keep in mind these headphones are tiny. Considering this, almost 8 hours of playback is really not bad at all.
Poly Backbeat Sense SE headphones
While there are definitely better Plantronics headsets out there, these offer quite a bit for the price. Because these are on-ear headphones, this makes them much lighter and more portable. Not to mention the fact that they are gorgeous!
And these do come with some neat capabilities. For starters, they will pause your music if you remove them from your ears. Another cool feature is its active noise cancellation. Sound is well-balanced and battery life averages at about 18 whopping hours!
Read also: Best headphones of 2015 (via SoundGuys)
Sony HDRAS100V/W video camera
I swear I can’t think of a worse name for a consumer camera, but that doesn’t take away from its quality. This little guy happens to be quite an awesome action camera for adventure seekers. It is splash-proof and compact, making it the perfect companion for your active lifestyle. Its optical image stabilization will keep your clips clear and smooth, all while the stereo microphones capture quality sound you will love when viewing your clips in other devices.
There’s very little to dislike about this camera (aside from the name), which can be controlled trough your smartphone or a Sony-made wrist-worn remote.
Garmin Virb Elite Action Camera
You know what I hate about action cameras? They usually don’t have screens; and if they do, you have to buy it separately. That’s not the case with the Garmin Virb Elite. It has a 1.4-inch Chroma display, which means it also doesn’t take a ton of energy to operate. This convenient action camera is rugged (IPX7 rating) and can shoot at up to 1080p resolution. It’s 2000 mAh battery provides up to 3 hours of shooting. Other features include WiFi, GPS, digital stabilization and more.
This entry level GoPro+ includes WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, which makes it a breeze to control through your app, as well as editing and sharing your clips. And though it’s cheaper than other GoPro cameras, it doesn’t skimp out on much. This camera can still shoot at 1080p60. It’s also built directly into a rugged housing that makes it resistant to dirt, sand and water. It’s all the beauty of a GoPro in a more affordable iteration.
Have you seen this thing before? Let me tell you it’s totally awesome. It pretty much works as a wireless speaker, digital assistant, book reader, weather reporter and more. The Echo even works with some smart home platforms, such as Belkin WeMo, Phillips Hue, SmartThings, Insteon and Wink.
All you have to do is talk to it and request your needs! The best part is it doesn’t really need another device. It actually works by connecting to the cloud, so everything is done through Amazon’s servers.
UE Boom 2
UE can’t be missing on any list of best wireless speakers. Their products are solid, and the Boom 2 is no exception. Its loud 360-degree sound will fill any room. It’s also super portable and fits in any bag (and some pockets). And don’t even worry about it not being able to keep your pace. UE’s speaker is waterproof, shockproof, and has an IPX7 rating. Factor in 15 hours of battery life and you have a winner.
Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker II
Bose is synonymous with quality – there’s no doubt about that. You can not go wrong with the SoundLink Mini II. It may not look the coolest, but does provide a deep bass and full-range listening experience. Bluetooth connectivity will keep a connection with your smartphone, and you can even use it as a speakerphone for calls. Its battery also lasts up to 10 hours, which is definitely not bad.
JBL Charge 2+
Here’s another Bluetooth speaker you can get wet (as long as you don’t submerge it). The JBL Charge 2+ gets its name from the large 6,000 mAh battery packed inside, which allows it to stay alive for 12 hours of continuous playback. Powerful sound, resistant body and many hours of playback – what else can you ask for?
Have you heard of Fluance? Probably not, but they happen to make some amazing products. This speaker provides pristine sound, undistorted bass and natural highs at any volume. It is made with dual full-range 5-inch woven woofers, ultra high-end tweeters and a 40 watt amplifier. The thing is some serious stuff, guys.
Times are changing. No longer do you have to get up and change your temperature like a caveman, interacting directly with the device. Nest can be controlled through your smartphone. It can also schedule itself to optimize both comfort and energy efficiency. And since Nest knows when you are away, it can stop working when you leave the house.
Nest is working hard to control all areas of your home. They have a thermostat, a smoke detector and now even a camera. The Nest Cam allows customers to see their home from anywhere at Full HD 1080p resolution. But you don’t have to be looking at all times. The camera will send you alerts if it senses movements while you are not there, and its night vision will ensure you don’t miss a thing.
Google Play Store
Of course, no solid shopping guide is complete without the beloved gift cards. And since here at Android Authority we are all about Google’s mobile OS, we would like to remind you there’s plenty of options under $100 to be had from the Google Play Store.
You can also get Amazon Gift cards in plenty of increments, ranging from $10 to the thousands. These can be used for all your tech and content, so go grab them!
Did you find any good gifts for that special loved one? We are almost sure this list has at least one awesome thing your beloved tech geek will love. If not, those gift cards are always perfect! What do you guys think? Are there any cool ideas you can think of for gifts under $250? We are sure you can come up with some other great gadgets, these just happen to be our favorite.