Tech

The best gifts under $500 for 2021


Coming up on nearly two years of the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined for many the importance of friends and family and the value of putting thought into the gifts you’re giving to those you can’t be with. After all, if you can’t spend time with those you love, a thoughtful gift is the next best thing. If you’re really looking to make an impression, you can send an extremely generous gift, something in the $250 to $500 price range. And, if you’re in for that much, you want to be sure that you’re giving something completely awesome. 

Ready to find the perfect gift? This list will help you find just the right thing to order and send. One thing to note though: Because they’re unlikely to be easily found over the coming weeks, we’ve left the PS5 ($400 to $500) and Xbox Series X ($500) and Series S ($300) off this list. If you can get your hands on one, however, it would make a great gift.

Scott Stein/CNET

Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 could be the device that makes virtual reality mainstream. It’s not only better than the original but also less expensive, starting at $300 for the 128GB version (the 256GB version is $400). 

CNET’s Scott Stein praised it for being lighter and faster, with revised controllers and longer battery life. The display resolution is notably crisper and remarkably easy to read text on. The only downside: You now have to have a Facebook login in to use it.

Read our Oculus Quest 2 review.

 

Scott Stein/CNET

The latest version of Apple’s entry-level iPad came out this fall with an updated A13 Bionic chip processor that gives it a nice performance boost (a keyboard or case is not included). Otherwise it’s pretty much the same as last year’s entry-level iPad, which remains the best value in Apple’s iPad line. While prices start at $329, you get double the storage over last year’s model, at 64GB (and $479 for the 256GB version), look for special offers as this iPad often gets the flash-deal treatment.

Theragun

The Theragun Prime is a new Theragun included in the company’s rebrand and launch of four new massage guns. Its prior equivalent was the Theragun Liv, which is reviewed in-depth here.

Like the high-end Theragun Pro ($599), the Theragun Prime’s main impressive feature is that it’s much quieter than its now-retired predecessor. In fact, the Prime rivals the famously quiet Hypervolt Plus in terms of volume level — that’s a massive improvement from the Liv.

The improvements don’t stop there, though: Where the Theragun Liv only had two preprogrammed speeds and came with two closed-cell foam attachments, the Theragun Prime has five built-in speeds (from 1,750 rpm to 2,400 rpm) and comes with five closed-cell foam attachments. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

No, you can’t get a truly high-performance TV for less than $500, but with TCL’s 55-inch 55S535 you can get a great gift with a nice size screen, very solid 4K picture quality and the best streaming system available (Roku) for a little more than $450. If you want under $400, TCL’s latest 4-series 4K line is a respectable choice.

Read our TCL 55S425 review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Hypervolt Plus is the next-generation Hyperice percussive massager, and rivals the slightly better-known Theragun in effectiveness. Despite being quite forceful, thanks to a 90-watt high-torque motor, it’s notably quiet, so it’s not annoying to use — to yourself or others. It’s cordless, of course, and the lithium-ion battery gives you about two hours per charge. It comes with five head attachments and features three speed settings.

Sarah Tew/CNET

So maybe your gift recipients already have a nice TV, but they’re stuck listening to its terrible built-in speakers. A soundbar is the easiest way to fix that problem, and this $350 Yamaha is one our favorites in this price range. As a bonus it also works with Alexa, so you can ask Amazon’s voice assistant to play your tunes, even when the TV is turned off.

Read our Yamaha YAS-209 review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Nintendo’s massively popular platform may have a newer, cheaper entry in the Switch Lite at $200, but the original got a minor improvement in the V2 version with improved battery life. The big difference between the two? The Switch Lite has a smaller screen and is strictly portable, without the big-screen TV dockability and detachable controllers that make the V2 so unique. We break down the differences here; the main thing to know is we still consider the bigger Switch to be the better choice.

Read our Nintendo Switch review.

 

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