M2020 will be a graduation season like no other, with, Zoom graduation parties and drive-in ceremonies with social distancing guidelines in effect. Suffice it to say, it’s not going to be very fun or familiar. But that’s why it’s doubly important for you to step up with a good gift for anyone you know who’s graduating under these surreal circumstances. That’s why we’ve put together a list of options at various budgets, to kickstart your gift-giving this year. Whether you can spend up to , or — right here, below — $100, we’ve got you covered. And all of these have been fully reviewed or anecdotally tested by CNET editors.
Yes, you’d love to give your graduate a pair of AirPods Pro, or maybe the new Pixel Buds 2. But they cost upwards of $250 and $180, respectively. The Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 true wireless headphones, however, deliver a good portion of the features found on those more expensive name brand models and still sneak into our under-$100 budget by a penny. They’re available in black or white, offer USB-C and wireless charging and they’re great for making calls or listening to music.
Earbuds are great, but maybe you’re buying for someone who prefers full-size wireless headphones. Bose and Sony models cost upwards of $300 or more, but this model (yes, Anker again) delivers solid sound for just $60 — and with passable noise cancellation and great battery life, too. Quoting CNET headphone guru David Carnoy: “It’s fairly well balanced with a reasonable amount of clarity and plump bass that’s not bloated or muddy (there’s a bass boost or BassUp mode if you want an extra helping of bass with your music).”
Yes, Amazon’s Echo Show 8 is a fantastic smart display, and a great gift for anyone with an Alexa household. But some of us prefer the Google Nest Hub. It’s less likely to push Amazon products on the screen, the voice assistant is a bit more intuitive and there’s no camera, so it feels more comfortable in the bedroom. Whichever you choose, however, seek out a sale: These are often on sale for $80, or even less.
Read our Google Nest Hub review.
We love Sonos Wi-Fi speakers, but the cheapest models generally start at around $180. Unless, that is, you go for the this Sonos-designed Symfonisk speaker that’s sold through Ikea. It delivers similarly great Sonos wireless sound at half the price of the Sonos One. You lose compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant, but for privacy-minded grads, that’s a feature, not a bug.
Read our Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf WiFi Speaker review.
Bluetooth speakers are the ultimate commodity these days. But if you’re going to spend upwards of $75, the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is an excellent choice. It’s fully waterproof — it floats, in fact — and the sound is excellent for its size. And given that it’s about as small as a softball, it easily travels from back yard to bedroom, or anywhere in between.
The new Fitbit Charge 4 adds runner-friendly GPS, but with the older Fitbit Charge 3 now on sale for $99, it’s a slam-dunk choice for anyone seeking to give a basic fitness tracker without spending a bundle. The Charge 3 syncs with iPhone and Android phones, it’s water-resistant, it supports notifications and its days-long battery life puts smartwatches to shame.
Read our Fitbit Charge 3 review.
Yes, the Kindle app is available for free on phones and tablets. But if you’re buying for a book lover, the Kindle Paperwhite beats a phone app because it offers distraction-free reading. Other ways the Paperwhite beats a phone: It’s readable in full sunlight or in a darkened bedroom, it’s fully waterproof and its battery lasts days or weeks, not just a few hours. The Paperwhite normally retails for $130, but it’s often on sale for as low as $90, which is why we’re including it here.
Read Kindle Paperwhite review.