HOLIDAY

Best holiday gifts under $300 for 2021

Are you fortunate enough to be able to splurge on some gifts this holiday season? Well, good news: We’ve got a bunch of CNET-approved gift ideas in our gift guide below, all of which are available for under $300 — and have been fully reviewed or anecdotally tested by our editors. You’ve got lots of options in this price range, where you’ll start to see more premium-grade products.

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No earbuds are perfect, of course, and not everybody will love the fit of the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds or be able to afford their high price. But if you’re looking for great-sounding earbuds with great noise canceling, solid voice-calling capabilities and good battery life, these buds check all the boxes.

Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review.

 

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First released in 2020, the 1.5-pound Theragun Mini massager is designed to be portable, easily fitting in a backpack or purse. While it doesn’t have quite the power of one of Theragun’s full-size devices, it’s surprisingly powerful considering how small it is. I’ve tried larger massage guns in this price range, and it’s just as powerful but half the size. The rechargeable battery is rated to last two-and-a-half hours, and a neoprene protective case is included. 

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After nearly three years, Apple as finally given the Apple TV 4K an upgrade. The new Apple TV 4K costs $179 with 32GB storage or $199 with 64GB.

Along with an upgraded A12 Bionic processor, the biggest upgrade is the all-new Siri remote control. Silver in color instead of the original’s black, it features a directional pad at the top (with gesture support), a Siri toggle on the side and a power button for controlling your TV. The new d-pad addresses a lot of the complaints users had with the original remote, with its larger touchpad and lack of directional cues. 

Read our Apple TV 4K (2021) review.

 

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Here’s the deal: It’s nearly impossible to get a PS5 or Xbox Series X, even a year after their release. But the stepdown Xbox Series S is in stock at some retailers with comparative frequency. Yes, there are caveats: There’s no optical disc drive, the resolution is less than true 4K and it only has half the storage as its big brother. But it plays all of the same games, including Halo Infinite. 

Read our Microsoft Xbox Series X|S review.

 

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Bang & Olufsen has upgraded its dome-shaped aluminum-clad A1 speaker with improved battery life, better speakerphone performance (it now has a 3-microphone array) and slightly improved sound, thanks to a new Qualcomm chipset that powers the speaker. It remains one of the best-sounding mini Bluetooth speakers, with richer more tonally balanced sound than other Bluetooth speakers its size — and it should sound good, considering its elevated price point.

It’s also worth noting that the A1 has multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect this to your PC and smartphone at the same time and easily switch back and forth between the two if a call comes in on your phone. Additionally, the speaker is Alexa-enabled, meaning you can activate Amazon’s voice-assistant by just saying “Alexa.”

The $250 speaker comes in a few color options and some colors cost less than others.

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With the arrival of the Apple Watch 7, we should see some intriguing discounts on earlier Apple Watch models, but the SE remains arguably the best value when it comes Apple smartwatches. It starts around $270 for the 40mm model with GPS and little more than $300 for the larger 44mm model. You can also get it with LTE cellular service.

While it doesn’t have some of the extra health features of the Apple Watch 6 and 7, it offers decent performance for those who don’t want to spend that much on an Apple Watch. 

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Available in white or black for $179, the Roam is currently Sonos’ smallest and most affordable speaker (if you don’t count those $99 Sonos-compatible Symfonisk Ikea Wi-Fi bookshelf speakers). For its size, it sounds impressive and is equipped with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Even if Dad doesn’t have a Sonos system already, this is a good starter speaker and he can use his own money to add more Sonos gear in the future. Read our Sonos Roam review.

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If you’re looking for the best-sounding pair of audio glasses with the best overall performance — that includes call quality and battery life — the Bose Frames Tempo are the one to get. It’s ostensibly a sports model designed for runners and bikers, and while it’s a little bulky, it stays on your head securely. 

The Tempo offers slightly better sound and battery life than the more traditional-looking Tenor, which is a good choice for a more everyday set of audio sunglasses. The Tempo has better specs all-around, with USB-C charging and larger 22mm drivers. It also delivers up to eight hours of battery life.

Their sound is definitely improved from the original Frames. Bose says the Tempo plays “deeper and louder — loud enough for cycling at 25 mph — while still able to hear traffic and your training partners.” They’re sweat-, weather-, scratch- and shatter-resistant, according to Bose and fit under most protective helmets. (I had no problem using them with a couple of bike helmets.) They also work well for making calls, thanks to a new dual-microphone system. Optional lenses are available for $39 and you can order prescription lenses through Lensabl. Read our Bose Tempo Frames review.

Read our Bose Frames review.

 

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Dads secretly want an electric razor even if they’ve never used one. While many fathers have been spending a lot of time at home these days letting their beards grow out, dad might take more of an interest in shaving if he had a new gadget.

The Braun Series 7 isn’t the top-of-the-line Braun (the $260 Series 9 is), it’s still in premium territory with a price tag of $30. It can be used dry or wet — it’s fully waterproof — and comes with beard trimmers, a cleaning dock and a carrying case. Battery life is rated at up to 50 minutes on a full charge and a quick five-minute charge will get you enough juice for a shave. 

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With a full-fledged 4K HDR Roku streamer built in and a single voice remote controlling everything, this bar makes a thoughtful gift and offers a simple all-in-one audio-video system. Setup is a breeze — just plug it into a TV with a simple HDMI connection. Sound quality is very good for a single bar, and you can add Roku’s optional wireless subwoofer for more punch. It also comes with the much-loved Roku remote control. (This model is basically just the Smart Soundbar with an upgraded voice remote.)

Read our Roku Smart Soundbar review.

 

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Ember makes 10-ounce ($100) and 14-ounce versions ($130) of its temperature-controlled smart mug that keeps your hot beverage of choice hot while you sip it over a longer drinking session. While it won’t keep your coffee or tea warm for hours, the idea is that you can select your ideal temp via the companion Ember app for iOS or Android and keep your beverage at a high temp during the 30 minutes or so it takes to casually drink it.

I personally prefer the larger 14-ounce version, but does cost more. A good insulated mug with a top on it will also keep your beverage hot (and they are cheaper), but this Ember mug allows you to drink a cup of joe like you normally would and not sip it through a small hole in a top.

This larger version is available in black or white while the smaller 10-ounce model is available in a variety of color options.

Amazon

Available in multiple color options, the latest version of JBL’s Charge Bluetooth Speaker delivers improved sound with more bass. It’s bigger than your average portable Bluetooth speaker, but it’s got some good kick to it and like previous Charge speakers, it has a USB out port that allows your to charge a device like smartphone. Battery life is rated at up to 20 hours at moderate volume levels. It’s fully waterproof, as well as dustproof. 

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The Beats Studio Buds look a lot like the rumored stemless AirPods we’ve been waiting for. Geared toward both iOS and Android users, they are missing a few key features on the Apple side of things (there’s no H1 or W1 chip), but they’re small, lightweight buds that are comfortable to wear and offer really good sound. While their noise canceling isn’t as good as the AirPods Pro’s, they have a transparency mode and are decent for making calls. Ultimately, their fit and sound quality are the strongest selling points — and they’re about $50 cheaper than the AirPods Pro.