The 20 best tech gifts under $25: birthdays, holidays, and more

Wanting to treat a friend or a loved one to some tech or a cool gadget while on a very lean budget can feel like an impossible task. Most of the everyday devices we use cost multiple hundreds of dollars, so what do you get when you just want a nice birthday or “just because” kind of gift but can’t break the bank? Sure, you can default to something basic like socks or a scarf, but that gets boring quick.

Here, we’ve assembled a bunch of cool tech ideas on a budget of just $25 that are worth your money. At a price this low, you can get some tech essentials, like a dual headphone stand for $21.99 or a quality USB-C charging cable for under $12. That may not sound very exciting at first, but when that cable is 10 feet long and sustains 100 watts of power to even charge a full-size MacBook Pro, you’ve got yourself a helpful gift a tech-head can appreciate. And it gets better from there because, for $25, you can get a sleek desk mat with a great design, a quality laptop stand, a flexible tripod for your phone, or even some helpful smart home accessories.

Belkin Magnetic Wireless Charger

Cheaper and longer than Apple’s own MagSafe puck for iPhones

If someone you know has an iPhone 12 or 13, they have a nifty way to wirelessly charge their phone with the magic of magnets (insert vigorous jazz-hands). Apple’s MagSafe standard may still be a little underbaked and overpriced if you want a charger or portable battery that magnetically attaches and charges quickly, but other manufacturers have plenty of magnetic chargers that cost less. A great example is the Belkin Magnetic Wireless Charger, which is a charging puck with a much longer cable than Apple’s MagSafe puck — it’s 6.6 feet long compared to the 3.3 of Apple’s. Sure, it won’t charge quite as fast since it’s limited to 7.5W, but the lengthy cable is much more convenient for a bedside charger that gives you enough slack to use your phone while attached. Also, it’s nearly half the price, running $19.99 in either white or black. It costs a little more if you need a power supply with it ($5 more on Belkin’s site), though that’s still within our budget, and it works with all kinds of USB-C wall plugs your gift recipient may already have.

Belkin Magnetic Wireless Charger

Belkin’s Magnetic Wireless Charger isn’t true MagSafe, but it wirelessly charges Qi-compatible phones and has built-in magnets to attach to iPhone 12 and 13 models with a firm connection and deliver 7.5 watts of power.

Uni USB-C to USB-C cable (10 feet)

A much longer braided cable for laptop charging

Even when someone is working from home, it’s annoying to have a charging cable that’s too short. Most laptops and other devices come with cables that are barely long enough for many everyday situations. This lengthy USB-C cable from Uni gives much more flexibility for even larger laptops that require a lot of wattage. It supports 100 watts, which is enough for the latest 16-inch MacBook Pro, and it only costs $19.99, with frequent discounts and coupons dropping it down to about $12. A cable may not sound like an exciting gift, but your loved one will appreciate the convenience of a cable like this when they’re using it.

Uni USB-C to USB-C cable (10 feet)

A lengthy USB-C cable that delivers 100 watts of power, enough to power a full-size laptop like the 16-inch MacBook Pro when plugged into an adequate power adapter.

A desk mat with clean lines nicely compliments any keyboard.
Image: Drop

Drop + MiTo Godspeed Desk Mat

A slick desk mat with a sleek science-y design

Fancy keyboards and mice for a cool desk setup can get very pricey, and they’re also very personal items that are tricky to gift to someone. However, a desk mat that’s stylish and affordable makes a perfect gift on a budget. The Drop + MiTo Godspeed mat costs $25 and comes in three color options — though black certainly goes with just about anything. The solar system-inspired design by MiTo has a sharp and elevated aesthetic, utilizing clean lines that won’t make things look too cluttered or busy. If there’s a mechanical keyboard lover in your life not yet using a desk mat, get them started with something slick that doesn’t cost you a ton or require a lengthy group-buy wait time.

Drop + MiTo Godspeed Desk Mat

A stylish desk mat modeled after our solar system from designer MiTo and Drop. It comes in three color options and measures 35.4 x 15.7 x 0.12 inches to cover the work space under your keyboard and mouse.

Custom Mechanical Switch Tester

Get someone into mechanical keyboards or feed a burgeoning hunger

Turning a person onto the mechanical keyboard habit can feel a bit like you’re enabling some reckless behavior and spending, but you’re simply encouraging a fun hobby. A mechanical switch tester is a nice way to stick a toe in the water and see what you may be missing out on. These dummy boards allow you to try out key switches and see how they operate before investing in a whole mechanical keyboard. They’re perfect for feeling and hearing the differences between all kinds of linear, tactile, and clicky switches. This nine-switch tester (a three-by-three board) with ABS caps from Thock King on Etsy is $23.95 — just beneath our budget — and the best part is you can pick out the nine switches from a list of 39 or just ask for a random assortment.

Besign LS10 Aluminum Laptop Stand

Give the gift of neck relief and better posture

If a friend or loved one cranes their neck when working from home on a laptop, they deserve some relief. Elevating a laptop to eye level is not only healthier for your posture, but it makes you look better on video calls, too. The Besign LS10 laptop stand normally runs $26.99 on Amazon, but it is frequently discounted by 20 percent to around $22. It has an adjustable hinge design, so it sets up to the height you need and easily folds to be put away when not in use. Plus, with a claimed weight capacity of 13 pounds, it’s strong enough to hold even some hefty full-size laptops.

ZMI PowerPack 10,000mAh battery

How do you make a power bank look dignified? Deck it out in herringbone fabric.

There are a lot of power banks out there, but not all of them pack a hefty capacity combined with speedier charging and some sleek looks for a low price. The ZMI PowerPack 10,000mAh power bank ticks all those boxes for just $19.99. It has a two-way USB-C port for charging it as well as outputting up to 18 watts with Power Delivery to quickly juice up your devices. Also, its chassis has a cool herringbone-like fabric pattern for that extra refinement (monocles and sweater vests are not required but appreciated).

ZMI PowerPack 10,000mAh

The ZMI PowerPack 10K sports a 10,000mAh capacity and features both USB Power Delivery 2.0 and Quick Charge 2.0 / 3.0 fast charging support.

Bluetooth Aux Receiver

Help someone with an older car feel a bit more modern

It’s well-established these days that cars are turning into tech appliances on wheels. To many folks, horsepower and drivetrain play second fiddle to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But for people still sticking to their older cars that lack all of these modern conveniences, a simple tool like a Bluetooth adapter can make all the difference in improving a commute or enjoying a lengthy road trip. This Bluetooth Aux Receiver for just $16.99 on Amazon may look about as basic as they come, but it plugs into a 3.5mm aux jack and connects via Bluetooth 5.0 to up to two devices. It’s a simple, no-frills way to enjoy all your music and podcasts on the road as well as take hands-free phone calls for added safety.

Bluetooth Aux Receiver

Aux receiver that can plus into any 3.5mm audio port and connect to your phone or other device via Bluetooth.

One of the handiest cables around, uniting iPhone and Android users with one multi-prong connector.
Image: Asicen

Asicen 3-in-1 Retractable Charging Cable

You’ve never had a more convenient cable

This gift idea is off the charts when it comes to the “I didn’t know I needed this, but now I can’t live without it” factor. These retractable 3-in-1 charging cables have Lightning, USB-C, and Micro USB connectors, allowing you to connect to just about any device in any location. They’re perfect for the car, especially if two or more people have to share a lone USB port for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay duties. They also help keep your desk tidy if you only once in a while need to charge a wireless mouse or keyboard and want a cable at the ready. All that functionality just costs $13.99 (in white) or $14.99 (in black) on Amazon for a pair. This gift idea is perfect for uniting any household divided between Apple fans and Android users.

Asicen 3-in-1 charging cable

Retractable Lightning port / Micro USB / USB-C charging ports on a single 3.3-foot cable. (This is a two-pack.)

Beam Electronics phone car mount

A phone is still better than most car head units out there

Look, even with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, most car head units still kinda suck. Having a phone mounted to the dashboard via an air vent is helpful for just about anyone. This basic car mount by Beam Electronics is easy to set up and simple to operate, and it costs just $12.99 at Amazon. Even if someone has a jumbo-sized phone, they can throw it on the cradle, clamp it in, and go. It won’t slide out of the holder even during some spirited driving, but it easily releases with the push of a button on the back.

Beam Electronics phone car holder mount

This car mount phone cradle attaches to an air vent and is large enough to accommodate even jumbo-size phones, like the iPhone Pro Max models of the world.

KZ ES4 wired earbuds

Give the gift of Luddism

Yes, we live in the age of true wireless earbuds. But even an ultra-budget pair of OnePlus Nord Buds are still outside our range of $25. What is in our range is the KZ ES4 for just $19.99 in blue, black, and green on Amazon. These 3.5mm wired earbuds have detachable cables and a see-through design that looks unique compared to just about any other earbuds out there. These are some excellent and interesting earbuds for the money and perfect for anyone who values spending quality time with their music without the bulk of big, expensive headphones. They make an appropriate gift for anyone who appreciates something with some quirky vibes, though be sure they have a phone that still has a headphone jack or that they’re still an iPod holdout.

KZ ES4 earbuds

Inexpensive but high quality wired over-the-ear earbuds.

Apple AirTags or Tile Mate location trackers

For the forgetful ones

If someone you know is the type that might misplace their most valued everyday items, like their wallet or keys, a location tracker might just be a lifesaver for them. Now, there are some options to consider for this gift. Generally speaking, if they use an iPhone, then the Apple AirTags are a great option, while the Tile Mate is a safe bet for both Android and iOS users alike. However, while the AirTags do dip down to our budget price of $25, when on sale, they normally go for $29. The Tile Mate is the safer buy if you don’t know what phone your gift recipient uses, and it often sells for $19.99 (full price, $24.99) at Amazon, Best Buy, or Target.

An AirTag in an Apple keychain accessory

Apple AirTag

Apple’s AirTags can help you find your lost items with its UWB technology. You’ll get the best compatibility with an iPhone, though Apple recently released an Android app that can let you track an AirTag’s location.

 Tile Mate (2022)

The update to the Tile Mate doesn’t change much but gives it a softer, more rounded design to make it more durable.

A budget-friendly controller for Xbox and PC is great to have on-hand for local multiplayer games.
Photo by Antonio G. Di Benedetto / The Verge

PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller

A budget controller that’s often on sale for right around $25

The Enhanced Wired Controller from PowerA is such an exceptional value of a gamepad for Xbox consoles and Windows PCs. Sure, it’s not wireless, but its only other fault is that it uses a dated Micro USB connector for its detachable cable. Everything else about this controller outperforms its asking price. PowerA makes this controller in all kinds of colors and designs, normally priced at $37.99, but there’s almost always one of them on sale for around $25. It was picked as the best budget option in our buying guide, and it makes a great gift if a gamer in your life is in need of a wired controller with a splash of color.

PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller (seafoam green-blue)

The PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller is a budget-minded wired controller for Xbox and PC that connects via Micro USB and features two customizable buttons on its rear. It’s offered in many different colors and licensed designs.

A $25 digital gift card for Xbox, PlayStation, Steam, or Nintendo eShop

Give the gift of some quality PC or console games

I know gift cards often seem like the ultimate cop-out, but gifting digital games or smaller indie titles is not always easy. Yes, Steam allows you to buy a game digitally as a gift for someone on your friends list, but you don’t have that option for Nintendo, PlayStation, or Xbox storefronts. Enter the gift card. Whether you know the exact game someone wants or you haven’t got a clue, let them purchase it themselves and remember who helped finance their hundreds of hours of enjoyment to come.

Bonus points if you do know what game they want and you decorate a card or email message for them accordingly. Now that’s some expert-level gifting.

Nintendo eShop gift card (digital)

With a Nintendo eShop gift card, you can purchase more than 1,000 new, classic, and indie games from the Nintendo eShop on the Nintendo Switch. You can buy a card for as low as $5.

Steam gift cards (digital)

A Steam gift card can buy all kinds of PC indie or AAA-titles on the Steam digital storefront. They can even go towards the purchase of a Steam Deck, and purchased in $5, $10, $25, $50, or $100 increments.

Xbox gift card (digital)

In addition to games on the Xbox store front, an Xbox gift card can also be put towards a subscription to Xbox Live or Xbox / PC Game Pass. A digital gift card can be purchased for a value ranging from $1 to $100.

PlayStation Store gift cards (digital)

A gift card for Sony’s PlayStation Store is good for all kinds of titles, add-ons, and downloadable content. They are normally sold in $10, $25, $50, and $100 values.

Joby GripTight ONE GorillaPod Stand

A simple tripod for phone photography and videos

Sometimes planting your phone somewhere with a tripod is far superior for capturing a group selfie or a quality landscape photo. The Joby GripTight ONE costs just $22.99 and comes with an adjustable clamp mount. It can even be used as a short selfie stick or simple stabilizer when taking video. It’s a great gift for anyone curious about doing more with their phone when it comes to taking pictures or just making things easier for recording TikTok videos while they talk to the camera.

| Image: Joby

Joby GripTight ONE GorillaPod Stand

The Joby GripTight ONE GorillaPod is a flexible tripod for your phone, with an adjustable clamp that accommodates even larger models.

Elago Apple Watch stand

A charming little mount for your Apple Watch charger

While there are many Apple Watch charging solutions out there, they’re usually a bit pricey and not at all cute. This Elago stand is absolutely adorable, as once you thread your Apple Watch charging puck into it, your watch turns into a mini Macintosh computer, iMac, GameBoy, or iPod Classic (okay, not really, but it looks a bit like one while in nightstand mode). These little stands range from $12.99 to $15.99 on Elago’s site or on Amazon, and they make a charming novelty of a gift for anyone who loves some vintage tech nostalgia.

Elago Apple Watch stand (Macintosh Plus)

These adorable Apple Watch stands from Elago are made of silicone and styled after vintage tech. Mount your Apple Watch charger in it, and it looks like an old Macintosh Plus computer while charging.

Anker 511 Nano USB-C 20W Charger

Save someone from their old 5W wall warts

Know someone still using an old 5-watt USB-A charger that’s nearly old enough to get a learner’s permit? Here’s how you can help and be a considerate friend or family member who saves them from it. These little Anker 511 Nano chargers are incredibly tiny but output up to 20 watts to fast charge most phones — including the latest iPhones — and they make a handy gift. They cost just $18.99 at Amazon or direct from Anker, and they even come in some fun colors like green and lavender, in addition to white and black. Just be sure that any old chargers it replaces get properly recycled.

Anker Nano charger

Anker’s Nano charger charges phones quickly — up to 20 watts — and is small enough to carry around in a purse.

TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini (three-pack)

The perfect entry-point into smart home tech

When it comes to getting started with smart home stuff, it’s best to ease into it by giving “dumb” appliances and devices some added smarts. The TP-Link Kasa smart plugs allow you to plug in things like lamps or outdoor lights and set up scheduled timers and remote controls through platforms like Amazon’s Alexa platform. You can get someone a three-pack of them for about $22 at Amazon and B&H Photo. In addition to lights, you can even set one up to do something handy like remotely power-cycling your home router when it inevitably misbehaves — even without having to get up from the couch. The possibilities are pretty much endless.

Meross Smart Wi-Fi Garage Door Opener Remote

For any anxious person who always fears they left the garage door open

You may chuckle, but we all know someone who has a small anxiety attack about every little thing when they leave the house — especially when it’s for a vacation. The Meross Wi-Fi Garage Door Opener Remote is just one small way of maintaining peace of mind. Set it up with your garage door opener, and you can remotely open or close it even when you’re not home, thanks to compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Samsung’s SmartThings. This base model costs just under $22 at Amazon. It doesn’t work with Apple’s HomeKit, sadly, but that model costs a good amount more.

Meross Smart Wi-Fi Garage Door Opener Remote

The Meross Smart Garage Door Opener Remote allows a garage door to be opened from anywhere through an internet connection and the Meross app. This base model supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and SmartThings.

Uni USB-C Multiport 7-in-1 Hub

All the ports

Got a friend having a tough time in dongle town? This inexpensive USB-C hub from Uni has just about everything covered, and it’s only $24.99 at Amazon. No matter if they need a USB 3.0 port or SD card slot, it’s all here. There’s even a USB-C port on it, so you don’t lose out on the one you’re plugging the hub into. It’s a great option for someone that already has a recent M1 Mac laptop, M1 Mac Mini, or even someone intending on getting the upcoming M2 MacBook Air, which still only has two USB-C ports.

A desktop headphone stand or under-desk headphone mount

What’s the over-under on a headphone fan loving this gift?

We all love a great pair of noise-canceling headphones or a gaming headset, but even if they’re wireless, they certainly take up a lot of space. A headphone stand or mount is a great gift for anyone who spends a lot of time at their desk and wants to keep things tidy (or if you encourage them to keep things tidy and they really should be listening to you). Here are two appealing options for them to either show off their headphones when not using them or keep them tucked away and out of sight. The Neetto Dual Headphones Stand prominently displays two full-size headphones on a desk with a central tray for more organization, and it costs just $21.99 at Amazon. Or, the Anchor Pro hanger attaches to the underside of a desk with 3M adhesive to hide away two pairs of headphones, and it costs $14.95 at Amazon. Take your pick and help someone keep their cool audio gear neat.

Neetto Dual Headphones Stand

This dual headphones desk stand is made of aluminum and features a tray for resting a cable or keeping handy accessories nearby.

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Hey Google: how smart technology could help people age in place

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If you’re having trouble organizing your medication or your smartphone just isn’t smart enough to help you answer the door, the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation might have the answer. The Fredericton facility is offering hands-on learning of smart technology to people over the age of 55 and to seniors with caregivers. The six-week course takes […]
Hey Google: how smart technology could help people age in place

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