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7 Gadget Gifts That Won't Break the Bank

Treat kids, grandkids or yourself to cool gear this year with budget smartwatches, virtual reality headsets and more

Apple Watches SE

Apple

En español | Good news for cost-conscious holiday shoppers: You don't have to break the bank to pick up some cool gadgets and gear.

Whether you're looking to spoil the kids or grandkids with something high-tech this holiday season or just want to treat yourself to something new, there are plenty of tempting electronic options. Here are seven gadget gift ideas that deliver a lot of bang for the buck.


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1. Roku Streambar

The new Roku Streambar ($129) is like two gadgets in one: It turns your regular television into a smart TV while enhancing its audio.

Simply connect the Streambar to your TV with the included HDMI cable and link it up to your Wi-Fi to begin streaming movies, television shows and other content from thousands of free and paid channels, with up to 4K HDR (high dynamic range) picture quality and full, rich Dolby Audio sound.

You can also wirelessly play music from your phone or another Bluetooth device, and control it all using the voice remote or an Amazon or Google smart speaker.

2. SanDisk iXpand Wireless Charger Sync

The SanDisk iXpand Wireless Charger Sync (from $99) looks similar to other Qi charging mats that wirelessly juice up iPhone or Android devices, but it does a lot more. As it charges your phone, the iXpand also copies your irreplaceable photos and videos, in full resolution, to its internal memory. It backs up your contacts, too.

Since a copy of your media is saved to the mat, you can delete items off your phone if you're running out of space. The iXpand comes with 64, 128 or 256 gigabytes of storage (the price goes up with capacity) and works through most rubber and plastic smartphone cases.

3. HP Tango

Made to be used with mobile devices, the HP Tango ($149) is a highly evolved all-in-one printer at a relatively low price.

How evolved? For one thing, you can print, copy or scan from anywhere. Take a photo on your smartphone at the zoo and use the HP Smart app to print out a 4-by-6 glossy at home.

For another, you can pair the Tango with an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant device and operate it by voice command. Rainy afternoon with the grandkids? “Alexa, print coloring pages."

Like most HP inkjet printers, the Tango works with the manufacturer's Instant Ink subscription service. For a monthly fee (starting at $2.99), HP automatically sends you fresh cartridges when the printer detects you need them (based on the amount of pages or pictures you print).

Oculus Quest 2 VR

Oculus

4. Oculus Quest 2

Most virtual reality (VR) headsets require a connection to a device like a PC, console or smartphone. The Oculus Quest 2 (from $299) is a standalone VR solution that lets you download games wirelessly and store them on the device.

Lighter, smaller, faster and with better visuals than the original Oculus Quest, the Quest 2 includes two touch controls to interact with game content (so you can, say, hold a shield with one hand and swing a sword with the other). At times you can even put down the controllers and use your bare hands to “touch” VR content, thanks to a camera in the headset. Yep, the future is here!

Other features include integrated audio (you don't need headphones) and room-scale tracking that determines your play space without requiring external sensors.

You get several games out of the box, covering many genres. You can download apps to use the headset for other entertainment, such as movies and TV shows on Netflix and Prime Video VR (the VR environment makes it seem like you're watching on a huge screen), 360-degree videos on YouTube VR, or animated storytelling on Quill Theater.

Be aware, Oculus is owned by Facebook and you need a Facebook account to log in to and use the Quest 2.

5. Amazon Echo (4th generation)

Amazon Charcoal 4th Generation

Amazon

Amazon Echo 4th Generation

The latest Echo ($99) delivers the now-familiar smart speaker functions, letting you summon Alexa to give you info, control your smart-home gear, or play music, podcasts, audiobooks or radio stations. You know the drill.

What the new Echo also offers is a rounder shape that should fit in any room you place it and much improved audio quality, delivering loud, clear and well-balanced highs, mids and lows (for deep bass) that fill even large rooms with full sound.

And something you might not know: You can use it to call friends and family in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and the U.K. for free, hands-free.

6. Apple Watch SE

While the Apple Watch has been a sought-after wearable gadget since it was introduced in 2015, its relatively steep cost has kept it off many a wrist. That may change with the Apple Watch SE (from $279), a sleek smartwatch that includes many of the same features as the pricier Apple Watch Series 6.

These include customizable clock faces, sensors to track your movement (like an accelerometer, gyroscope and always-on altimeter), and safety features such as fall detection and emergency calling.

You can also use the SE for maps and directions, buying items in stores, calendar reminders, sleep tracking and more. If you add a cellular plan (typically $10 a month), you can get calls and texts, stream music and use Siri, even without your iPhone.

Available in three case finishes made of 100 percent recycled aluminum, Apple Watch SE is compatible with all Apple Watch bands.

7. iRobot Roomba i3

Some Roomba robot vacuums can set you back more than $1,000. The Roomba i3, for $399, does a comparable job of powerfully picking up dust, dirt and pet hair.

With a three-stage cleaning system and dual multisurface rubber brushes, the i3 navigates and maps your home in neat rows, using smart floor tracking to vacuum hardwood and carpet. Its Dirt Detect Technology sensors focus cleaning where it's needed most, according to manufacturer iRobot, and will even suggest an extra clean during pet-shedding season or when your area's pollen count is high.

Use the iRobot Home app or your voice (via an Amazon or Google smart speaker) to initiate the job, or set schedules to clean daily, whether you're home or not.

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