10 great gadgets under $100

By Hayley Tsukayama

It can be hard to give techy gifts on a budget. Here are a few suggestions for everyone on your list.



iPhone 4

Apple's hottest gadget of last year, the iPhone 4, is still a solid handset and has quietly slipped just under $100. AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are offering it for $99, though the contract will bump your total cost over the $100 barrier. Sure, the iPhone 4 doesn't come with the Siri digital assistant program, but chances are that your last phone didn't, either. And you survived, right?

  • Pros: Still a solid phone
  • Cons: It's not the iPhone 4S, so no Siri
  • Ideal for: Anyone who's been begging for an iPhone for more than a year

Kindle or Kindle Touch

Everyone may be buzzing about the Kindle Fire, but e-biliophiles who love the look of e-ink readers are probably more excited about the price cuts made to the Kindle line. Plus, the lower-end Kindles have a feature that the Fire lacks — free 3G coverage for connectivity almost anywhere in the country. A standard Kindle, with ads, now costs $79. The new Kindle Touch starts at $99. If you want to ditch the ads, you'll have to make a little more room in your gift budget, but it's still cheaper and lighter than buying 3,000 books.

  • Pros: Amazon's signature e-ink screen and 3G coverage
  • Cons: No video or colors
  • Ideal for: Truly dedicated readers
  • Buy this

Livescribe Pen

A good fit for techies who just can't quite make the leap to paperless, the Livescribe Pen creates digital replicas of any notes you take by hand and records audio at the same time. The pen can be a little cumbersome, but the cool factor more than makes up for the extra ounces. The device starts at $99.95 and includes a one-year premium membership to the note-taking service Evernote.

  • Pros: Backs up everything you write down
  • Cons: A little clunky
  • Ideal for: Note-takers and doodlers
  • Buy this

TomTom or another entry-level GPS

Drivers who need a little help navigating but may have resisted getting a GPS until now may be surprised to learn that prices on the gadgets have dropped just below $100. Case in point: the TomTom-VIA 1505T GPS unit, available at Best Buy for $99.99. The main drawback to GPS systems is that they have to keep a charge to be useful, however, so be sure to get it for someone who can remember to keep things charged.

  • Pros: Keeps you from getting lost
  • Cons: Needs to stay charged
  • Ideal for: The road warrior
  • Buy this

OnLive Player

Cloud gaming may not be at its peak quite yet, but give the OnLive service and its accompanying player a chance to lead you into the future. The games are top-tier titles, but — as with all cloud services — there can be some serious latency issues. Still, the OnLive player, which tallies up at $99.99, lets members take their games from the company's servers to their television sets and includes a controller.

  • Pros: Great game titles
  • Cons: Cloud gaming still has a long way to go
  • Ideal for: Innovative gamers
  • Buy this

PlayStation 2

In the same vein, because the PlayStation 3 isn't completely backward-compatible, the PlayStation 2 offers gamers the chance to revisit their favorite older games. And it's also a DVD player. For old-school gamers of a different stripe, the Nintendo DS Lite also has a suggested retail price of $99.99, though it's much harder to find. It has one thing that the 3DS does not: a slot that lets nostalgic gamers play their old Game Boy Advance games.

  • Pros: Lets you play older games
  • Cons: Does not let you play newer games
  • Ideal for: The nostalgic
  • Buy this

Powermat

Anyone who's spent frantic minutes looking for a cord before their phone gives up that last gasp of battery life could benefit from the Powermat, a charger that works with a receiver placed on the back of your phone. Some users have said that you have to put your phone in just the right spot to get the juice flowing, but it's very convenient once you get the knack. Mats start at $29.99. A particularly good deal is the 2X mat with a Powercube, which lets you set down a device to charge and has a built-in cord that you can change to fit just about any device.

  • Pros: Convenient
  • Cons: Occasionally fussy
  • Ideal for: People who misplace their cords
  • Buy this

Razer mouse

A programmable Razer mouse is a great option for hard-core PC gamers who like to have their gear set up just so. Razer makes a lot of gaming gear, but the mice start at $49.99 with the Razer Abyssus ambidextrous model. Before you put out the cash to pick up one of these premium mice, however, make sure that you're giving the gadget to PC gamer — who will appreciate the precision and customization — and not a console gamer, who will have no use for it.

  • Pros: Gamers set it up just as they like
  • Cons: A very niche product
  • Ideal for: PC gamers
  • Buy this

Wireless keyboard and mouse

Cords can be the bane of any neat freak's existence. They gather dust, they twist in the strangest ways, and they're always in a jumble. Be kind to your techy neat freak with a wireless keyboard and mouse set, such as the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 800, which costs just $24.99 and comes with an optical mouse. Be careful if you want to use this for a home theater setup, though: Most cheap keyboards are meant for cable management and don't have the range needed to type from your bed.

  • Pros: There are no cords!
  • Cons: Range can be a problem
  • Ideal for: Neat freaks
  • Buy this

Sony headphones

A good pair of earbuds is hard to find, particularly if you're not a fan of the standard white pair that comes with Apple's products. Personally, I'm a fan of Sony's earbuds, which can be pricey for an impulse purchase but nice for a small gift. A great noise-cancelling pair, the Sony MDRNC13, zaps outside noise for just $69.99. Most of Sony's headphones do a decent job of cutting out the background noise — even the cheaper models designed for the iPod or iPhone, such as the $29.99 XB earbuds, which also have built-in volume controls.

  • Pros: Always useful
  • Cons: A bit pedestrian
  • Ideal for: Just about anyone
  • Buy this

GRAPHIC: Wilson Andrews and Michelle Williams - The Washington Post. Published Nov. 25, 2011.