Posts with «entertainment» label

The best gifts for new dads

It's hard to be a new parent even during the most idyllic times. So what can you do to help? How about gifting a new dad something to make their lives a bit easier. Maybe they just need a breather from the hellstorm of diapers and sleep training. Or perhaps they want a better way to distract their screaming spawn. Here are a few options to consider.

10.2-inch iPad

Apple

Apple's entry-level iPad is one of the most useful devices for any new parent. It can be your child's gateway to video chatting with their grandparents (and with the new Center Stage cameras, they’ll always be in frame), or a life-saving distraction during long car rides. It could be a new dad's way to catch up on their favorite show while stuck dealing with mealtime. Or it could be a way for growing kids to read interactive stories and play games. The iPad can be whatever you want it to be. And paired with a decent case, it can be durable enough to survive life with tiny humans. (And if it does break, at least it's far cheaper to replace than an iPad Air, or a typical laptop.)

Buy 10.2-inch iPad at Amazon - $329

Jabra Elite 85t earbuds

Engadget

There's no question that we love Jabra's lineup of wireless earbuds. The Elite 85t delivers solid active noise canceling, a slim and light design, and excellent sound. And best of all, they cost around $200 and you can often find them for around $150. No matter which smartphone you have, the 85t are an excellent way to catch up on podcasts while trying to rock a baby to sleep. And they'll be even more useful during the rare bit of downtime for new parents. They're perfect for rocking out to your favorite tunes, or pair them to your TV or set-top box to enjoy late-night movies without making much noise.

Buy Jabra Elite 85t at Amazon - $200

SmartNoggin Nogginstik

SmartNoggin

This relatively cheap rattle is deceptively useful. It has a light-up face to keep babies interested, multiple textures for them to explore, and a mirror on the bottom for them to learn their own faces. It was a secret weapon during my child's first-year tantrums, so much so that I've gifted it to every new parent I know. It's not high tech at all, but it's a reminder that they’re called classics for a reason.

Buy Nogginstik at Amazon - $24

Sonos Roam

Engadget

Sonos' most portable speaker is an excellent choice for new parents, especially if they’ve already bought into the Sonos ecosystem. It's small enough to throw in a bag, giving new parents a way to play some tunes during a picnic. It relies on Bluetooth, so pretty much any device can connect to it. But the best part is that it also works over Wi-Fi with an existing Sonos setup. So if you start playing some songs on your larger Sonos speakers, you can easily pipe that over to the Roam and bring it to your backyard. And since it's from a brand that's known for excellent sound quality, you can expect everything to be much richer than other cheap Bluetooth speakers.

Buy Roam at Sonos - $179

Apple Watch Series 7

Apple

The Apple Watch is great for working out — but it can also be a handy tool for new parents. It's a simple way to keep tabs on texts and other notifications when your hands are full with a baby or baby-related ephemera. It lets you start and stop podcasts when you can't reach your phone. And — here's the kicker — it's also a perfect way to distract youngins and de-escalate shouting matches. It turns out, having a tiny screen on your wrist that can display photos is pretty useful! And it's also a relatively safe device for babies to fiddle with, thanks to its touchscreen. (Of course, you can take your pick of any competing smartwatch for Android users, but we'd recommend Samsung's Galaxy Watch 4.)

Buy Apple Watch Series 7 at Amazon - $399Buy Galaxy Watch 4 at Amazon - $250

GoPro Hero10 Black

GoPro

Action cameras are great for vacations and high-impact sports, but they can be just as useful for new parents. It's the sort of thing you can strap onto a hat when you go out for a light hike with a little one, or just leave it running in your backyard to capture their first steps. Sure, we've all got smartphone cameras, but it's tough to leave those running for extended periods, and they're still a bit distracting if you're dealing with a child. A camera like the Hero10 Black, on the other hand, is something you can just set, forget and discover little video treasures later.

Buy Hero10 Black at Amazon - $500

Theragun Mini

Theragun

Keeping up with a new baby can lead to aches and pains in muscles that dad never knew he had. The Theragun Mini can give him the opportunity to get a massage without leaving the house. While there are much bigger and more powerful Theragun machines, the Mini is a good size for beginners and those who want to take its muscle relief power wherever they go. It has a single button that dad can use to change the massage gun’s speed and its ergonomic design makes it easy to reach different parts of the body. And arguably the best part is its 150-minute battery life — while that might not seem like a long time, it truly is when you consider the fact that you don’t need to use it for more than a few minutes each day to feel the results. With that schedule, dad could use the Theragun Mini every day for a month or more before needing to recharge it.

Buy Mini at Theragun - $199

Comixology

Comixology

It’s hard to keep up with comics when kids are around, but Comixology makes it easy to catch up on your favorite releases. If you know a comic nerd who’s eager to see what the X-Men are up to, or who just wants to catch up on long-running graphic novel series, it’s worth sending them an Amazon gift card that they can use with Comixology. It’s particularly useful for anyone who has an iPad or a decent Android tablet. Not surprisingly, bright and portable screens are one of the best ways to appreciate comic art!

Buy Amazon gift cards for Comixology

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Game controller

Fisher Price

A perfect gift for any gamer dads in your life, the Laugh and Learn Controller is basically a baby-proofed version of a modern gamepad. There's a joystick, directional pad, and array of buttons for kids to fiddle with. But like any good distracting toy, it also lights up and makes sounds to keep them entertained. It's not exactly complex, but it's inexpensive and effective. That's particularly true for parents of little ones who always gravitate to their expensive console controllers.

Buy Laugh and Learn Controller at Amazon - $10

Greens Steel insulated tumbler

Greens Steel

Coffee, tea or another caffeinated beverage is an essential for many new dads and Greens Steel’s insulated tumblers can keep their drink of choice hot or cold for hours. While we all appreciate that luxury, it’s especially important for parents who often find themselves sipping tepid coffee hours after they brewed their first cup because they got distracted with kid duties. These tumblers are made of 18/8 food grade steel and they have a double wall vacuum that maintains temperatures for up to 12 hours. And regardless of which size you get (20-, 30- or 40-ounce) they all fit into standard-sized cup holders, so dad can bring his drink with him when he runs out for an emergency diaper restock.

Buy Greens Steel tumbler at Amazon - $29

The best wireless headphones you can buy right now

When it comes to wireless headphones, the over-ear noise-cancelling models typically offer the most comprehensive set of features we want. The best options combine stellar audio with powerful active noise cancellation (ANC) and other handy tools to create as complete a package as possible. Of course, some companies do this better than others. For this guide, we’ll focus primarily on the over-ear style and offer a range of prices so you can decide how much you’re comfortable spending.

Best overall: Sony WH-1000XM5

Billy Steele/Engadget

Sony’s 1000X line has been our top pick for a long time now. Until another company can manage to pack in as many features as Sony, and do so with a stellar mix of sound and effective ANC, the crown is safe. With the WH-1000XM5, Sony redesigned its flagship headphones, making them way more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The company also made noticeable improvements to the active noise cancellation, adding a separate V1 chip in addition to the QN1 that was inside the M4. There are now eight total ANC mics as well – the previous model only had four. This all combines to better block high frequencies, including human voices.

The 1000XM5 still has all of the features that typically make Sony’s top-of-the-line headphones showstoppers. That includes 30-hour battery life and crisp, clear sound with balanced tuning and punchy bass. A combo of touch controls and physical buttons give you on-board access to music, calls and noise modes without reaching for your phone. Speak-to-Chat automatically pauses audio when you begin talking, and like previous Sony headphones, the M5 can change noise modes based on your activity or location. Plus, this model offers better call quality than most of the competition. The only real downside is that they’re $50 more than the WH-1000XM4.

Buy Sony WH-1000XM5 at Amazon - $398

Runner up: Bose QuietComfort 45

Billy Steele/Engadget

The Bose 700 was one of our top picks last time around, but the company recently revived a workhorse with the QuietComfort 45. The design is mostly unchanged from the previous QC models, which could be a deal breaker for some. Once you get past that though, the QC45 combines Bose’s excellent active noise cancellation with clear and balanced audio. You can expect up to 24 hours of battery life on a charge and a comfortable fit that doesn’t get tiresome during long listening sessions. We’ve already seen them on sale for $50 less than full price, which makes the QuietComfort 45 even more compelling.

Buy QuietComfort 45 at Amazon - $329

Best budget: Sony WH-CH710N

Billy Steele/Engadget

If you want capable noise cancellation that won’t break the bank, Sony’s WH-CH710N is a solid bet. These headphones are much less than a flagship model at $150 — and they're often on sale for even less — but you will sacrifice a few things. The biggest place these fall short is overall sound quality. There’s decent range and good clarity, but they lack deep, punchy bass that would help create a fuller sound. For casual listeners who want a decent set of headphones that still have ANC, these will likely offer enough in the sonic department.

In terms of noise cancellation, the WH-CH710N exhibits enough sound-blocking power to minimize distractions. Thanks to Sony’s dual noise sensor technology, these headphones pick up a lot of that unwanted noise and automatically select the best noise cancellation for your environment. There’s also an ambient-sound option should you need to keep tabs on what’s going on around you. With 35 hours of battery life, a quick-charge feature and handy onboard controls, the WH-CH710N offer a glimpse of flagship headphone luxury for less than $200.

Buy Sony WH-CH710N at Amazon - $150

Other alternatives

AirPods Max

Billy Steele / Engadget

After months of rumors, we finally discovered that Apple successfully built a set of premium over-ear headphones. The AirPods Max combine the best features of AirPods earbuds with noise-cancelling, including spatial audio and easy access to Siri. Right now, spatial audio is limited and there’s no high-res music streaming. However, even with work to be done, the overall audio quality, stellar ambient sound mode and the all-Apple aesthetics are enough to recommend the AirPods Max. That is, if you’re willing to splurge.

Buy AirPods Max at Amazon - $549

Technics EAH-A800

Technics/Panasonic

Back at CES, Panasonic announced the EAH-A800: a new set of ANC headphones under the iconic Technics brand. While most of the features are what you see on any number of headphones, one figure stood out. The company says you can expect up to 50 hours of battery life on the A800, and that’s with active noise cancellation enabled. These are currently in my stable of review units for detailed analysis, but I have already tested them on a long flight. The ANC is impressive and they’re comfortable enoughto avoid becoming a burden after several hours. Sound quality is also quite good (there’s LDAC support, too) and there are enough features here to justify the premium price tag.

Buy EAH-A800 at Amazon - $348

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT

Billy Steele/Engadget

The wireless version of Audio-Technica’s M50 headphones may not have ANC, but that’s okay. The ATH-M50xBT quickly became one of my favorite sets when it debuted in 2018 thanks to the warm, natural sound profile and a very comfy fit. The company revamped the wireless model in 2021, adding multipoint connectivity, quick access to Alexa and a low latency mode in the M50xBT2. Everything else from the previous model is still here and that’s excellent news. If you spend most of your time listening to music in a spot where you don’t need active noise cancellation to block out the world, the M50xBT2 is an excellent choice at $199. 

Buy ATH-M50xBT at Amazon - $199

The best online resources for cooking at all skill levels

A key part of adulting is learning to feed ourselves. Some might opt for restaurants or takeout for sustenance, but that can get expensive. The best option is to learn to cook your own meals. That might sound harsh, especially if cooking doesn't sound fun to you, but there are a plethora of resources online for cooks of all levels. Be it beginner how-tos or deep-dive YouTube videos, we hope this list of Engadget staff favorites will get you started on your path to culinary confidence. Oh, and if you’re ever confused about measurements, a tool like this recipe converter is a good reference to keep on your bookmarks tab.

Recipe sites

Serious Eats

If you self-identify as a nerd and you’re also into cooking, you probably already know about Serious Eats. The site rose to prominence several years ago under the helm of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, who often takes a decidedly scientific approach to cooking. Lopez-Alt has since transitioned to a consulting role at Serious Eats (he has his own vlog, which is well worth following as well), but the site remains strong under new leadership. It offers tips on basics like food prep and storage, as well as a slew of how-tos and step-by-step instructions for everything from breaking down a chicken to kneading your own bread.

Try this: Quick and Easy Pressure Cooker Black Beans with Chorizo

NYT Cooking

This is the only recommendation on this list that requires payment — $1.25 a week or $40 a year — but I personally think it’s worth it. The site and accompanying app (for iOS and Android) is well organized and intuitive to use, with bright and colorful photos along with an ever-changing list of curated recipe recommendations and suggestions. I especially like the search function, where you can not only enter in the ingredients you have on hand, but also filter by the sort of meal you want to make iIs it for breakfast? A snack? Or dinner?) along with any dietary restrictions. If you don’t want to cough up the subscription fee, however, NYT’s YouTube channel is a great resource as well.

Try this: Spiced chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric (YouTube)

The Kitchn

The Kitchn is a daily food magazine that’s been around since the mid-2000s, and it frequently serves up not just recipes but also fun features like a celebrity recipe showdown (check out this one that compares the pot roast recipes between Alton Brown, Ina Garten, Taste of Home and the Pioneer Woman). Of course, The Kitchn also publishes plenty of tips and tricks to help readers be a better cook. 

Try this: Maple Corn Cakes

YouTube channels

Food Wishes

“Hello, I’m Chef John, from Food Wishes dot com” is the familiar refrain that you’ll hear at the beginning of every Food Wishes video, and it never fails to warm my heart. His tone is so welcoming and cheerful that it cheers me up every time I hear it. A YouTube favorite (he has over four million subscribers), he’s also a favorite among a few Engadget staffers, and for good reason. Not only is he goofy and charming, his recipes are also almost always geared toward the novice chef, with clear and concise instructions. He also encourages viewers to experiment, use their senses, play around with food, and to think of cooking as art as much as science.

Try this: No-Knead Country Bread

Binging with Babish

Binging with Babish is a popular YouTube channel (over 9.6 million subscribers) that’s primarily focused on recreating foods from TV shows and movies. Some famous examples include the Krabby Patty from Spongebob Squarepants and ratatouille from, well, Ratatouille. But host Andrew Rea can cook “normal” foods too, and the popularity of his channel led him to host a spin-off series called “Basics with Babish” that’s geared toward the beginner.

Try this: Chickpeas

Food52

The Food52 website can be considered a one-stop shop for cooking enthusiasts, as there’s an online store along with recipes and a community board. But the real highlight for me is its YouTube channel, which features excellent shows such as Sweet Heat by Rick Martinez (the former Bon Appetit editor showcases recipes with both a sweet and spicy element), Big Little Recipes (focuses on recipes with a short ingredient list) and Genius Recipes, which, well, shows “genius” recipes created by notable chefs.

Try this: How to Make the Easiest Beefy Mac Rice Cakes

Dessert Person

Have a sweet tooth? Then look no further than Claire Saffitz’s YouTube channel, where she bakes up everything from apple pies to oatmeal pecan cookies. Her personality is a combination of cranky and lovable, which I adore, but more importantly, her recipes are excellent. She gives very detailed instructions and the results are almost always delicious. She makes a lot of savory baked goods as well, such as sourdough bread and quiche.

Try this: The Best Oatmeal Cookies

Maangchi

Maagchi has been referred to by The New York Times as the Julia Child of Korean cooking, and the description couldn’t be more apt. Not only does she have a friendly and bubbly personality, she does a wonderful job of demystifying Korean cooking and making it approachable to beginners and advanced cooks alike. From Korean classics like kimchi jjigae and bibimbap to sweet treats like Korean doughnuts, she makes it all seem within reach. 

Try this: Korean Street Toast (Gilgeori-Toast)

Dietary concerns or special diets

101 Cookbooks

For a site that is entirely dedicated to vegetarian cuisine, I highly recommend 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson, which has been an online favorite for decades. I’m a huge fan of her simple, straightforward recipes that are able to turn a carnivore like me into a lover of plant-based meals (a personal favorite is this cauliflower soup).

Try this: Chickpea and Rice soup with Garlic Chile Oil

Nom Nom Paleo

You don’t need to be on the paleo diet to fall in love with Nom Nom Paleo, a mini-empire that consists of a food blog, two award-winning cookbooks, and a podcast, among other things. The New York Times has referred to Michelle Tam, the creator of the site, as the Martha Stewart of Paleo, because of how accessible she makes it seem. After perusing her site and trying her recipes, you'll no longer think of the paleo diet as restrictive; instead you might find yourself eating more than ever. Tam has also tailored some of her recipes to fit Whole30 or keto diets as well.

Try this: Garbage Stir-Fry with Curried Cabbage

Clean and Delicious

If you’re not strictly vegetarian or paleo, but you still want a healthy diet, check out the Clean and Delicious food blog by Dani Spies. A wellness and weight loss coach, Spies believes in a balanced diet and “clean eating,” but without foregoing the foods you love. For example, there’s a recipe for lemon bars on her site, but it’s made with whole wheat flour and doesn’t have dairy or refined sugar. All of the recipes on her site reflect this philosophy; they’re either gluten-free, paleo, vegan or vegetarian and they are also often low-carb, keto, dairy-free or nut-free. I also like her Instagram and YouTube channel, where she also shares tips on mindful eating and healthy living.

Try this: Healthy Banana Bread Muffins (YouTube)

Staff recommendations

There are simply way too many food sites on the internet to list them all, but here are a few more that were recommended by our staff that you might find useful.

Chinese Cooking Demystified

This is one of the best YouTube channels for learning all the ins and outs of authentic Chinese cooking from people who actually live in China. It’s very detailed, well-produced and offers great advice on recreating these dishes in a Western kitchen. I also love that it teaches technique in addition to just recipes. To this day, I still come back to this video on how to stir-fry any vegetable.

Minimalist Baker

The blog Minimalist Baker features recipes that use 10 ingredients or less and only take about 30 minutes to make. Weekend Editor Igor Bonifacic is a big fan as well, mostly due to the site’s wealth of vegetarian recipes, like this curried cauliflower lentil soup.

Budget Bytes

Budget Bytes is a great resource for those watching their wallets, as each recipe gives you a breakdown of estimated costs for each ingredient. Commerce Editor Valentina Palladino said that the site is also really good for beginners.

Rainbow Plant Life

If you’re looking for vegan recipes, Rainbow Plant Life has a ton of them. Palladino loves the cashew cream recipe and appreciates that the site’s founder, Nisha, has a trove of vegan-friendly Instant Pot recipes to try as well.

Pick Up Limes

Another staple for accessible vegan recipes is Pick Up Limes. Palladino says that the Healthiest Ever Granola recipe is one of her favorites, and she likes that the Pick Up Limes website makes it easy to filter recipes by type of ingredients, preparation time, allergens and more.

Richard Bertinet’s White Bread Masterclass

Richard Bertinet’s video on white bread comes highly recommended for its sheer simplicity. It proves that all you need to make bread is bread flour, yeast and salt. Senior Reporter Dan Cooper says the video is also a sure-fire way of calming him down when stressed.

Half Baked Harvest

Editor-in-Chief Dana Wollman and Senior News Editor Billy Steele frequently trade Slack messages with dinner recommendations. (What’s for dinner? Ask a coworker, of course.) The answer from either person is often a Half Baked Harvest link. The site is home to a vast library of free recipes that, in our experience, tend to work as advertised. We’re fans of her nightly Instagram Story cooking demos as well, not to mention her tacos.

Joy the Baker

Wollman says she discovered Joy by accident through her warm, self-effacing Insta Stories, only to discover she has an equally clever blog offering a mix of sweet and savory baking recipes.

How to see everything you've watched on Netflix and other streaming services

Streaming is a curious beast. One minute you'll be enjoying the '80s vibe of Stranger Things and the next you'll be struggling to pick something from that overwhelming catalog. Sometimes, though, you'll stumble on something that you'd normally never choose — a Netflix suggestion from a friend or a recent addition that had escaped your glance as you navigated Amazon Prime Video's curated menus.

However, once you've watched that movie or TV show and moved on, it may drop back into relative obscurity, reducing your chances of remembering and paying that recommendation forward many months later. You may also have watched something, hated it and want to make sure it doesn't impact future recommendations. Luckily, many streaming services keep a running list of the things you've watched (if they haven't been removed from the catalog due to licensing agreements). Here's how to find them.

Netflix

Engadget

Finding your viewing history on Netflix is a simple affair. Visit Netflix.com, ensure you're logged in and then hover over your profile name. Select Your Account from the menu. Now, scroll down to the bottom and select Viewing Activity. You should now be presented with a list of everything you've streamed on your account.

Alternatively, you can click here.

While you're there, you can decide how your history impacts Netflix recommendations. Clicking the X next to a title will ensure it's deleted from your Recently Watched or Continue Watching row, but it will also ensure that Netflix doesn't use a moment of streaming weakness against you. Once it has been removed, it won't appear in your list until you watch it again.

Apple TV+

Engadget

Apple's catalog of streaming originals might not be as broad as, say, Netflix or Disney+, but the iPhone-maker has a very comprehensive movie and TV store that can help fill the gaps. 

If you're looking to see what you've recently watched on either Apple TV+ or inside Apple's TV app generally, the company does provide a way to see your viewing history, but it's hidden away right at the bottom of the TV app itself.

Simply open the TV app on a Mac or iOS device and keep scrolling to the very bottom of the Watch Now tab. There, you'll see a small selection of your most recently viewed content. Select the 'See All' link to view everything you've ever watched on Apple TV (this may also include movies and TV shows from third-party apps you have installed on your Apple TV streamer.)

Unfortunately, Apple doesn't offer a dedicated 'Recently Watched' section in the TV+ web UI, opting instead for an 'Up Next' section. You can, however, clear what you have watched by heading to Settings and selecting Clear Play History. Alternatively, click here.

You can also remove individual movies and TV episodes from your Recently Watched list by long-pressing on the thumbnail of the content you wish to remove and selecting 'Remove from Recently Watched.' Perfect, if you've viewed something you told your significant other you'd wait for them to watch together.

Disney+

Engadget

Disney+ may now be over two years old, but it's not quite yet caught up with the likes of Netflix and Amazon when it comes to features. Sadly, that means you can't currently see your viewing history on Disney+.

Like many of its rivals, Disney does offer a Continue Watching section, which may help surface movies or TV shows that you may have stopped viewing just as the credits began to roll. 

If it's something you feel very strongly about, you can head to the Disney+ website and hit the Give Feedback button at the bottom to, very politely, request that they add the feature.

Hulu

Engadget

If you're a Disney+ subscriber in the US, there's a chance that you may have signed up for the Disney Bundle to get subscriptions to Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu for a discounted price. Unlike Disney+, however, Hulu does allow you to properly maintain your watch history both inside its apps and on the web. 

It may not be immediately obvious, but Hulu keeps your viewing history inside the Keep Watching section, from which you can browse the movies and TV shows you've already streamed. To make things confusing, you cannot see the individual episodes of a show you've already watched in the Keep Watching section, so you'll need to select the Details page of a particular series and add it to My Stuff. This will also let you see how many unwatched episodes you've got left to stream.

To remove content, navigate to the Keep Watching page and click on the X to purge it from your watch history. On mobile, tap the three dots on the thumbnail of the selected show or movie and hit Remove from Watch History.

HBO Max

Engadget

As it stands, HBO Max doesn't offer a way to see everything you've watched. It does, however, automatically add movies and TV series that you haven't finished watching to its Continue Watching row on the home screen of the service. 

To remove a movie or show from your Continue Watching listing in your app or on the web, tap on your profile icon, then Continue Watching, and then Edit. Then, simply tap the X next to an individual item or Clear All to remove everything. When you're finished, hit Done.

Amazon Prime Video

Engadget

Unlike Netflix, Amazon doesn't make it easy to see what you've previously watched. In fact, it buries its listing inside a number of links that you wouldn't otherwise check.

If you want to go the manual route, ensure you're logged in on the Amazon website and click the Your Account link on the top bar. On the resulting page, scroll down to Personalization and click Improve Your Recommendations. Now, on the left menu, click Videos You've Watched.

The quicker method is to click here if you live in the US or here if you live in the UK.

Here, you can rate a TV show or movie so that Amazon can better understand your likes and dislikes or exclude that listing entirely. If you've found that both Netflix and Amazon have done a poor job of matching content to your interests, this is a good way to provide it with more insight.

Peacock

Engadget

Peacock doesn't currently provide a way to see everything you've streamed on its service. It does, however, offer a Continue Watching section that will list all of the movies and TV shows that you have started but may not have completely finished. 

Paramount+

Engadget

Paramount+ also doesn't currently provide a way to see everything you've watched. There is a Keep Watching section, though, that lists all of the movies and TV shows that you have started but may not have completely finished.

The best gifts for grads under $50

Gifting can be difficult at any time, but it’s been particularly hard over the past couple of years. You may still be working with a tight budget, but you also want to give that grad in your life something that can help make the transition to post-school life a bit easier (and more fun). The tech gifts that come to mind immediately — iPhones, smartwatches, game consoles and the like — are not exactly budget-friendly. But there are handy gadgets out there that won’t drain your wallet completely. Here’s Engadget’s list of the best tech gifts under $50 for new graduates.

Anker Nano Pro 20W

Anker

Anker’s latest 20W charger will be a handy gift for any grad. More often than not, the new gadgets we buy today don’t come with AC adapters, so having an extra on hand can’t hurt. The Nano Pro can fast-charge the latest iPhones to 50 percent in only 25 minutes, plus it’s smaller than Apple’s own 20W adapter. It also has advanced features like a Dynamic Temperature Sensor, which keeps the charger from overheating, and a power tuner chip, which adjusts power output depending on the connected device. It may not be the trendiest graduation gift, but it’s one that your grad will likely take with them to work, on vacations and elsewhere.

Buy Nano Pro 20W at Amazon - $20

Google Chromecast with Google TV

Google

Whether they’re still mooching off their parents’ subscriptions, or have finally sprung for their own Netflix account a streaming device is a great gift for a recent grad. The latest Chromecast with Google TV makes the original Chromecast experience much better by adding a physical remote to the mix, along with the new Google TV interface. The remote makes it easier to navigate and the on-screen menus, and the software will serve up TV and movie recommendations based on subscriptions you have. The Chromecast with Google TV supports services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max and more, and it’ll stream in 4K HDR with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Plus, you can still cast even more content from your smartphone or tablet to your TV.

Buy Chromecast with Google TV at Walmart - $50

8Bitdo Pro 2

8BitDo

We’ve been fans of 8Bitdo’s affordable, multi-platform controllers for quite some time, and the new, $50 Pro 2 is no exception. You can use it with the Nintendo Switch and on Windows, macOS, Android and Raspberry Pi, and you’re able to map functions to buttons using its companion smartphone app. The Pro 2 also adds new bumper buttons under each arm, something the previous version did not have. In general, 8Bitdo’s controllers are more ergonomic than, say, relying on a keyboard and mouse when playing PC games. They’re also a dramatic improvement over the Switch’s Joy-Cons which, if we’re honest, aren’t the most comfortable controllers to use for long stretches of time. The Pro 2 charges up via USB-C, but you can also remove the battery pack and replace it with AA batteries if you know you won’t be able to charge up frequently.

Buy 8Bitdo Pro 2 at Amazon - $50

RavPower 16,750mAh portable charger

RAVPower

A portable changer is truly a gift that keeps on giving and RavPower’s 16,750mAh brick is strong enough to charge up smartphones and tablets alike. That’s enough to top off your iPhone 11 Pro Max 2.5 times or an iPad Air once. It has two iSmart output ports so you can power up two devices simultaneously, and its indicator lights will give you an idea of the brick’s remaining power level. Even with a larger-than-average capacity it’s surprisingly compact, measuring 5 x 3.15 x .9 inches, and its built-in flashlight can help you find lost items in a pinch.

Buy portable charger at RavPower - $36

2022 Tile Mate

Tile

While we often recommend AirTags to Apple users to keep track of their things, Tile’s trackers are another great option that’s more universal. Unlike AirTags, these tiny Bluetooth trackers work with Android devices as well, and are compatible with Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. Also, the latest Tile Mate has a built-in keyring hole, so your grad can unbox it, hook it onto their keys, set it up in the mobile app and get going. With a Bluetooth range of 250 feet, these trackers can help them locate their lost stuff quickly, plus they can add their contact information to the Tile – just in case someone else finds their things first. We also like the Mate’s IP67-rated design, which should protect it even when it’s exposed to the elements on rainy days.

Buy Tile Mate at Amazon - $25

Logitech Pebble

Logitech

Whether your grad will commute to their first office job or work from home, a wireless mouse is a must-have when on a computer all day. Logitech’s Pebble is a solid option because, not only can it easily disappear into a bag thanks to its slim profile, but it will also run for up to 18 months on its single AA battery. It’s not an accessory they’ll have to worry about charging up each night. We also like its ambidextrous design and its relatively quiet nature — unlike other mice, it makes little noise when you’re clicking and scrolling away. You’ll also have the option to connect it via Bluetooth or USB receiver, and there are a handful of fun colors to choose from.

Buy Logitech Pebble at Amazon - $30

Greens Steel Beast insulated tumbler

Greens Steel

It’s important for grads, busy with job applications, internships, new jobs and side hustles, to stay hydrated. Green Steel’s Beast insulated tumblers are good for hot and cold drinks, plus they’re made of 18/8 food grade steel that’s dishwasher safe and they come with metal straws and a splash-proof lid. And regardless of which size you get (20-, 30- or 40-ounce), they’ll all fit into standard sized cup holders. A 20-ounce model has been my morning companion almost every day for the past year or so and it still looks fresh. We also recommend Yeti’s Ramblers if you’re willing to drop a bit more on your grad’s new favorite mug.

Buy Greens Steel tumbler at amazon - $29

Bodum Chambord French Press

Bodum

If your grad is a coffee (or tea) lover, elevating their brewing game can make a big difference in their daily lives. Bodum’s Chambord French Press is a simple, affordable vessel that will be a step up from your standard drip coffee machine or aging teapot (while it’s marketed as a coffee maker, it could be used as a tea press instead). The container is made of borosilicate glass and you can get the frame in either plastic or stainless steel. Instead of paper filters a french press uses a plunger and mesh filter that pushes coffee grinds and tea leaves down, infusing flavor into the water above. That should save you money over time and creates less waste.

Buy Chambord French Press at Amazon - $38

Tribit XSound Go

Tribit

There are plenty of Bluetooth speakers out there, but Tribit’s XSound Go stands out for its simplicity. Measuring 6.7 x 2.2 x 2.3 inches, it’s nearly pocketable and can stay on your desk all day long while you work and then transition to a backyard party with ease. It’s IPX7 waterproof so it’ll withstand a dunk in the pool, and its 24-hour playtime lets you use it all day long without interruptions. It has good sound quality with deep, but not overpowering, bass and it includes a built-in mic with which you can take calls. Just pair it with your smartphone or tablet, choose your tunes and let the speaker do the rest of the work.

Buy Tribit XSound Go at Amazon - $48

Repel Windproof Double Vented travel umbrella

Revel

Hear us out — a good umbrella is an unexpected yet invaluable gift. Few things are worse than getting stuck in a downpour on your way to work, especially if you use public transit to get there. Repel’s windproof travel umbrella is just the right size — not too big or too small at 11.5 inches in length — and its nine reinforced fiberglass ribs prevent it from being blown inside-out easily. We also like its single-button design, allowing you to open or close it with one hand. Repel’s umbrella is one of those practical gifts that your grad will be glad to have at the most crucial times, and they’ll save money in the long run by not needing to buy a new, cheap umbrella every time the skies open up.

Buy Repel umbrella at Amazon - $32

  

The books and movies we’re gifting this year

Having somehow made it through a second year of global pandemic and political unrest, give the loved ones on your holiday shopping list the greatest gift of all: an alternative to doom-scrolling. In Engadget’s 2021 Media Gift Guide you’ll find a diverse selection of books — fiction and nonfiction alike — as well a host of streaming content suggestions that will keep their recipients entertained through the holidays and beyond. If you’ve got a book, show or movie that you think would make the perfect present, tell us all about it in the comments below!

Fiction

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

NYT bestselling author, Rebecca Roanhorse — the literary force behind Star Wars: Resistance Reborn — has done it again. Her latest fantasy series, Between Earth and Sky, takes readers on an epic journey of trauma, healing, vengeance, and eventual redemption. The first book in the series, 2020’s Black Sun, weaves a masterfully engrossing — and markedly inclusive — tale that eschews the common Arthurian Legend retellings in favor of a unique fantasy world inspired by pre-Columbian America cultures. If you’ve got a fan of fantasy on your holiday shopping list, pick up Black Sun for them before the sequel, Fevered Star, drops next April.

Buy Black Sun at Amazon - $13

Age of Madness trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

The ending of Game of Thrones was nothing short of a slap in the face to fans. I mean, really, all that and Bran wins? GTFOH. If you’ve got a fan of George “Double R” Martin on your holiday shopping list, do them a favor and turn them on to Joe Abercrombie’s Age of Madness trilogy. Set in a world in which the seeds of industrialization have just taken hold even as the age magic and mysticism stubbornly refuses to be uprooted, AoM tells a tale of mighty nations at war while the powerful elites who rule them vie for control over both their countries’ external fates and their courts’ internal politics. Packed with captivating characters, political intrigue, incredible reversals of fortune and stunning betrayals, Age of Madness is a grimdark masterpiece where everybody, for once, gets exactly what they deserve.

Buy Age of Madness trilogy at Amazon - $35

1414º by Paul Bradley Carr

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Whether we like it or not, this is Jeff Bezos’ world and the rest of us just live in it. Our current slate of 21st century techno-robber barons have achieved unfathomable wealth and unassailable power; but as Paul Bradley Carr’s latest novel, 1414º, illustrates, you can’t spend that money or wield that influence when you’re dead. If you’ve got a fan of high-tension whodunnits and techno-thrillers on your holiday shopping list, 1414º will be a surefire hit.

Buy 1414º at Amazon - $5

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Martha Wells can’t stop, won’t stop, dropping Murderbot hits. The reigning queen of hard sci-fi released Fugitive Telemetry — the sixth book in her Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Alex Award winning series — earlier this year and let me tell you from experience, it is a banger. Our self-aware SecUnit anti-hero is back in another standalone adventure, this time on the trail of a vicious murderer aboard Preservation (space) Station. If the sci-finatic on your holiday shopping lists enjoys space intrigue and robotic mysteries, you can’t go wrong with Fugitive Telemetry.

Buy Fugitive Telemetry at Amazon - $12

Undying Mercenaries series by B.V. Larson

The year is 2052 and Earth finds itself unwillingly annexed into a galactic empire it didn’t even know existed and is presented with a simple choice: provide our new alien overlords with a viable commercial product or face extermination. Thus, Earth’s mercenary legions are born. Armed with alien-made weaponry and a mysterious technology that allows soldiers to be reconstructed after being killed in battle — like reloading from a previous save point but far more gooey — Earth’s legions set out across the stars to fight the wars that the galaxy’s elder races are too self-important to fight themselves. Already 16 books deep, author B.V. Larson continues to lead the genre of military sci-fi from the front, so if you’ve got a fan of Starship Troopers, Aliens-style space marines, or Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow on your holiday shopping list, congrats! You can cross them off now.

Buy Undying Mercenaries series (16 books) at Amazon - $110

Nonfiction

JGalione via Getty Images

Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond by Ashley Jean Yeager

Far from a household name, astronomer Vera Rubin’s pioneering research helped convince the scientific community of the possibility that dark matter — the mysterious materials that make up a vast majority of the universe but cannot be observed — actually exists. In Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond (not to be confused with Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, a collection of Rubin’s own essays), author Ashley Jean Yeager takes readers on an inspiring biographical journey through the astronomer’s early year before examining the challenges she faced working in an often hostile, male-dominated field, and her eventual vindication and professional triumphs — looking at you Vera C. Rubin Observatory. If you’ve got a younger someone on your holiday shopping list who’s interested in pursuing STEM, this could well be the book that puts them on a path towards scientific greatness.

Buy Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond at Amazon - $15

N-4 Down by Mark Piesing

During the Zeppelin’s heyday, airships weren't just a means of the well-to-do to slowly get to distant destinations in comfort and luxury, they also offered a new means of (albeit pokey) exploration. N-4 Down by Mark Piesing takes readers on a thrilling, nail-biting adventure of the largest arctic rescue operation in history as famed Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, rushed to save the surviving crew of the airship Italia, which crashed during its attempt to land men at the North Pole in 1928. The history and aeronautical buffs on your holiday shopping list are going to absolutely love it.

Buy N-4 Down at Amazon - $15

Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert

For the last 10,000 years, humanity has had an unprecedented and largely destructive impact on the environment around us. But as climate change increasingly wreaks its own havoc on us in return, humanity must now work to reverse or at least mitigate the harm that we have caused. In Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert examines just what we can do to make things right with Mother Earth and avoid a catastrophic climate crisis.

Buy Under a White Sky at Amazon - $13

The Quiet Zone by Stephen Kurczy

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Green Bank, West Virginia is, technologically speaking, stuck in the 1950s. And for good reason! This bucolic Appalachian town is home to the ultra-sensitive radio telescope at the Green Bank observatory, which necessitates that basically every device that can emit a radio signal — everything from iPads to microwaves — be heavily restricted. In The Quiet Zone, journalist and author Stephen Kurczy, embeds himself in Green Bank to give readers a firsthand look at what life could be like without our precious digital tech. The Quiet Zone is the perfect gift for the aspiring luddite on your holiday shopping list.

Buy The Quiet Zone at Amazon - $13

Streaming

thianchai sitthikongsak via Getty Images

Given the myriad COVID-induced supply chain challenges that retailers are girding for this upcoming holiday season, finding physical copies of these titles could prove to be a bit of a challenge. So, perhaps consider gifting the book worms on your holiday shopping list the Kindle Paperwhite and a subscription to Amazon Kindle Unlimited? Virtually every one of the books listed above are available on the digital service along with millions of others as well as magazines and periodicals.

But there’s only so much one can read during those long winter nights so why not curl up on the couch with a nice cup of hot cocoa and watch some sterling examples of our new Golden Age of Television? If you’ve got a Trekkie on your holiday shopping list, you really can’t go wrong with a subscription to Paramount+. The $5 - $10 a month service unlocks a plethora of Star Trek shows including the Emmy award-winning Picard and the hilarious Lower Decks.

For the cinephile on your list, assuming you can’t get your hands on the upcoming Criterion 4K collections, an HBO Max subscription works just as well. For $10 a month, you’ll give the gift of a massive movie selection as well as popular weekly news and interview series like Pause with Sam Jay and This Week Tonight with John Oliver, not to mention incredible documentaries like Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street.

Got someone with small children on your gift list? Throw them a bone with a Disney+ subscription. The service hosts nearly the entirety of Disney’s massive, decades-deep archives along with new family-friendly series and episodes arriving daily.

The best digital gifts to send your friends and family

In a world where so much of our lives revolve around digital services, giving someone a virtual gift no longer has a stigma attached to it. For gadget-lovers who seemingly have everything, or someone getting an exciting new piece of hardware this holiday, digital gifts can help them get even more out of things they own and love. This year, we’re including time-tested music and TV streaming services, some game subscriptions and practical options like learning services to keep your brain both calm and limber just as the new year gets here.

Apple One

Apple

If you know someone with multiple Apple devices, chances are good they’re already paying for a little bit of iCloud storage, and maybe a few other Apple services like Music or Arcade as well. If that’s the case, consider gifting them an Apple One subscription. In a single monthly charge, Apple offers a combo of Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and either 50GB, 200GB, or 2TB of iCloud storage. If you spring for the $19.95 Family plan, that 200GB can be shared with five other family members. The $29.95 plan adds subscriptions to Apple News+ and Apple Fitness+ too. At this point, all of Apple’s offerings are pretty good – Arcade has a load of fun games with no ads, TV+ has Ted Lasso, and Music is second only to Spotify in the streaming world.

Buy Apple One starting at $15

Xbox Game Pass

Microsoft

Getting an Xbox Series X or Series S this holiday season is likely going to be difficult. But if you know someone who managed to get their hands on Microsoft's latest console, Xbox Game Pass is an outstanding addition to their new console. A $15/month subscription offers more than 100 games that can be played on the Xbox or PC, and they can be streamed to phones and tablets as well.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also includes a number of other perks, including Xbox Live Gold. That's usually $10 a month on its own, and it's a requirement if you want to play games online. It also includes EA Play, which opens up access to more games for the Xbox and PC. Perhaps the best part of Xbox Game Pass, though, is that it offers access to first-party Xbox Game Studios titles the day they're released, so you don't even have to purchase them. For an Xbox owner, it's a no-brainer. If the person you’re shopping for is a PlayStation owner, PlayStation Now offers access to hundreds of streaming games for $60/year (or $10/month), while Nintendo’s Switch Online unlocks online play and a large selection of NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis and N64 games for $50/year.

Buy Xbox Game Pass at Microsoft - $15/monthBuy PS Now (12 months) at Amazon - $60Buy Switch Online (12 months) at Amazon - $20

YouTube Premium

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / YouTube

There's something for everyone on YouTube — and there are also enough ads to make watching it pretty painful. Shrewdly, YouTube offers a solution. A $12/month subscription removes the ads, but there are a number of other benefits as well. If you're watching on a phone or tablet, you can download basically any video and save it for offline playback. Videos also can play in the background, which means you can switch to other apps without stopping. This comes in handy for picture-in-picture, or if you just want to hear the audio while you switch away to send a text message.

Premium also comes with a subscription to YouTube Music, the company's competitor to Spotify and Apple Music. It's a pretty solid service, and it does a few things that Apple and Spotify can't offer. For example, all of YouTube's music video content lives alongside its standard streaming catalog, which means users can build playlists that combine videos uploaded to YouTube alongside official artist releases. For $12, the combination of a better YouTube experience and a full-fledged music streaming app is a pretty good deal.

Buy YouTube Premium - $12/month

The Disney Bundle

Disney

Disney's $14/month video bundle that includes Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu is a great digital gift for basically anyone who likes good entertainment. The appeal of Disney+ is well-known at this point: it includes basically all of Disney and Pixar's classic animated films, alongside basically everything in the Marvel cinematic universe, the entire Star Wars saga, and new original shows like WandaVision, The Mandalorian, The Bad Batch and more.

Hulu offers a vast slate of current and classic TV shows, a solid rotating selection of feature films, and a growing roster of originals. Those include The Handmaid's Tale, Little Fires Everywhere, Veronica Mars, Shrill, Pen15 and plenty more. ESPN+, meanwhile, offers a host of live sports, including MLB games every day of the season, a wide variety of soccer leagues, golf, tennis and college games across multiple sports. Add in ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary library and a smattering of originals and the Disney bundle ends up being a great option for almost anyone — and it’s only $6 more than Disney+ on its own.

Buy Disney Bundle - $14/month

HBO Max

HBO Max

HBO Max might not have the best app we've ever used, but it does have one of the biggest and best video libraries you can find. Its collection of original shows and films is still unrivaled in a lot of ways, from classics like The Wire and The Sopranos to newer hits like Mare of Easttown and Succession. The service also has a huge movie library, and lately it’s offered a number of movies at the same time as their theatrical release. For example, The Matrix Resurrections is going to hit HBO Max just a few days before Christmas and will stream there for a month. Speaking of new HBO content, Curb your Enthusiasm is coming back to HBO for an 11th season this fall. And if you're a DC fan, HBO Max has all of the classic Batman movies (including the Dark Knight Trilogy and Michael Keaton's two films) as well as more recent films like Aquaman, Wonder Woman and, of course, the infamous Synder Cut of Justice League. Oh yeah, it has Friends, too.

Buy HBO Max starting at $10/month

Headspace

Headspace

Chances are good that, after the year we've all had, you know someone whose mental health could use a little bit of a boost. The Headspace app is a great option for adding some peace and quiet to the day. It features a wide variety of guided meditations, including sessions for beginners as well as specific exercises that focus on reducing anxiety, learning breathing techniques, increasing your compassion and so on. It also has sleep tools like soothing music and "sleepcasts,” while other audio programs center on focusing, moving more, and starting your day. For $13/month or $70/year, Headspace can be a great tool to bring someone much-needed peace of mind.

Buy Headspace - $13/month

Endel premium subscription

Endel

Endel is a unique app in the focus and mental wellness space. In a nutshell, it plays algorithmically-generated soundscapes for a variety of different scenarios. Whether you're actively on-the-go, want to get some work done, need to relax, or get some sleep, Endel will produce a soundtrack to help you achieve your goal.

If you give it permission to collect data from your phone (and Apple Watch, if you have one), it can adjust its soundscapes based on things like your heart rate, time of day, location, weather, and so on. Endel is also frequently adding scenarios — recently, the company added study and recovery, and it also has something called an AI Lullaby that was created in partnership with Grimes. At $10 per month or $60 per year, it's a solid relaxation tool, and I've also found it to be particularly useful as a soundtrack when you want to just sit down and focus on a craft, like writing or art.

Buy Endel Premium - $10/month

Codecademy

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Code Academy

If you know someone interested in making a jump into coding, or a coder looking to augment their existing knowledge, a subscription to Codecademy could be a big help. A $240 annual subscription (or $40/month) opens up a huge catalog of courses, including things like a career path for front-end engineering, learning JavaScript or Python, digging into development or data science and many other options. Along with these courses, Codecademy also connects you with a large community for support and feedback, gives you real-world projects to test your skills on and offers completion certificates. It's a bit of an investment, but helping someone you care about invest in themselves is very much in the spirit of the holidays.

Buy Codecademy - $240/year

Skillshare

Skillshare

In the same vein as Code Academy, Skillshare is a great option if you know someone who wants to jumpstart their abilities in a creative field. The service offers thousands of classes in topics like animation, creative writing, graphic design, photography, web development and music, as well as courses to improve skills like leadership and management, marketing or business analytics. A $180 annual subscription (or $32/month, each with a free month included) unlocks ad-free classes with unlimited access to everything Skillshare has to offer. The subscription also includes access to Skillshare's community and offline courses for your phone or tablet. Finally, a subscription includes some perks of its own, like 20 percent off Squarespace and 15 percent off Adobe Creative Cloud.

Buy Skillshare - $15/month

Parallels Toolbox

Parallels

Parallels Toolbox is a great gift for the tinkerer in your life. You know, the kind of person who wants to tweak and optimize everything they can on their computer, so that everything works just right. For $20/year, Parallels Toolbox offers a surprisingly wide variety of utilities for macOS and Windows, including shortcuts to see your clipboard history, capture screens shots, convert video files, download audio from websites, resize images, and and many more. Most of these things can be done using built-in utilities or other apps, but having such a wide variety of quick and useful tools right in one place can be a major productivity boon, especially for the power user in your life.

Buy Parallels Toolbox - $20/year

1Password

1Password

If you know someone who doesn't use a password manager, do them a huge favor and get them set up with 1Password this holiday season. It's one of the best options available: it works on unlimited devices and is available on pretty much any platform you can think of. Naturally, it features two-factor authentication for additional security, and gives you 365 days to restore any passwords you may have deleted. It's $36 a year for an individual, or $60 a year for a family of five. That family membership can be particularly useful if you need to share account passwords between members of a household securely. It's not the flashiest gift, but I wager that once you get someone on board, they'll wonder how they went so long without using it.

Buy 1Password - $36/year

Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Adobe

For the budding photographer in your life, Adobe’s photography plans are a natural fit. Adobe has been in this game for years, and Lightroom remains an excellent tool for managing and editing photos anywhere you are.

The company offers a few different plans: For $10/month, you can get both Lightroom and Photoshop, along with 20GB of cloud storage to sync images and edits across your devices. For the same price, you can also get Lightroom only, but with a whopping 1TB of storage. If the person you're gifting this to has been really good, you can spend $20 and get them both Photoshop and Lightroom alongside 1TB of storage, which is ideal for anyone shooting photos in RAW. The plans with Photoshop also include Photoshop for the iPad, so keep that in mind if you're getting this for someone who loves Apple's tablet.

Buy Adobe CC Photography plan starting at $10/month

The best board games to gift this holiday season

Board games are a great gift for anyone who wants to spend time with friends and family without staring at the TV. They’re interactive, fun, and you get to tell everyone to put away their phones and tablets for a while. But instead of pulling out the same old classics like Monopoly and Scrabble, we recommend giving some new titles a try. Here, we’ve compiled a list of games that you might not have heard of, but will still make excellent gifts this holiday season. Some are perfect for fantasy and video game nerds, while others are likely to be a hit with the whole family.

Trails: A Parks Game

Keymaster Games

Trails is a great little board game for anyone who loves hiking or even just the idea of it. In Trails, players hike on picturesque nature paths while gathering resources, taking pictures and encountering wildlife, earning points along the way. Whoever gets the most points wins. The art in this game is beautiful, featuring 11 national park illustrations from the Fifty-Nine Park Print series. Trails makes an especially great game for nature lovers, as a portion of every game sale is donated to the National Park Service.

Buy Trails at Target - $20

Sleeping Gods

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Red Raven Games

If your loved one is a fan of open-world video games such as Skyrim or No Man’s Sky, Sleeping Gods could well be the perfect board game for them. In this cooperative game, you and up to three friends play the part of Captain Sofi Odessa and her crew, who find themselves lost in the Wandering Sea. With a game atlas of connecting maps and a thick choose-your-own-adventure style storybook, players will have to explore the land to uncover its secrets, fight beasts, complete quests and make game-changing decisions. It all adds up to an engrossing and immersive experience sure to please anyone who loves a good story.

Buy Sleeping Gods at Amazon - $85

Marvel United

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / CMON

MCU fans will definitely appreciate it if you give them Marvel United, a game where the player and their friends have to work together to defeat the forces of evil. They can take on the role of one of seven heroes such as Captain America, Iron Man and Black Widow, each with their own unique powers and abilities. To win, players must choose their cards carefully and also collaborate with their partners to combine each other’s actions whenever possible. They’ll have to fight off henchmen, rescue civilians and, of course, take down one of three super villains: Red Skull, Ultron or Taskmaster. If X-Men is more their style, you could get them the Marvel United: X-Men version instead, where they get to play as characters like Professor X, Cyclops and Storm.

Buy Marvel United at Amazon - $35

Canvas

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Road to Infamy

Canvas is perhaps one of the prettiest board games we’ve ever seen — it’s so lovely that we almost want to hang the cover on a wall. It’s apropos because in Canvas, players are painters in an art competition. They collect art cards, layering them on top of one another to create their own unique “painting.” As they do so, certain icons will be revealed or hidden, which will determine the resulting score, depending on the objectives for that round. It might sound confusing, but Canvas is a beginner friendly game that should make a great gift for art lovers of all stripes.

Buy Canvas at Amazon - $45

Space Invaders

Buffalo Games

Space Invaders is an enjoyable dexterity game for the whole family, even for those who don’t remember playing the classic arcade title of the same name. In this game, players have to work together to defeat descending aliens plus the UFO mothership before their health runs out. But instead of smashing buttons, they’ll take turns launching battle tokens with a mini catapult, and each player has a special ability they can deploy as well. It all adds to a bunch of silly fun that anyone aged eight and up can partake in.

Buy Space Invaders at Target - $20

Summer Camp

Buffalo Games

Another excellent family game is Summer Camp, which will have your loved ones recalling fond memories of canoeing, making friendship bracelets and roasting marshmallows. In this game, players are racing against each other to earn merit badges in different categories such as adventure, arts and crafts, cooking, friendship, outdoors, games and water sports. They’ll want to buy the right cards, build the best combos and beat their opponents across the finish line to get the most points possible. It might not be as fun as actually being at summer camp, but hey, at least they won’t get eaten by mosquitos while playing.

Buy Summer Camp at Target - $25

Summoner Wars 2nd Edition

Plaid Hat Games

If your loved one isn’t new to the world of tabletop gaming, then consider giving them Summoner Wars 2nd Edition, a tactical dueling card game that pits them against a rival to see which one will reign supreme. Players take on the role of powerful summoners that each control a large army of units in the form of cards, which are then placed in a head-to-head board. They also choose one of six different factions, each with unique attacks and moves. Some wield dark magic that can drain enemies, while others utilize brute strength to force their way through. If they’re really into combat games with a lot of tactics and strategy, Summoner Wars would make a thoughtful gift. The only downside is that you'll have to gift this a bit late as it comes out on January 12, 2022.

Buy Summoner Wars at Amazon - $49

Wrath of the Lich King: A Pandemic System Board Game

Z-Man Games

For those who are really into World of Warcraft but might not have a lot of board gaming experience, Wrath of the Lich King: A Pandemic System Board game is the perfect introduction to the pastime. Based on a WoW expansion of the same name, players will take on the roles of legendary characters such as Thrall, Varian Wrynn, Sylvanas Windrunner, Tirian Fordring and Jaina Proudmoore, all of which will be familiar to anyone who’s ever played WoW. They’ll travel around the frozen continent of Northrend, completing quests and setting up strongholds in order to defeat armies of the undead and, eventually, the Lich King himself.

Why the long name? Well, the game utilizes similar mechanics found in Pandemic, a much beloved board game about eradicating the world of diseases. Those who are already familiar with Pandemic should be able to learn the game quite easily as a result, though Wrath of the Lich King has enough differences that it won’t feel like the same thing.

Buy Wrath of the Lich King at Target - $60

Cuphead: Fast Rolling Dice Game

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Cuphead

One of the most popular video games in 2017 was Cuphead, a run-and-gun style video game that features a hand-drawn 1930s art style. If you know someone who loved it when it came out, they might be interested in this card and dice version of the same game. Players play as Cuphead, Mugman, Elder Kettle or Ms. Chalice, and will attempt to defeat a gauntlet of bosses by rolling dice. Players can roll the dice as many times as they want per round, but there’s one problem: the time limit. It all adds up to a chaotic experience that really emulates the insane adrenaline rush of the original video game.

Buy Cuphead at The Op - $50

How to buy a monitor in 2021

With the COVID pandemic still upon us, a monitor is one of the most important computer buying decisions you can make. Luckily, there’s never been more choice, and we’ve seen vast improvements in color accuracy, size and resolution since our last update.

It’s great to have lots of choice, but it can also make your buying decision a challenge. For example, do you need HDR, and if so, how bright should your monitor be? How important is color accuracy, refresh rates and input lag? What size do you need? Should it be curved or straight?

Luckily, we’ve done the research and can help you figure all that out depending on your specific needs and, most importantly, budget. Read on to see exactly what to look for in a monitor and which makes and models to choose.

The basics

Screen size, resolution and display format

In this day and age, screen size rules. Where 24-inch displays used to be more or less standard (and can still be useful for basic computing), 27-, 32-, 34- and even 42-inch displays have become popular for entertainment, content creation and even gaming these days.

Nearly every monitor used to be 16:9, but it’s now possible to find 16:10 and other more exotic display shapes. On the gaming and entertainment side, we’re also seeing very wide and curved monitors with aspect ratios like 21:9. If you do decide to buy an ultrawide display, however, keep in mind that a 30-inch 21:9 model is the same height as a 24-inch monitor, so you might end up with a smaller display than you expected. As a rule of thumb, add 25 percent to the size of a 21:9 monitor to get the size you need.

4K is nearly a must for content creators, and some folks are even going for 5K or all the way up to 8K. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll need a pretty powerful computer to drive all those pixels. And 4K should be paired with a screen size of 27 inches and up, or you won’t notice much difference between 1440p. At the same time, I wouldn’t get a model larger than 27 inches unless it’s 4K, as you’ll start to see pixelation if you’re working up close to the display.

One new category to consider is portable monitors designed to be carried and used with laptops. Those typically come in 1080p resolutions and sizes from 13-15 inches. They usually have a lightweight kickstand-type support that folds up to keep things compact.  

HDR

HDR is the buzzy monitor feature to have these days, but be careful before jumping in. Some monitors that claim HDR on the marketing materials don’t even conform to a base standard. To be sure that a display at least meets minimum HDR specs, you’ll want to choose one with a DisplayHDR rating with each tier representing maximum brightness in nits.

However, the lowest DisplayHDR 400 and 500 tiers may disappoint you with a lack of brightness, washed out blacks and mediocre color reproduction.If you can afford it, choose a model with DisplayHDR 600, 1000 or True Black 400, True Black 500 and True Black 600. The True Black settings are designed primarily for OLED models, with maximum black levels at .0005 nits.

Where televisions typically offer HDR10 and Dolby Vision or HDR10+, most PC monitors only support the HDR10 standard, other than a few (very expensive) models. That doesn’t matter much for content creation or gaming, but HDR streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other services won’t look quite as punchy. 

Refresh rate

Refresh rate is a key feature, particularly on gaming monitors. A bare minimum nowadays is 60Hz, and 80Hz refresh rates and up are much easier on the eyes. However, most 4K displays top out at 60Hz with some rare exceptions and the HDMI 2.0 spec only supports 4K at 60Hz, so you’d need at least DisplayPort 1.4 (4K at 120Hz) or HDMI 2.1. The latter is now available on a number of monitors, particularly gaming displays. However, it’s only supported on the latest NVIDIA RTX 3000- and AMD RX 6000-series GPUs and requires a very powerful PC.

Inputs

There are essentially three types of modern display inputs: Thunderbolt, DisplayPort and HDMI. Most monitors built for PCs come with the latter two, while a select few (typically built for Macs) will use Thunderbolt. To add to the confusion, USB-C ports may be Thunderbolt 3 and by extension, DisplayPort compatible, so you may need a USB-C to Thunderbolt or DisplayPort cable adapter depending on your display.

Panel type

The cheapest monitors are still TN (twisted nematic), which are strictly for gaming or office use. VA (vertical alignment) monitors are also relatively cheap, while offering good brightness and high contrast ratios. However, content creators will probably want an IPS (in-plane switching) LCD display that delivers better color accuracy, image quality and viewing angles.

If maximum brightness is important, a quantum dot LCD display is the way to go — those are typically found in larger displays. OLED monitors are now available and offer the best blacks and color reproduction, but they lack the brightness of LED or quantum dot displays. Plus, they cost a lot.

The new panel on the block is MiniLED. It’s similar to quantum dot tech, but as the name suggests, it uses smaller LED diodes that are just 0.2mm in diameter. As such, manufacturers can pack in up to three times more LEDs with more local dimming zones, delivering deeper blacks and better contrast. 

Color bit depth

Serious content content creators should consider a more costly 10-bit monitor that can display billions of colors. If budget is an issue, you can go for an 8-bit panel that can fake billions of colors via dithering (often spec’d as “8-bit + FRC”). For entertainment or business purposes, a regular 8-bit monitor that can display millions of colors will be fine.

Color gamut

The other aspect of color is the gamut. That expresses the range of colors that can be reproduced and not just the number of colors. Most good monitors these days can cover the sRGB and Rec.709 gamuts (designed for photos and video respectively). For more demanding work, though, you’ll want one that can reproduce more demanding modern gamuts like AdobeRGB, DCI-P3 and Rec.2020 gamuts, which encompass a wider range of colors. The latter two are often used for film projection and HDR, respectively. 

Engadget picks

Best monitor around $200

Acer KG241Q

Acer

Whether you need a monitor for gaming, entertainment or work, Acer’s 24-inch KG241Q offers a lot of value. Resolution is limited to 1080p, but it delivers a 144Hz refresh rate and comes with AMD FreeSync support. Other features include a 1-millisecond lag time, 300 nits of brightness, HDMI and DisplayPort inputs and a tilting stand. The downsides are tricky access to the ports and a TN display that looks dim at an angle, but it’s a heck of a steal right now at $155.

Buy 24-inch Acer KG241Q at B&H Photo - $180


Best monitors around $300

ASUS ProArt PA278QV

ASUS

Moving your budget up by just $100 opens up a whole lot more options. A case in point is our pick for content creation chores, the ASUS ProArt PA278QV. You get a larger 27-inch size, increased 2,560 x 1,440 resolution and a superior IPS panel. As with other ProArt models, the PA278QV is designed specifically for photo and video editing, with a 100 percent Rec.709 gamut, Calman verified color accuracy and ProArt presets and palettes for different kinds of work. It also offers DisplayPort and HDMI ports and tilt, swivel, pivot and height adjustments. That’s a lot of monitor for a current street price of $315.

Buy 27-inch ASUS ProArt PA278QV at B&H - $319

Dell S2522HG

Dell

There are numerous decent gaming monitors around $300, but we’ve managed to narrow it down to one: Dell’s S2522HG. For a monitor in this price range, you get a lot: a 24.5-inch IPS 1080p display with a 240Hz refresh rate, 400 nits of brightness, 1-millisecond response time and AMD Free-Sync and NVIDIA G-Sync compatibility. It comes with HDMI, DisplayPort and SuperSpeed USB 3.2 Gen1 inputs, along with a stand that allows for height adjustment, tilt, swivel and pivot. You can pick one up now at Amazon for $320.

Buy 24-inch Dell S2522HG at Amazon - $320


Best monitor around $400

LG 27UK500

LG

LG’s 27UK500 is a nice all around monitor that can cover gaming, entertainment and some content creation. The 27-inch 4K IPS display covers 98 percent of the sRGB gamut and supports HDR10 with 10-bit color, though it only outputs 300 nits of brightness so it isn’t DisplayHDR certified. If you like 4K gaming, it can handle that decently thanks to AMD FreeSync support, a 60 Hz refresh rate and a 5-millisecond response time. The downsides are a tilt only stand, but it’s very well priced at just $347. 

Buy 27-inch LG 27UK500 at B&H - $347


Best monitors around $500

BenQ PD2700U

BenQ

For creatives, the BenQ PD2700U pushes all the right buttons. The 27-inch 4K IPS panel delivers 10-bit HDR color and covers 100 percent of the sRGB gamut with Calman verified Delta E color accuracy less than 3. It’s also a fine choice for entertainment and gaming with 350 nits of brightness, a 1300:1 contrast ratio, viewing angle of 178 degrees and a 5-millisecond response time. It has tilt, swivel, pivot and height adjustment and most of the ports you need, including HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4. You can pick one up now at B&H for $500.

Buy 27-inch BenQ PD2700U at B&H Photo - $500

Acer Nitro XV252Q

Acer

Acer’s Nitro XV252Q is the only gaming monitor under $500 that supports 360 Hz refresh rates, but there’s more to it than just that. The 24.5-inch HD display outputs 400 nits of brightness, so it’s DisplayHDR 400 certified for HDR games and movies. It also comes with AMD FreeSync compatibility, a 99 percent sRGB color gamut and DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.0 connections. You can tilt, swivel, pivot and adjust the height by up to 4.7 inches, and it looks pretty snazzy, with very slim side and top bezels.

Buy 25-inch Acer Nitro XV252Q at Amazon - $500


Best monitors under $700

Dell UltraSharp 27 U2720Q

Dell

Dell’s 27-inch, 4K U2720Q IPS monitor offers 4K HDR performance for a decent price. It conforms to the DisplayHDR 400 spec while offering 10-bits of color and 99 percent sRGB coverage, with a Delta E color accuracy of less than two out of the box. So this is a good monitor for HDR movies and doing some graphics chores, particularly HDR video work — all for under $700.

Buy 27-inch UltraSharp U2720Q at Dell - $580

Acer Predator XB273K

Acer

Though it’s marketed as a gaming monitor thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate, 1-millisecond response time and G-Sync support, Acer’s 4K quantum dot Predator XB273K is really a jack of all trades. It’s also DisplayHDR 400 compatible, covers 90 percent of the challenging DCI-P3 color gamut and offers a Delta<1 color accuracy. You also get tilt and height adjustments, HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 ports and pivot and height adjustment.

Buy 27-inch Acer Predator XB273K at Amazon - $621


Best monitor for Mac users

LG Ultrafine 4K and 5K

LG

Apple’s $5,000 Pro Display XDR is much too rich for most of us, so the next most logical option is LG’s $1,300 Ultrafine 5K display, also sold on Apple’s Store. With a 27-inch 5K panel, you not only get very high resolution but also 500 nits of brightness (albeit, without HDR capability). It’s color-accurate out of the box, making it great for video- and photo-editing work on a Mac or MacBook. Finally, it supports Thunderbolt 3 with daisy chaining and power delivery, all of which is very useful for Mac users.

If that model is too much, you can also consider LG’s 24-inch Ultrafine 4K. For nearly half the price ($700), it offers many of the same features (including the powered and daisy-chained Thunderbolt ports, color accuracy and more) in a smaller size and with just a bit less resolution.

Buy LG Ultrafine 5K at Apple - $1,300Buy LG Ultrafine 4K at Apple - $700

Best ultrawide monitor

MSI Optix MPG341CQR

MSI

Ultrawide 21:9 monitors are a great option for some types of content creation, flight sims and financial work. The best model this year (with perhaps the worst name) is MSI’s Optix MPG341CQR. With an 1800R curve and 3,440 x 1,440 resolution it’s ideal for gaming, with the 120Hz refresh rate, 1-millisecond response time and HDR 400 also helping in that regard. It also offers a frameless design, tilt, swivel and height adjustment and HDMI 2.0/DisplayPort 1.4 ports. It also has an LED strip that provides helpful cues for in-game status like remaining health or ammo, too.

Buy 43-inch MSI Optix MPG341CQR at Amazon - $645

Best portable monitor

ViewSonic VG1655

ViewSonic

To best complement your laptop, a portable monitor should be small, lightweight and not too expensive. The model that best meets all those requirements is ViewSonic’s VG1655. At 15.6 inches and weighing under 2 pounds, the 1080p 60 Hz IPS display can be toted around fairly easily but still provide crisp, clear visuals. It’s also reasonably bright at 250 nits, comes in standard and touch version, packs dual speakers and has a built-in stand with a cover.

Buy 15-inch ViewSonic VG1655 at Amazon - $250

Best HDMI 2.1 monitor

Acer Nitro XV282K

Acer

If you’re gaming on the bleeding edge at 4K and 120Hz, you’ll first need either a fast PC or PS5/Xbox Series X console. If you’ve got that and would prefer to use a monitor rather than a TV, your best bet will soon be Acer's Nitro XV282K display. Along with 4K resolution at up to 144Hz, it offers a 1-millisecond refresh rate, 10-bit color and 400 nits (DisplayHDR 400 compatible) of brightness. It comes, of course, with an HDMI 2.1 input, along with DisplayPort 1.4. It’s not yet available, but should arrive soon for $900.

Pre-order 28-inch Acer Nitro XV282K at B&H - $899

Best luxury monitor

ASUS ProArt PA32UCG-K

ASUS

ASUS still holds the prize for best luxury monitor, but it discontinued the previous mini-LED $4,000 ProArt PA32UCX monitor and replaced it with the $5,000 PA32UCG-K display. It uses the same mini-LED tech, but ups the ante with 1,600 nits of brightness, an HDMI 2.1 port, 4K 120Hz resolution, 10-bit, 98 percent DCI-P3 coverage and an impressive 85 percent Rec.2020 coverage. Oh, and it’s one of the few monitors out there that supports Dolby Vision, along with HDR10 and HLG.

You’re probably doing it wrong if you’re using a $5K monitor for gaming. However, it does support AMD FreeSync (good for gaming creation) and has a 5-millisecond response time, very respectable for a display essentially designed for professional colorists. And to that end, color accuracy is calibrated to Delta E < 1 and it’s a true 10-bit panel delivering billions of colors.

Buy 32-inch ASUS ProArt PA32UCG-K at B&H - $4,999

Best 8K display

Dell UltraSharp 32 UP3218K

Dell

Faster than we think, 8K video will be upon us, so you might be pondering an 8K monitor to stay ahead of the curve. Dell’s UP3218K is part of its UltraSharp lineup for creators, so it not only delivers 8K (7,680 x 4,320) 60p resolution but other nice pro features, too.

The 10-bit native IPS panel delivers 400 nits of brightness, though the UP3218K isn’t an HDR monitor. It also delivers 1.07 billion colors and covers 98 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut, with a Delta E of less than two out of the box. It’s also one of the few monitors that flips around 90 degrees, making it good for portrait photo work.

This monitor isn’t cheap either at $3,500 (8K monitors are still very rare), but Dell’s UP3216Q 4K monitor has most of the features for less than half the price. It’s not quite as bright at 350 nits and covers just 87 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut, but it offers 1.07 billion colors and is just as precise for color correction out of the box.

Buy 32-inch UltraSharp UP3218K at Dell - $3,755

Netflix becomes your personal trainer with its new DIY device

Working out can be tough, but inversely, watching Netflix is super easy. The streaming giant doesn't want to distract you from your fitness goals, though. Netflix would much rather be your workout buddy, which is why it posted instructions for making a DIY personal trainer gadget.

Source: Netflix