This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.
A lot of people are on a fairly tight budget when it comes to gift buying. But some folks aren’t, which does open you to a wider range of options and gets you into more premium territory, especially when it comes to mobile and gaming products. Whether you’re shopping for the holidays, a special occasion or just because, these are some of the best gifts in the $200 to $500 price range.
It’s worth noting that last year it was hard to find game consoles such as the PS5 ($400 to $500) and Xbox Series X ($500) and Series S ($300) in stock. And while you still may have to go on a waitlist for the PS5, Sony and Microsoft’s consoles are easier to come by these days and do make great gifts.
When you have a product that a lot of people love, change can be risky. Such is the case for Sony’s WH-1000XM5, the fifth generation of the 1000X series headphones, which were first released in 2016 as the MDR-1000X Wireless and have become increasingly popular as they’ve improved with each generation. Over the years, Sony has made some tweaks to the design, but nothing as dramatic as what it’s done with the WH-1000XM5. Other than the higher $400 price tag ($50 more than the WH-1000XM4), most of those changes are good, and Sony’s made some dramatic improvements with voice-calling performance as well as even better noise canceling and more refined sound.
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Released in 2021, the PartyBox 110 packs some serious punch and delivers bigger sound than many portable boombox speakers, including JBL’s own Boombox 3. There’s an integrated handle for toting the speaker, but the PartyBox 110 is pretty hefty, weighing in at 23 pounds and measuring slightly more than 22 inches tall. You can stand this Bluetooth boom box up vertically as shown in the picture above or place it horizontally, as it has rubber feet on both sides of the speaker.
It’s rated for up to 12 hours of playback time at moderate volume levels and has a redesigned light show that syncs to the beat of your music (you can customize the light show from the speaker itself or use the JBL PartyBox companion app).
The speaker has Bluetooth or a wired USB connection and there are guitar and mic inputs. It’s also worth noting that the speaker is IPX4 splash-proof and you can wirelessly link two PartyBox 110 speakers together for stereo sound.
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The price for Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 has gone up in the last year — it used to start at $300 for the 128GB version but now it costs $400, with the 256GB version now going for $500. While it’s not quite the bargain it used to be, it’s still the best affordable cord-free VR headset and a lot of fun to play with a large collection of impressive games.
Meta is expected to release a higher-end “pro” model that will certainly be better but will also cost a lot more.
Sonos’ new entry-level soundbar features the company’s excellent multiroom music system onboard. A two-channel soundbar with Dolby Digital decoding, it’s roughly two-thirds the size of the also excellent Sonos Beam (gen 2) but delivers a surprisingly wide soundstage through the use of proprietary waveguides.
While it doesn’t support Dolby Atmos surround sound or have an HDMI port to connect to your TV (you connect it to your TV with an included optical cable), we were impressed with the sound quality for music and movies. You can pair it with a couple of other Sonos speakers like the Sonos One to create a surround sound system.
Amazon has announced a large-format 10.2-inch E Ink e-reader that includes a stylus. One might say it is the spiritual successor to the defunct Kindle DX, which had a 9.7-inch screen. It’s available now for preorder for $340 with a standard stylus or $370 with a premium stylus and will “arrive before the holidays,” Amazon says, with a tentative release day of Nov. 30.
A handful of competing stylus-equipped touchscreen E Ink e-readers that double as digital notepads are available from other companies, including Kobo and ReMarkable. But the Kindle Scribe is the only front-lit 10.2-inch e-reader with a high-resolution 300 ppi (pixels per inch) E ink display.
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The ninth generation of Apple’s entry-level iPad came out last fall with an updated A13 Bionic chip processor that gives it a nice performance boost (a keyboard or case is not included). While prices start at $299 for 64GB of storage, it jumps to $479 for the 256GB version, so look for special offers as this iPad often gets the flash-deal treatment.
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Bose’s second-generation QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are not only about 30% smaller than their predecessors, but their case is about 40% smaller and truly pocketable. They feature best-in-class noise canceling and improved sound, thanks to Bose’s new CustomTune sound calibration system that customizes the sound for your ears. Voice-calling performance is also significantly better than that of the original QuietComfort Earbuds.
The other big change is to the ear tips. Bose has ditched its one-piece StayEar wing tips for a two-piece Fit Kit system that features separate ear tips and “stability bands” in three size options, giving you more flexibility to get a secure fit and tight seal.
The buds initially ship in the Triple Black Color with the Sandstone color to follow later in the year. They’re IPX4 splash-proof and suitable for sporting activities.
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The Theragun Prime is part of the fourth generation of Theragun massage guns. Its prior equivalent was the Theragun Liv, which is reviewed in-depth here.
Like the high-end Theragun Pro ($599), the Theragun Prime’s main impressive feature is that it’s much quieter than its now-retired predecessor. In fact, the Prime rivals the famously quiet Hypervolt Plus in terms of volume level — that’s a massive improvement from the Liv.
The improvements don’t stop there, though: Where the Theragun Liv only had two preprogrammed speeds and came with two closed-cell foam attachments, the Theragun Prime has five built-in speeds (from 1,750 rpm to 2,400 rpm) and comes with five closed-cell foam attachments.
No, you can’t get a truly high-performance TV for less than $500, but with TCL’s 55-inch 55S535 you can get a great gift with a nice size screen, very solid 4K picture quality and the best streaming system available (Roku) for less than $500. If you want under $400, TCL’s latest 4-series 4K line is also a respectable choice.
The Hypervolt Hypervolt Pro 2 is the current flagship Hyperice percussive massager, and rivals the slightly better-known Theragun in effectiveness. This new model features a digital speed dial that lets you cycle through five levels of percussion and features the same 90-watt high-torque motor and notably quiet operation (for the amount of force it generates) of its predecessor. You can get up to three hours of battery life and five interchangeable heads along with a nice carrying case.
The step-down Hypervolt Pro ($250) has a 60-watt motor, three speeds and leaves off the digital speed dial.
If the person on your list doesn’t already have a Nintendo Switch or needs an upgrade, you can’t go wrong with this gaming system. This fourth iteration of Nintendo’s Switch hybrid handheld adds a bigger, better built-in display (now an OLED screen), plus a redesigned kickstand and TV dock. It’s a splurge, but it provides hours and hours of fun with games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Metroid Dread, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Super Mario Odyssey. (If you’re looking for the next Zelda game, that’s not coming until May 2023.) Check out more great game suggestions here.
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