Best holiday gifts under $250 for 2019



Sarah Tew/CNET

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2019, your source for the season’s best gifts and deals, hand-picked by the experts at CNET.

Cyber Monday has been and gone, but it’s better late than never to kick off your shopping for the forthcoming holiday season. The $100 to $250 range just might be the sweet spot when it comes to a great gift that will be well-received but will not annihilate your budget — and we have lots of ideas for the special people on your list. Here are some of our favorites.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This thing rocks. Kids, adult gamers and frequent flyers will find it perfectly sized for handheld video gaming, with everything they need to access Nintendo’s classic, immense and celebrated library of video games. It has a microSD card slot to expand its storage, and a USB-C port for charging and connecting to wired controller accessories. And it’s $100 cheaper to buy than the full-sized Switch. Sure, you can’t dock it or detach the controllers — but neither of those are deal-breakers for most people. Straight up: This is probably the best mobile gaming system on the market to buy, and it’s the perfect gift for any gamer.

Read our Switch Lite review.

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Sony’s WF-1000XM3 ear buds deliver excellent sound quality, strong battery life and a quick-charging USB-C connection. My colleagues who’ve tested them tend to get a bit breathless when talking about them, claiming they’re hands-down the most comfortable earbuds on the market with active noise cancellation. These gadgets make great birthday, holiday or anniversary gifts.

Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

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Keurig K-Duo Plus is the company’s top-end coffee maker. It gives you the option of popping in a K-Cup pod to make a single serving, or multiple cups using ground coffee (a 12-cup thermal carafe is included along with a reusable mesh filter). Aside from its dual-brewing capabilities, its other key feature is its multiposition 60-ounce water reserve that can be positioned to the right, left or along the back of the brewer to optimize counter space. With it positioned on back (as pictured), it’s quite compact.


There are certainly cheaper smart light options, but the Glow — a highly portable, rechargeable battery-operated smart lamp that will go great on your wishlist — is undeniably beautiful, easy to setup and pleasant to use. My family has two of them, and they’ve become instrumental bedtime tools for all four of us (the adults steal from the kids after they fall asleep).

Thanks to the built-in gyroscope you can flip it over to turn it on and off, twist it to dim it up or down or shake it to trigger a low nightlight setting. The lamp produces a very pleasant ambient glow — hence the name — which dims gradually over 15 to 60 minutes. You can control the span (in 15-minute intervals) using Casper’s streamlined iOS and Android-compatible app. And you can also set the light to come on in the morning — a reverse nightlight, of sorts — for a perfect waking scenario that’s more peaceful than the sound of any clock alarm, radio or phone.

Read our Casper Glow preview.

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I wore the Garmin Forerunner 235 all summer and it’s become one of my favorite gadgets. It’s a full-featured fitness tracker that accurately captures all of the details of my workouts, whether I’m running or on my bike. I wear it around the clock, into the shower and while swimming in the ocean, and it tracks my steps and sleep. It has an optical heart-rate sensor and can offer up some pretty complex training data — including an estimate of my VO2 Max and predicted race times and recovery periods. The battery life is stellar; I charge it about once a week. 

There’s a specific use case for this Garmin watch, and it fits me exactly. I wanted a watch that that was free from the uber-connectedness of an Apple Watch — I don’t need any more distractions. (I also tested the newer and more attractive Garmin 245, which is more refined but costs $315, and cluttered with more traditional smart watch features.) Compatible with both iOS and Android, I think the Garmin 235 is a great choice for both casual and hardcore athletes who don’t want a smartphone on their wrist.

Read our Garmin 235 review.

Read more: Best gifts for 10-year-old girls in 2019  


These Technic Lego sets are expensive — but, in my experience, worth it. In my house, the kids are always excited about a new Lego set. They spend a few hours building it, life is great and then one of two things happen: they plant their new creation on a side table and never touch it again or jettison it into the colossal Lego morass we store in an oversized cloth bag. Finis. Late-stage capitalism crushes us again.

But the Technic sets can have a longer lifespan. Because once you’re done building this 958-piece 4×4 truck, you have a remote-control car that you can drive with Lego’s intuitive Technic app. That has a bit more lasting power. The company says this set is designed for kids ages 11 and up, but I think that even younger kids will appreciate it — if they have the support of an adult to help them problem-solve.


Offering all of the comfort and warmth of a traditional down sleeping bag, Rumpl’s synthetic alternative is hands-down the coziest blanket I’ve ever used. Stuffed with the company’s 100% postconsumer recycled NanoLoft insulation and made with ripstop polyester, it’s incredibly lightweight, stylish and a joy to wrap around you. And Rumpl has cut the price by nearly $90 for the Black Friday season.


A camping chair that’s legitimately stylish enough for the living room. This Helinox chair weighs just over 2 pounds but can accommodate up to 320 pounds (and I know this because my kids often sit on my lap when I’m in it). The aluminum poles are sturdy, lightweight and easy to set up, making it portable enough to bring almost anywhere. and the woven seat, which comes in 12 colors, strikes the right balance of style, comfort and durability. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

A colleague bought the original luxury Ember mug for me and it’s become one of my most prized possessions. It’s expensive — and I wouldn’t have spent my own money on it — but it’s become an essential, almost sacramental part of my morning coffee ritual. The concept is simple: The porcelain Ember Mug is a thoughtful gift that keeps your coffee the perfect temperature — technically, 130 degrees, though that’s adjustable via the iOS- and Android-compatible app — for a little more than an hour.

Note that Ember recently released a new, bigger and pricier version of the mug to splurge on. My colleague Brian Bennett found that it’s marginally better — but even more overpriced. Fair enough. I just got mine and will be testing it over the next few weeks. 

Read our take on the Ember Mug.

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Originally published earlier this month.


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