Great Bargain Tech Gifts for Dads and Grads

Thomas Germain

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

When it comes to picking cool gifts for dads and grads, a little high-tech wizardry goes a long way. And if you know just where to look, you can find cutting-edge headphones, cameras, and TVs at bargain prices—without having to sift through retail sales bins.  

The tech gifts listed below all punch above their weight when it comes to performance versus price tag. In fact, most of these products are tagged with CR’s Best Buy label, which means they aced our tests and cost less than their competitors.

For more tech bargains, CR members can also consult our online ratings for laptops, smartphones, and smartwatches.  

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

This Father's Day, skip the tie your dad's never going to wear and get him something he'll really use: an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.

This $50 bundle of entertainment joy can connect to a whole host of streaming services. The stick-style player has a nice array of features for the price, including the ability to control it from other Alexa-enabled devices, such as an Amazon Echo or Dot.

Anker SoundCore Liberty Air

The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air true wireless earphones look a lot like the Apple AirPods, but they have two distinct advantages. First, they sound a lot better according to CR's expert testers, and second, they cost about half as much as Apple's flagship earphones. And unlike the AirPods, they also have an isolating design, so they'll do a better job at keeping noise from your environment out and music from your favorite playlist from bothering the people around you.

According to Anker, these earphones are water-resistant, have a 5-hour battery life (not bad for true wireless earphones), and come with a charging/carrying case good for three additional charges on the go. They come in black or white, and you can pick them up for around $80.

Bose Frames may look like regular sunglasses, but they double as Bluetooth headphones, thanks to pinkie-nail-sized speakers tucked into the temple tip that pipe audio toward your ears.

Given their unique design, the audio is impressive, though they're best suited for casual listening. According to our testers, the audio is just so-so: a bit soft and hazy, with practically nonexistent bass. It also worth noting that they don't provide any isolation from outside sound, so playback is challenging in loud environments. The frames come with motion sensors so that if you download Bose’s free sound-based augmented-reality apps on your iPhone or iPad, you’ll be able to get GPS directions, play games, and more.

They come in two styles (rectangular and rounded), and you can find them at at retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart for $200.

Apple Watch Series 3 (38mm) Aluminum case GPS

The previous generation of the Apple Watch is still a great device, and the price is appealing. The Series 3 watch lets you track your exercise and manage your notifications for around $200—around half the price of the Series 4. Essentially, all you’re giving up is the new version's slightly larger screen and a sensor that allows the watch to capture an electrocardiogram (ECG).

Keep in mind that this $200 Apple Watch is the smaller, GPS-only model of the Series 3. It doesn’t have a built-in cellular connection, which means you’ll need to pair it with your iPhone to access all the features.

One of the only problems our testers found with this model is the short battery life—though the Series 4 has the same shortcoming. You may be able to make it through a single day without charging, but going a full two days is unlikely.

Edifier S1000DB

What's better than a great speaker at a very reasonable price? Two great speakers, of course.

The Edifier S1000DB recently replaced the Sonos Play:5 at the top of our wireless home speaker ratings, earning impressive marks for ease of use and versatility and—more to the point—a higher score for sound quality.

The Edifiers' smooth trebles are extended, precisely reproducing every high note. The bass has solid impact, but more to the point, the speakers are truly musical in the low end, so you can easily discern the difference between, say, a standup acoustic bass and a Fender Precision electric bass.

But the real magic lies in the Edifiers' midrange. The Edifiers start with a stereo pair of speakers—as opposed to a single box like the more exotic speakers in our roundup. That, plus well-designed cabinets and electronics, helps the Edifiers seem almost like a hologram generator, placing musicians precisely in space.

Better yet, the speaker comes packaged in a stereo pair for $350. To get two Play:5s, you'd have to pay $1,000.

Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA-DHM4

This high-scoring Chromebook from Asus is a 12.5-inch laptop with a convertible design, which means you can fold the keyboard behind the display and use the device like a tablet for watching movies, playing games, or taking notes.

Instead of using Windows or macOS, Chromebooks run Google’s Chrome OS operating system—which is fairly easy to master, especially for someone familiar with Google's Chrome web browser.

They rely heavily on web-based apps, reducing the need for onboard storage and processing power. In recent years, they've even gained the ability to run Android apps, opening the door to software like Word, Excel, and Adobe Lightroom (for editing photos), all of which can be downloaded from the Google Play app store on a Chromebook.

The core specs for this model are about what you’d expect from a modern Chromebook: an Intel Core m3 processor, 4GB of memory, 64GB of flash storage, and a battery that lasts more than 9 hours.

This machine will easily handle everyday tasks like web browsing, HD video streaming, and spreadsheet editing.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7K w/ 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 II ASPH./MEGA O.I.S

CR testers praise this Panasonic for clever features, such as a swiveling, touchscreen LCD that aced our tests, and high-quality images overall, with generally sharp photos, even in low light. The camera does a very good job with image stabilization, which helps you get sharp pictures when the lens is zoomed out.

The camera is slightly bulky for a mirrorless camera, but the controls are still easy to access and use. What really makes this Panasonic stand out is the price of around $500. That's much less than many of the other mirrorless models CR recommends, making it a smart gift for someone looking for a dependable camera they can grow with.

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