Best Gifts Under $500 for 2023


$348 at Amazon

Sony WH-1000XM5

Best noise-canceling headphones from Sony

$299 at Bose

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 have a smaller design and stellar noise canceling

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

Best noise-canceling with top-notch sound

$299 at Bose

Price alerts on for Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

$259 at Amazon

hyperice-hypervolt-pro-2-blue-background.png

Hyperice Hypervolt Pro 2

Quiet but powerful massage gun

$350 at GameStop

a Nintendo Switch OLED with red and blue controllers sits next to a TV

Nintendo Switch OLED

Portable gaming with a bigger, better display

$1,000 at Walmart

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TCL 55S535 (Update: Currently unavailable)

Best value 55-inch TV with Roku

Graduation season is upon us: It’s time to get out that wallet and start shopping for the amazing grads in your life. There are plenty of gifts that you can pick up for $50 or less, but if you want to get them something truly special to celebrate their achievement, and don’t mind spending a little extra cash, there are also some amazing pricier options out there. Below, we’ve rounded up some of our absolute favorite gift ideas that you can snag in the $200 to $500 range. 

A pair of white Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones against a blue background

David Carnoy/CNET

Product details

Battery Life Rated up to 32 hoursNoise Canceling Yes (ANC)Multipoint YesHeadphone Type Over-ear wireless headphonesWater-Resistant No IP rating

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.

Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review.

jbl-partybox-110-outdoors

David Carnoy/CNET

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. It typically lists for $400, but you can snag one for $100 off right now at Amazon.

Oculus Quest 2

Scott Stein/CNET

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 (though it’s ). 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.

You’re receiving price alerts for Oculus Quest 2

sonos ray

Sonos

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.

Read our Sonos Ray review.

The Kindle Scribe and a stylus on a blue background

Amazon/CNET

Amazon recently released 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 with a standard stylus for $340, or $370 with a premium stylus.

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.

Read our Amazon Kindle Scribe review.

You’re receiving price alerts for Amazon Kindle Scribe

iPad Mini and 9th Gen iPad

Scott Stein/CNET

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 $329 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.

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 have a smaller design and stellar noise canceling

David Carnoy/CNET

Product details

Battery Life Rated Up to 6 HoursNoise Canceling Yes (ANC)Multipoint NoHeadphone Type Wireless EarbudsWater-Resistant Yes (IPX4 — Splash-Proof)

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.

Read our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review.

theragun-prime-2.png

Theragun

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. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

a Nintendo Switch OLED with red and blue controllers sits next to a TV

Stephen Beacham/CNET

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. Check out more great game suggestions here.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

CNET’s Best 4K TVs of 2022.

You’re receiving price alerts for TCL 55S535 (Update: Currently unavailable)

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