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The sad reality of the technology world is that many of the best gadgets are also really expensive. Tablets, smartphones, game consoles — the high end of the gadget world is dominated by some really awesome devices that come with equally scary prices. And this makes them awful as gifts. (Though, admittedly, we have a gift guide for tablets as well.)
The cure, then, is clear: Go cheaper. Plenty of devices on the lower end of the price spectrum do some pretty impressive things, and the gadgets you’ll find below are some of our favorites.
For the failed home gardener: Koubachi Wi-Fi plant sensor
Some people are really good at taking care of plants. For everyone else, there’s the Koubachi Wi-Fi plant sensor. Once placed in the soil of a plant, the sensor gives forgetful botanists the low down on all the plant’s vitals, including moisture levels, light intensity, and temperature. All this information is fed to the Koubachi app, which lets you see how your plants are doing — even when you’re out of the country. Something tells me the house plant mortality rate is about to drop precipitously. $100.
For the kids: Furby
With every holiday season comes that one toy parents scratch each other’s eyes out over in toy stores, and this year it’s the Furby. Furbies have always sat on the divide between cute and creepy, but the latest revision is something else: super high-tech. Along with the toy, Mattel has created an iOS app that kids can use to both feed Furby and figure out what the heck the thing is talking about. $80
For the writer: Moleskine’s Evernote Smart Notebook
Being a writer is tough nowadays: Do you stick to paper or fully embrace the promise of the cloud? The Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook turns that conundrum into a compromise: Not only can it be used as a regular old notebook, but the included smart stickers let you upload your notes (and automatically tag them) simply by photographing them. Comes with two free months of Evernote Premium. $30
For the eco nut: Square water bottle
There are about as many water bottles on the market are there are drops of water in the ocean — but the Square is different. Solving one of the central problems with water bottle sanitation, the Square opens at both ends, allowing owners to clean it with unparalelled ease. The best part? It won’t roll away if you drop it. $45.
For the bibliophile: Kindle Paperwhite
With the Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon has once again improved on a fairly spotless formula: Create a well-designed device and attach it to a seemingly infinite ecosystem of content, and you have a device that’s pretty tough for the average book lover to pass up. And by giving its latest eReader a backlight, Amazon has made the whole package that much more compelling. $120
For the music lover: Jambox
There are a lot of Bluetooth speakers out there, but none rise to the level of elegance of the Jambox. Deceptively small, the Jambox blows out some pretty powerful sound for a device that’s just 1.6 pounds. Oh, and it comes in four colors. $130.
For the fitness fanatic: Jawbone Up
If personal sensors are the future, let’s hope that future looks a lot like the Jawbone Up. More than a fitness tracker, the Up is capable of tracking your whole life: hours slept, calories burned, distance traveled — everything falls within the Up’s purview, which makes the device not only comprehensive, but wicked smart, too. The Up’s insight engine means that the device can also learn things about how its wearer lives and help that individual develop new habits — in theory, anyway. (To get a sense of how well it works, check out our review.) $130
For the cable cutter: Mohu Leaf
For anyone whose severed their relationship with their local cable provider, devices like the Mohu Leaf are a godsend. The super thin HDTV antenna gives owners clear access to local over-the-air programming, which, for a lot of people, is all the television they need. $40
For the hardware hacker: iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit
The gadget teardown wizkids at iFixit are good at what they do, and with the iFixIt Pro Tech Toolkit, a lot of other people can be too. The kit gives you access to a wide range of indispensable tools, including openers, tweezers, a spudger, and 54 screw driver bits. For anyone who’s always wanted to crack open their electronics, there’s probably no better gift than this. $60