The run-up to Christmas is never kind on your bank balance, but the good news is that your money now buys more than ever in the tech sphere. To help you choose the ideal affordable present, we’ve rounded up some of the best music and film gifts available for under £50, including budget headphones, tablets, one of the best 4K Blu-ray releases of the year, and even – wait for it – a USB data and power noise filter.
Naturally we’ve chucked in some 2020 What Hi-Fi? Award winners for good measure, and the best part? All our suggestions come complete with the best prices on the internet…
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K video streamer
There are many reasons Amazon’s What Hi-FI? Award-winning 4K video streamer would make a perfect pressie, but boil them all down and one core point remains: it’s simply the best streamer after the Apple TV and costs less than a third of the price.
This plug-in HDMI stick’s support for 4K and multiple HDR formats (HDR10, HLG, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision) opens the floodgates to premium content from Netflix and Amazon, and brings you Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, 4OD and Demand 5, Spotify, Deezer and Tidal apps. When it comes to smartening up your TV with all of the above, this is a fiery option indeed.
SoundMagic E11C wired earbuds
No dog walk or commute is complete without a decent pair of headphones pumping jams into your ears, and if you happen to be looking for some modestly priced earbuds for the job, look no further than SoundMagic’s reliable budget fare.
Scooping up a What Hi-Fi? 2020 Award, these E11Cs are the standard-setters at their price, delivering an entertaining, upfront sound, complete with a remote control and mic. A perfect upgrade to those out-of-the-box buds bundled with smartphones and music players, then.
I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep by Ghostpoet
Amazon Fire HD 7 tablet
Want a mini computer for the price of a drinks round in London? Amazon’s entry-level and best-selling tablet is the ideal cheap and cheerful option. Yes it’s fairly basic in terms of screen, sound and camera resolution (although its 2MP front and rear snappers are the same as those on the bigger five-star HD 8 and What Hi-Fi? Award-winning HD 10 model) but needless to say it’s great value for money, and if they’ve not used one of these tablets before, the hands-free Alexa experience will provide much entertainment on Boxing Day.
Whether it’s for a loved one to use for movie-watching, music-listening or as a smart-home controller, or simply to keep the kids at bay on Boxing Day, the Fire HD 7 is a sixth of the price of a new iPad Mini and well worth it.
AudioQuest Rocket 11 speaker cable
Budget speaker cable: (hopefully) not the sexiest present you’ll buy this year, but what’s a hi-fi system without cables connecting it all together?
If you’ve gleefully shouted out “wireless” as the punchline, then congratulations, you are an esteemed and good-humoured member of the 21st-century tech world. But jokes aside we can’t stress the importance of good speaker cables for traditional stereo speakers. And if you or your loved one is limited in budget, this What Hi-Fi? Award-winning, £12.50/metre AudioQuest wire is where your money should be spent.
Color Out of Space Blu-Ray
It’s no secret that 2020 has meant plenty of staying in, and if someone on your Christmas list has used the time to update their home cinema setup, this 2020 release (taken from our 10 of the best movies of 2020 feature) will be a great addition to their Blu-ray collection.
Nicolas Cage, HP Lovecraft and Richard Stanley (who here is directing a feature film for the first time since he was booted from The Island of Dr Moreau almost 25 years ago) make for a divine trinity when it comes to B-movie sci-fi horror. This adaptation of Lovecraft’s short story about a family who, after a meteor lands in their garden, witness a colour never before seen by the human eye is undoubtedly a future cult classic.
Tribit Audio Stormbox Micro Bluetooth speaker
You certainly get plenty of features for your money here – and the sonic capability at the level cannot be denied. A mature, musical sound with surprisingly weighty bass, a USB-C charger and even a stretchy strap on the underside that’ll work for bike handlebars, bags or tents.
It’s got an IP67 rating for dust- and water-proofing, you can stereo pair two of them, and there’s Bluetooth 5.0 for a solid connection. Best of all, they’ll love how it occupies just the tiny space in the top of their rucksack and sounds for all the world like a far bigger and more expensive speaker.
Flexson S1DS stand for Sonos One/One SL
If you’ve been to a friend or family member’s house and their Sonos One or One SL is just sat there on a kitchen worktop picking up sauce stains and bread crumbs, or on a bedside table collecting dust, why not treat them and their beloved wireless speaker to a desk stand?
One of many Flexson Sonos accessories, the S1DS not only saves the speaker from getting spoiled but also angles it up towards a listening position and helps isolate it from sonically detrimental vibrations.
AudioQuest JitterBug noise filter
It’s the device you didn’t know was needed between a computer and DAC! But any audiophile that has a PC/laptop and DAC set-up will be grateful for it – trust us.
Your answer to the inevitable “what is it?” on Christmas Day: “Think of it as a kind of USB port purifier, acting as a passive filter to dissipate noise and interference coursing through the circuitry of your computer or laptop before the music signal enters your DAC”. If you can remember all that.
Audioquest’s USB-stick-sized device is a clever little critter indeed, and an effective one at that.
Annual What Hi-Fi? subscription
Looking for the Ultimate year-round gift? In an overt act of shameless self-promotion, we can’t help but suggest our own physical format as a sub-£50 pressie for anyone who not only likes listening to music and watching films but also reading about the kit that’s best to play them on.
Our annual subscription gets you 13 issues (one per month, plus our annual Awards issue, above) featuring the world’s most trusted tech reviews (and some darn good features, if we do say so ourselves) – all for just £44.99. Quick maths tells us that’s just £3.47 an issue.