The best gifts under $500 for 2021


Living in the era of COVID-19 has made many people put extra special thought into the gifts they’re giving throughout the year. After all, if you can’t spend time with your loved ones, a great gift is the next best thing. If you’re really looking to knock someone’s socks off, you can send an extremely generous gift, like something in the $250-$500 range. But, if you’re dropping that much coin, you want to be sure that you’re giving something completely awesome. 

Ready to find the perfect gift? This list will help you find just the right thing to order. One thing to note though: Because they’re unlikely to be easily found in the coming months, we’ve left the PS5 ($400 to $500) and Xbox Series X ($500) and Series S ($300) off this list. If you can get your hands on one, it would also be a great gift.

Scott Stein/CNET

Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 could be the device that makes virtual reality mainstream. It’s not only better than the original but also less expensive, starting at $300 for the 64GB version (the 256GB version is $400). 

CNET’s Scott Stein praised it for being lighter and faster, with revised controllers and longer battery life. The display resolution is notably crisper and remarkably easy to read text on. The only downside: You now have to have a Facebook login in to use it.

Read our Oculus Quest 2 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Nintendo’s massively popular platform may have a newer, cheaper entry in the Switch Lite at $200, but the original got a minor improvement in the V2 version with improved battery life. The big difference between the two? The Switch Lite has a smaller screen and is strictly portable, without the big-screen TV dockability and detachable controllers that make the V2 so unique. We break down the differences here; the main thing to know is we still consider the bigger Switch to be the better choice.

Scott Stein/CNET

The new version of Apple’s entry-level iPad just came out in September with an updated A12 Bionic chip processor that gives it a nice performance boost (a keyboard or case is not included). Otherwise it’s pretty much the same as last year’s entry-level iPad, which remains the best value in Apple’s iPad line. While prices start at $329 for the 32GB model (and $429 for the 128GB version), look for special offers as this iPad often gets the flash-deal treatment. Hold out for $250 for the 32GB model.

Read more.


The Theragun Prime is a new Theragun included in the company’s rebrand and launch of four new massage guns. Its prior equivalent was the Theragun Liv, which is reviewed in-depth here.

Like the high-end Theragun Pro G4 ($599), the Theragun Prime’s main impressive feature is that it’s much quieter than its now-defunct counterpart. 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 new Theragun Prime has five built-in speeds (from 1,750 rpm to 2,400 rpm) and comes with five closed-cell foam attachments. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

No, you can’t get a truly high-performance TV for less than $500, but with TCL’s 55-inch 55S525 you can get a great gift with a nice-size screen, very solid 4K picture quality and the best streaming system available (Roku) for $450. If you want to spend a little less, TCL is updating its 2020 4-series 4K line with an additional HDMI port in models larger than 50 inches (it goes from three to four HDMI ports).

Read our TCL 55S425 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Hypervolt Plus is the second-generation Hyperice percussive massager, and rivals the slightly better-known Theragun in effectiveness. Despite being quite forceful thanks to a 90-watt high-torque motor, it’s notably quiet, so it’s not annoying to use — to yourself or others. It’s cordless, of course, and the lithium-ion battery gives you about two hours per charge. It comes with three head attachments and features five speed and power settings. Normally $450, Best Buy currently has it on sale for $349 as it gets ready to release a Bluetooth-enabled version of the same device.

Sarah Tew/CNET

So maybe your gift recipients already have a nice TV, but they’re stuck listening to its terrible built-in speakers. A soundbar is the easiest way to fix that problem, and this $350 Yamaha is one our favorites in this price range. As a bonus it also works with Alexa, so you can ask Amazon’s voice assistant to play your tunes even when the TV is turned off.

Read our Yamaha YAS-209 review.

Best Buy/Arcade1Up

Sure, you could get that lucky giftee one of Arcade1Up’s classic stand-up machines, but nothing beats the nostalgia of sitting in a chair, drink comfortably in place, while you chase the latest high score. Two sets of controls face one another across a 17-inch screen that lets you play any one of eight games. In addition to the original Ms. Pac-Man, you get Pac-Mania, Super Pac-Man and Pac-Land, along with Galaga, Galaxian, Dig Dug and Dig Dug II. 

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