One-third of holiday shoppers are concerned about going over their budget, according to the latest Consumer Reports holiday poll. The good news is that with Christmas fast approaching, stores and online retailers are offering discounts and free shipping so there are still bargains to be found. Fortunately, the experts in our labs are on the lookout for good deals all year long and have found some top-performing small appliance that cost $50 or less. Here are 10 to consider.
Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus DLC-2A food chopper, $40
Cuisinart’s 3-cup chopper combines very good value with solid performance. It was particularly adept at chopping almonds and onions in our tests, and at grating hard parmesan cheese. Pureeing of peas and carrots wasn’t quite what we measured with our recommended full-size machines, but the Cuisinart is still a top chopper in our Ratings.
Cooks 10-Speed HM820 hand mixer, $30
Exclusive to JC Penney, this 10-speed mixer combines excellent mixing and whipping time, outperforming much pricier models. It has a digital speed indicator, interchangeable beaters, and a separate dough hook. On the downside, its center-post beaters aren’t as easy to clean as the wire beaters found on some other models. And it doesn’t have the slow-start feature that’s helpful for containing spills and splatters.
Mr. Coffee BVMC-SJX33GT coffeemaker, $40
This 12-cup machine delivers great value and an even better cup of joe. The automatic drip machine gets the water hot enough to bring out the coffee’s full flavor, and we found it easy to set up, operate, and clean. Plus the spill-free carafe is helpful if you’re a bit clumsy before that first morning cup.
Calphalon Simply Nonstick 10-inch omelette pan, $40
This skillet beat out models from All-Clad, Le Creuset, and Rachael Ray. It’s superb at evenly heating food, say, for an omelet or frittata. Plus it’s easy to clean and shrugged off our tough durability test in which steel wool is rubbed over a pan up to 2,000 times.
Hamilton Beach Digital 22502 toaster, $35
This two-slice toaster from Hamilton Beach is one the least expensive in our Ratings, but it managed to achieve one of the highest overall scores. Toast popped up evenly brown with nearly every batch, and the toaster offers very good control over color range, in case some in your household like toast dark and some like it light. Special features include a digital display, bagel and defrost setting, and slide-out crumb tray for easy cleanup. Its brushed-finish metal housing looks good on the countertop.
Holmes HFH436 space heater, $40
The Holmes was very good at heating an average-size room in 15 minutes but a little less so at spot heating a person in the room. Still, it was easy to use, has very good safety features and isn’t hot to the touch when it’s turned on. It has a fan and was so-so for noise, a consideration if you’re using it in a bedroom.
Rowenta Effective Comfort DW2070 steam iron, $50
The least expensive Rowenta steam iron we tested, this was also the best of that brand. It was excellent overall and delivered superb ironing and lots of steam. The surge button provides a burst of steam when trying to remove stubborn wrinkles and the vertical steam feature lets you remove wrinkles from hanging garments and drapes. The sole plate is stainless steel and the ready light indicates the iron is hot enough to use. There's a self-clean feature and auto-shutoff, which turns off the iron when left stationary for a short time.
Eureka Easy Clean 71B hand vacuum, $50
Eureka's corded hand vacuum was better suited for pickup on bare floors and at edges, but it was impressive overall and fairly quiet. Pluses include a spacious dust bin, onboard tool storage, and an electric rotating brush that adapts for vertical surfaces. As for minuses, the exhaust from the powerful motor can blow debris around before it can be picked up. And it was a bit on the heavy side for a hand vacuum.
Crane Penguin EE-865 humidifier, $45
This Crane Tabletop was very good in overall performance, and is intended to humidify areas up to 500 square feet. This model's moisture output was good. It was very good for convenience, and earned excellent scores for noise level, energy efficiency, and its output with hard water. Daily output was 1.69 gallons. The Crane comes in many other colorful child-friendly shapes.
Clear2O CWS100A carafe water filter, $23
Clear2O's carafe-based filter was superb at removing lead and organic compounds in our tests and costs relatively little per year to do it. There's also a filter-life indicator that tells you when it's time to change the filter. You fill the carafe by removing your kitchen faucet's aerator and connecting the attached hose to your faucet, which allows quicker fill-ups than you typically get from a carafe filter. The downside: The adapters may not be compatible with spray-type faucets, and you can't fill the carafe manually.