Best Valentine's Day Gifts Under $50
Give your housebound honey something they can really use, from trusty kitchen tools to comfy pillows
Sure, chocolate is delicious and flowers are nice to look at, but for many, coffee is essential and a good night’s sleep is sacred. And with all those budding quarantine cooks out there, we know some fledgling chefs are ready for a cookware upgrade. So give your loved ones something they can really use from CR’s ratings, whether that’s a trusty coffee maker, comfy pillows, or top-rated cookware. These Valentine's Day gifts under $50 will make your loved one’s life easier, and they’re easy on the wallet.
Coffee & Tea Time
Zojirushi 16 oz.
Want to keep things hot this Valentine’s Day? This slim mug is in a league of its own in terms of pure performance. It keeps drinks hot for an astonishing 13½ hours—6 hours longer than the closest competitor in our tests, earning a top rating of Excellent for temperature retention. The screw-on cap is easy to clean, with two removable gaskets. Our testers found the mug easy to open with one hand: Simply press a button on the side and the lid pops up so that you can drink out of the plastic spout. You can also lock the lid, a nice feature if you have young kids who are the type to tinker with a mug filled with scalding hot coffee. The slender design of the mug means it’s likely to fit in car cup holders.
For more options: Best insulated travel mugs
The Primula Burke Cold Brew Coffee Maker PBPBK-5101 is the most inexpensive cold-brew coffee maker in our ratings—and it’s one of the best. It receives an Excellent rating for convenience. This Primula comes with a glass carafe, and most of its parts are dishwasher-safe. It’s the only model that calls for a full 24-hour brew time, but you might find the results to be worth the wait.
For more options: Best cold-brew coffee makers
For your tea-loving lover, perhaps: This AmazonBasics kettle is made of stainless steel, and it’s one of the least expensive kettles in our tests. It’s small, though, holding just 4 cups of water—the least of the kettles we tested. It’s among the fastest to bring our testing standard of 4 cups of water to a boil, clocking in at just under 4 minutes and earning a Very Good rating in our time-to-boil tests. This kettle is a little harder to clean than some of the other models we tested. The warranty lasts one year.
For more options: Best electric kettles
Cookware & Kitchen Tools
The Chefman was the only waffle maker we tested to snag a CR Best Buy designation. For far less money than most of the competition, this machine churns out evenly browned round waffles. It garners a Very Good rating for its color-range settings, meaning there’s a remarkable difference between waffles made on the darkest setting (brown and crispy) and lightest setting (light and fluffy). It has an indicator light to let you know when the waffles are ready, the option to store it vertically to save space, and a batter cup for precise portioning. However, the handle and latch get uncomfortably warm during cooking, despite the “cool touch” claims, so you may want to use an oven mitt when opening and closing the lid.
For more options: Best waffle makers
Is it a frying pan or an action hero? Joking, of course, but The Rock by Starfrit is a star in our cooking evenness test—our pancakes come out nicely browned every time. It earns a Very Good rating in our food-release test, too, which means fried eggs and pancakes will slide out of the pan easily. The handle stays cool but didn’t hold up as well as some other pans we tested in our pressure test. That said, this pan’s nonstick surface held up well in our durability test. It can withstand an oven temperature of only 350° F or less.
For more options: Best nonstick frying pans
Lodge has been making cast-iron frying pans in its Tennessee foundry since 1896. It’s one of the few surviving iconic American brands. This 12-inch Lodge cast-iron pan is top-notch at browning scallops and earns an Excellent rating for searing a steak. Baking is only so-so, though. Heating evenness is also mediocre. It weighs 7.8 pounds, which is about average.
For more options: Best cast-iron frying pans
The 500-watt Oster 800 Series BLSTKH-GMO-000 earns a Very Good rating in our puréeing tests, serving up fairly smooth smoothies and soups with tiny bits in the mix. Many of the blenders in our ratings have a plastic container, but the Oster has a 6-cup glass jar. That means it’s heavier and more prone to breaking than plastic, but it doesn’t absorb odors and stains the way plastic does. Oster is the only blender brand in our ratings to snag a Very Good rating for reliability (better than most).
For more options: Best blenders for $100 or less
The Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus DLC-2A is a 3-cup chopper that combines great value with solid performance. In our tests, it was particularly adept at chopping almonds and onions, and grating Parmesan cheese, though other choppers were better at puréeing. This model is ideal if you have limited counter space—it takes up as much counter space as a postcard.
For more options: Best food processors and choppers
Despite the name, the Instant Zest 8 Cup is actually a 4-cup rice cooker. (The “8 Cup” refers to cooked rice; most rice cookers go by dry measurements.) Like most of the rice cookers in our ratings, this one scores a Very Good rating for cooking rice. One taster on our trained panel said the brown rice made in the Zest had a good texture and a nice bite. However, many tasters found that while the white rice was cooked through, it often came out a little sticky.
For more options: Best rice cookers
Bed & Bath
Give the gift of cool, sweet dreams: The Beckham Luxury Linens Hotel Collection pillow has a 100 percent cotton cover and a filling of 100 percent polyester gel-fiber. The manufacturer claims that the materials in the Beckham pillow keep it cool. It aced our test for breathability, and scored top marks for resiliency, which means it will hold its shape well over time. Plus, at around $35 for a two-pack, it’s a good value.
For more options: Best pillows
Brondell SimpleSpa Thinline
What could be more romantic than helping your loved one save on toilet paper? A minimalist’s dream, this bidet attachment is one of the slimmest on the market at just 0.2 inch thick. Unlike a more expensive bidet seat, you won’t get a heated seat or a warm-water spray with a bidet attachment, but it’s simple to use. With the SimpleSpa Thinline, there’s just one control knob for you to adjust the water pressure. While most users in our recent study of bidets reported being happy with the adjustable water pressure, the stream was too strong for some. “If you are not careful, the stream of water might hit you a little too hard!” a user said.
For more options: “Bidet Review: ‘I Have Less Toilet Paper Anxiety’”
Help your loved ones pamper their rough winter skin with a top-performing humidifier like the Vicks V5100NS. This cool-mist model can humidify a room up to 400 square feet, putting it in our medium-room size category, and earns an Excellent rating in our output tests. It’s quiet, making it a good choice for a bedroom.
For more options: Best humidifiers
With excellent cleaning performance, this Fairywill toothbrush is great value. It has a built-in timer to help encourage the dentist-recommended 2-minute clean time. It has a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery but lacks a waterproof charging base, so keep an eye on the cord used to charge the unit.
For more options: Best electric toothbrushes
Remington Vacuum Beard & Stubble Trimmer (MB6850)
Does your person need a little help keeping that facial hair tidy? This model includes a vacuum feature that appealed to users in a recent CR study, but it requires more maintenance than some other models because the vacuum chamber needs to be emptied. Some users said this model and its attachments felt a little flimsy, and some with thick or coarse hair said it didn’t work well with their hair texture. Overall, however, users were satisfied with the trimmer’s performance.
For more options: “The Best Beard Trimmer for You”
Turtle Beach Recon 50
This is gaming headset features inline controls that let you adjust the volume and mute the mic. The mic can also be removed if you wish to use the headphones to listen to music and movie soundtracks. The included PC splitter cable provides access to headphone and mic jacks on computers. The headset is compatible with Mac and PC; PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4; Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One; and mobile devices that accept a 3.5-mm audio plug, but you have to choose the correct model for your computer or console. It’s worth noting that this wired model has cables that descend from both ear cups, as one user in our recent study said, which can be a nuisance.
For more options: “How to Choose a Great Gaming Headset”
Our tests show that these headphones beat out models that cost hundreds more. To that end, the SoundCore Life Q20 has great sound quality and outstanding noise cancellation. This model includes the ability to work over Bluetooth or an audio cable, and a free app that adds features including a bass boost EQ setting. According to Anker, it has a generous 40-hour battery life when Bluetooth and noise cancellation are both turned on.
For more options: Best noise-canceling headphones
For the price, these earphones deliver impressive sound quality, beating some competitors that cost more than three times as much. The JBuds Air have an advertised 3.5-hour battery life and come with a carrying case that will recharge them for an additional two cycles. Other features include support for various digital assistants, three switchable EQ modes to change the tonal balance of the sound, and, according to JLab, water resistance. (We don’t test that feature.)
For more options: Best true wireless earphones
ZLot Vertical Gaming Mouse
This mouse places the forearm, wrist, and hand in a “handshake” position, greatly reducing stress in the forearm. When properly oriented, it reduces wrist extension, too. Note, however, that the natural position with the front facing forward requires slight extension. The model features 11 programmable buttons, five dpi settings, and a matte finish that feels comfortable under the fingers and palm. On top, you’ll find a mini joystick, handy for gamers but potentially annoying for others because it springs into action with a slight bump. No left-handed option.
For more options: “The Best Ergonomic Mouse for You”
The Samsung 9W is relatively compact and has a built-in cooling fan for faster charging. The round status indicator changes color when the device is fully charged but takes up to 30 seconds to alert you if the device is positioned incorrectly on the charging pad. That can be a nuisance if you’ve already walked away and don’t notice. The 4-foot-long standard microUSB power cable can be replaced without much hassle.
For more options: “Best Wireless Chargers for Your Smartphone and Other Devices”
The latest version of the Echo Dot features radically revamped styling—a spherical look that’s a shrunken version of the larger and more expensive Echo. In terms of smart speaker performance, the Dot hasn’t changed much from its hockey-puck-like predecessor, and it’s a good value because it still works about as well as more expensive models. That’s because most of Alexa’s artificial intelligence work is done on Amazon’s cloud servers. Our testers find the newest Dot sounds better than the last generation, with slightly clearer highs and a bit more bass. However, the Dot is still best for listening close-by to a podcast rather than filling a room with music. It comes in a $60 Kids Edition as well, with Panda and Tiger graphics and a one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+.
For more options: Best smart speakers