Treat Yourself: Use Your Gift Cards on These Top Electronics Products
Splurge on a new TV, sound bar, smart speaker, or headphones that aced CR's tests
Did you score a pile of gift cards this holiday season but don't know what you should use them to buy? From TVs to headphones, we have some top-performing product picks from CR's tests that will help you treat yourself to the very best electronics.
Go to Consumer Reports' Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.
TV & Home Theater
This 65-inch 4K OLED smart TV from LG is one of the best TVs we tested in 2020. It has top-notch picture quality and effective HDR performance, which can produce enhanced contrast and brighter specular highlights when done well. (LG 4K TVs support different HDR formats: HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG.) The TV, which can also deliver very satisfying sound, supports Dolby Atmos audio. This set comes with LG’s updated smart TV platform plus its voice-enabled ThinQ artificial intelligence platform, which allows it to interact with and control other compatible smart home products. The TV also has built-in support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa digital voice assistants, and works with Apple AirPlay 2.
For more options: Best TVs of the Year
The LG Cinebeam was the brightest mini projector in a test of five of these fun, portable products that CR conducted last summer. It's very capable of producing a large image, and like other mini projectors it's easy to move from a living room to a playroom to an outdoor deck and back. The Cinebeam has a number of useful features, including Bluetooth and wireless mirroring, which lets you send videos from a smartphone or tablet to the projector. Projectors like the LG Cinebeam aren't meant to compete with full-size home theater projectors or high-end TVs, but this one comes closer than its peers.
For more options: Low-Cost Mini Projectors Let You Set Up a Home Theater Almost Anywhere
Despite its compact size, the Sonos Beam is among the better-sounding models in our ratings. It has a lot of features, too, including the ability to add a Sonos subwoofer and other Sonos speakers to make a full surround-sound system. Offered in black or white, the sound bar has built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant; it also supports Apple AirPlay 2.
For more options: Great Sound Bar Speakers at Every Price
This is the updated version of the 4K-ready Fire TV Cube, essentially a mashup of two of Amazon's popular Alexa-powered devices, the Fire TV streaming player and the Echo Dot smart speaker. Like its predecessor, it adds an interesting element into the mix: universal remote control capability.
Compared with the first generation, the new model adds a more powerful processor, a faster response time, and Dolby Vision HDR. There are buttons on top of the unit to adjust the volume and mute the microphones, but the Cube is really all about voice control. What makes the Fire TV Cube stand out, though, is that it lets you control a host of other compatible AV gear, including TVs, sound bars, receivers, and even some cable and satellite boxes.
For more options: Best 4K Streaming Media Devices
Headphones & Speakers
The Sony WF-SP700N delivers dependable noise-canceling and audio quality. It features controls to turn noise-canceling on and off, and activate a monitoring mode that amplifies sound from your environment for situations such as a train ride, where you might want to hear announcements. The controls also let you access digital assistants, accept calls, skip tracks, and play or pause music playback, though there’s no integrated option for volume adjustment. The advertised 3-hour battery life is short but not unusual for true wireless models, and this one has a quick-charging function as well as a carrying/charging case with a built-in battery that can recharge the earphones twice before you need an outlet.
For more options: Noise-Canceling Headphones on a Budget
This over-ear wireless model from Monoprice is usually available for around $50, a steal given its superb noise-canceling performance and above-average sound quality. The BT-300ANC features integrated controls for calls, volume, and playback, and the ear cups fold in for easy storage and transport. According to Monoprice, the battery will run for 8 hours between charges with both Bluetooth and noise-canceling turned on. (CR doesn’t test battery life in headphones.) You can keep the music going even longer by switching off Bluetooth and using the detachable audio cable, which is included.
For more options: Noise-Canceling Headphones on a Budget
The Jabra Move Style Edition, an on-ear Bluetooth model with a sleek appearance and better-than-average sound quality, comes with convenient features like controls for calls, playback, and volume, and the option to forgo Bluetooth and use the detachable audio cable included with your purchase. The headphones have a closed, isolating design that will keep some noise from leaking in or out during a listening session. The headphones have an advertised 14-hour battery life, more than enough to get you through a day of listening.
For more options: Best Headphones Under $100
The Samsung Galaxy Buds are one of the best-scoring portable Bluetooth headphones Consumer Reports has ever tested, beating out more popular rivals like the Apple AirPods. That’s all the more impressive given their true wireless design. The Galaxy Buds produce exemplary audio quality packed into a pair of unobtrusive earpieces, complete with easy-to-use touch controls for playback, volume, and skipping tracks. According to Samsung, they have a 6-hour battery life, and they come with a powered carrying case that will recharge the earphones for up to 7 additional hours of playback on the go. The case itself can be charged with a wireless charging mat, and it’s small compared with the cases that come with many true wireless models.
For more options: Best Headphones Under $200
This cylindrical Bluetooth speaker from JBL earns a Best Buy designation from CR for its attractive combination of good performance and low price. It's available in six colors and a number of patterns, including camouflage. Our testers found the sound quality to be good. Two units can be used in stereo: Buy a pair and you can fill a room with sound while still paying less than you would for mono speakers. The test team also liked the Flip's ease of use, including its fuss-free pairing.
For more options: Best Wireless Speakers Under $200
Want to stay in touch with friends and family? The Amazon Echo Show illustrates how useful a touch screen can be on a smart speaker. The second-generation version of the Amazon Echo Show is a much more useful product than the first. A larger touch screen makes it great for reading a recipe or watching a quick how-to video, tasks that you might otherwise consign to a phone or tablet. But the Show sits on the counter at an easy viewing angle, and with its voice-command capability you can avoid touching it with messy or busy hands. The Show is also the best-sounding smart speaker that Amazon has ever brought to market.
For more options: Best Smart Speakers With Screens
The newest Echo looks radically different, with a globelike styling replacing the now-iconic cylindrical styling. Its smart speaker capabilities haven't changed much because the Echo, like all smart speakers, relies on the company's cloud servers to do the digital heavy lifting. The Echo is improved with a new Zigbee smart home hub that allows you to control compatible devices without using an app. The sound quality is also noticeably better than the previous version, with better bass and clearer trebles. If you listen to a lot of music, you might consider the more expensive but better-sounding Echo Studio.
For more options: Best Smart Speakers
Computers & Tablets
This 12.3-inch 2-in-1 detachable laptop is suitable for complex school or office work. But you might notice a lag when performing media editing or playing video games. The display is bright, has wide viewing angles, and shows lifelike colors. Battery life is reasonably long at 10.5 hours in web-browsing tests, and at just 2.4 pounds, it's lighter than typical laptops of this size category. And of course, there’s something to be said about the versatility of being able to remove the keyboard to use it like a tablet.
For more options: Best Laptops
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus has an 8-inch screen that makes it a solid choice for those who enjoy reading or watching movies. It has 3GB memory and is available with 32GB storage, but you can also add a micro-SD memory card for more storage. Battery life is impressive. But our tests found that it's slower than most other tablets we've tested, though it's acceptable for most everyday tasks, such as web browsing or email.
For more options: Best Tablets of 2020
Give your loved ones the gift of comfort with an ergonomic keyboard. Available in a wired or wireless configuration, the Kinesis Freestyle2 features a fully split design. That means each half of the keyboard can be positioned directly in line with the user’s shoulders, effectively reducing internal shoulder rotation and ulnar deviation of the wrist. The membrane keys are easy to activate and include options for shortcuts and media controls. The palm rests, adjustable legs, and number pad are sold separately ($35 to $50). It's compatible with Android, Chrome, iOS, Linux, Mac, and Windows.
For more options: The Best Ergonomic Keyboard for You
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
Smartphones & Wearables
The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the lowest-priced (and most compact) version of the flagship phones released by Samsung last year. You get a supersharp 5.7-inch display, along with dual rear cameras with wide and ultrawide lenses. The battery lasted 33.5 hours in our testing, which is pretty good, especially considering the phone’s relatively small size.
For more options: Great Low-Priced Smartphones for $600 or Less
The new Apple Watch SE packs in a vast majority of features most people desire in a smartwatch and leaves out the higher-end tech and add-ons that sometimes go unused. And in exchange, the price is lower than for other Apple Watches. The SE comes in two sizes (40mm or 44mm) and two hardware configurations (GPS-only or GPS plus cellular). The bands are interchangeable, too.
For more options, check our buying guide and ratings for smartwatches.
This charger has a built-in cooling fan and a gridded surface that lets air flow behind the device, which is meant to allow for faster charging. As a small trade-off, the charger is bulkier than most of its competitors. The angled stand also allows you to view a phone’s screen in portrait or landscape position as it charges.
For more options: Best Wireless Chargers for Your Smartphone and Other Devices
While technically a fitness tracker, this model has more of a watchlike feel. You get a 1.3-inch monochrome display that shows your step count and real-time heart rate. The Forerunner 35 has a built-in GPS and a claimed battery life of nine days, and it made good on its water-resistance claim of 164 feet. In our testing, it received top marks for heart-rate tracking and step-count accuracy, as well as for ease of use.
For more options: Best Fitness Trackers