Top Gifts for Teens and Tweens
Anyone who has ever tried to buy a gift for a teen or tween knows what a monumental task it can be. We're here to help. Here are some of the top-rated products that will have your kids high-fiving you this holiday season (because hugging just isn't cool at that age).
Need more holiday inspiration? Check out some of our other gift guides: Best White Elephant Gifts for Under $35, Top Gifts Under $50, Top Tech Gifts Under $100, Money-Saving Gift Ideas for Tech Gadget Fans.
Go to Consumer Reports' 2019 Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.
Kodak Printomatic Instant
CR's take: If patience isn’t your teen's strong suit, consider this: The Kodak Printomatic is the fastest instant camera of those we reviewed, producing a fully printed photo just 38 seconds after the shutter was pressed. Once printed, the photos also have sticky backing, allowing kids to put them up anywhere they see fit. The model also stores photos on the SD card at a higher resolution than the other zero-ink cameras we tried, which is nice if you want to order a larger print down the road.
For more options: Best Instant Cameras: How Six Would-Be Polaroid Replacements Stack Up
CR's take: The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air earphones look a lot like Apple's AirPods, but they cost about half as much, and they have a few notable advantages. Unlike the AirPods, the Ankers have an isolating design that will muffle some outside sound, and our testing shows that the audio quality is significantly better, too. CR's technicians also note that the earphones fit and stay in place better than many true wireless models. According to Anker, the Liberty Air has a 5-hour battery life and comes with a charging/carrying case good for three additional charges on the go. It's also advertised as water-resistant. The Liberty Air has tap controls for calls and playback and support for digital assistants, and it comes with the option to use the right earpiece alone for single-ear listening. These earphones are available in black or white.
For more options: Best Headphones Under $200
CR's take: The Scosche SportFlex 3 is a steal. According to our tests, these earphones produce better sound than some models that cost 10 times as much. The manufacturer claims the SportFlex 3 is water-resistant. It also comes with built-in call and audio-playback controls that work with iPhones and most Android devices. The ergonomic, adjustable ear hooks hold the earpieces in place during a workout. Those ear hooks also make the earphones a little bulkier than others, however, and that can take away from comfort and fit for some users. If you’re looking for other options in the same price range, the Panasonic RP-TCM125 is a decent alternative, though the sound quality isn't quite as good.
For more options: Best Headphones for Every Activity
CR's take: This over-ear wireless model from Monoprice is 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. 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
CR's take: What looks a little like a lava lamp and does a great job playing music? The JBL Pulse 3. This Bluetooth speaker channels the look of those groovy 1960s relics but uses LEDs under a plastic dome—instead of heated, waxy blobs—for visual effect. The Pulse 3 can also do things that no lava lamp can. Using the JBL smartphone app, you can customize the patterns and colors of the light show and even match the color palette to your favorite throw pillow. The Pulse 3 also performs well in our sound-quality tests, earning a recommendation for its good bass impact, among other attributes.
For more options: 5 Cool Speakers for Your Holiday Shopping List
CR's take: If you’re willing to overlook some shortcomings, the Amazon Fire HD 8 is a steal. The display is admirably good, and if you’re already on the hook for a $119-per-year Amazon Prime subscription, the tablet will provide you with easy access to Prime content, including movies, music, and books. Our testers found the 8-inch display to be bright and legible, even under intense light. The microSD card slot allows you to expand that 16 gigabytes of storage with a memory card. As for battery life, the Fire HD 8 clocked in at 10.6 hours in our web-browsing tests and 7.9 hours in our video-viewing tests.
For more options: Best Tablets Under $300
CR's take: The Fitbit Versa Lite, aimed at newbie smartwatch users, combines a slim profile, fun colors, and a decent amount of functionality. The Versa Lite gets top marks for ease of use, and it’s great for counting steps, though not as good as other models when it comes to heart rate accuracy. And the watch doesn’t have its own GPS, instead piggybacking off the one in your phone. It also has a claimed battery life of four days, which lets the device track your sleep and other habits for longer than many other models, without you having to remove it for charging.
For more options: Best Fitness Trackers of 2019
CR's take: The latest version of the Dot offers significantly better sound compared with the previous generation, and though its audio quality may mean it isn't an ideal choice for cranking out “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it’s fine for listening to podcasts and playing some background tunes while you do the dishes. The Dot can also impart smart speaker functionality to a different and presumably better-sounding Bluetooth speaker. That's an inexpensive way to add IQ points to the audio equipment you already own.
For more options: Best Smart Speakers Under $200