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, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.
Yes, there’s a lot going on in the world at large right now, and all of it is being overshadowed by COVID-19. And like everything else in 2020, this holiday buying season is different. Many “Black Friday” sales have either already started or have been announced, as retailers try to get ahead of virus-disrupted inventory crunches. And with rising infection rates, the idea of waiting in line in a parking lot ahead of a 5 a.m. store opening to score a “doorbuster” deal has absolutely zero appeal. (That’s one reason many retailers have already announced their brick and mortar stores will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.)
Thankfully, as the consumer world continues to migrate to online shopping, so do an ever-increasing list of sales and deals. This is the current list of early sales we’re monitoring, which include everything from $99 AirPods to $19 Echo Dot speakers:
But what if you’re looking for the best gifts, regardless of sale prices? You’ve come to the right place. An abbreviated list of our favorite 2020 gift ideas follow but you can dive into the full CNET Holiday Gift Guide to see them all, segmented by gift recipients. Shopping on a budget? We have plenty of , too.
Note that we’ll be continuing to update and expand this list as more deals arrive and more new products become available.
See more gaming gift options: Best gaming gifts for the holiday season 2020
The PS5 and Xbox Series X (and Series S) hit stores in early November. They’re both looking to be impressive, promising next-gen gaming rigs. But here’s the thing: They’ll be nearly impossible to find in stores, and neither of them are particularly family friendly. Thankfully, there’s a great alternative: The Nintendo Switch. The 3-year-old console has a better game library than any previous Nintendo system in recent memory, including exclusive kid-friendly series like Zelda, Mario and Animal Crossing. (Don’t worry, dad: titles like Fortnite, Resident Evil, NBA 2K21 and The Witcher III are here, too.) And unlike the competition, the Switch has the unique ability to play when connected to the TV or as a standalone handheld. Best of all, after being out of stock for much of 2020, the Switch has been in stock at many retailers for the past several weeks — though whether that remains the case as we get closer to Christmas remains an open question.
The best holiday Switch deal so far looks to be at Best Buy, which is throwing in a digital version of the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and a 3-month Switch online membership at no extra charge.
More phone gift options: Best 2020 phones to give as gifts: iPhone 12, Galaxy S20 FE, Pixel 4A 5G and more
With excellent camera upgrades, sleek updated designs and support for 5G wireless, Apple has hit the major marks on its latest model. Most people will find the baseline model ($839 unlocked) to be more than enough phone, but the pair of iPhone Pro upgrades offer better camera options and — with the $1,099 iPhone Pro Max — a jumbo 6.7-inch screen. A smaller iPhone returns to the line with the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 Mini (starting at $739 unlocked), too. But none of those prices are cheap, especially with the $50 to $100 premium needed to get to more realistic storage tiers. Thankfully, the 2020 iPhone SE is available unlocked with 128GB of storage for a much more reasonable $450, and it’s got a good old-fashioned Touch ID fingerprint scanner, too.
More soundbar gift options: Best soundbars and home audio for the holidays
Want the easiest upgrade for an older HDTV? Just plug in the $130 Roku Streambar, and you’ll immediately add stronger audio and the best smart TV streaming system, with every app you can imagine (except for HBO Max). The included remote will control your TV’s power, too.
More VR options: Best VR headsets for 2020
The second Oculus Quest is an ideal sequel, taking everything about the promising original model and amping it up with a higher-resolution display, faster processor and more comfortable visor. Unlike PC or PS4 competitors, the Quest 2 is a self-contained VR system, with zero wires to encumber the fun. At $300 for the baseline model and $400 for the 128GB version, it’s price competitive with the other big game consoles this year, too. The only thing we really don’t like is that it requires a Facebook login (the social media giant owns Oculus).
More headphone gift options: Best headphones to give in 2020
Yes, the AirPods Pro remain an easy go-to recommendation for iPhone owners, especially now that the price has dropped to $200. But we’re still drawn to the Jabra Elite 75t. They scored a CNET Editors’ Choice in late 2019 thanks to an improved design, smaller case, solid battery life and fantastic sound quality. With the release of a successor, the 85t, the price on these has dropped to as low as $140 ($10 more for the sportier Elite Active model). Added bonus: These headphones have gotten even better in 2020 thanks to a new, free firmware update that adds active noise-cancellation.
More tablet gift options: Best tablets for 2020
Updated for 2020, the baseline iPad is a great gift for anyone because it’s a great Swiss army knife of a gadget: Use it for watching Netflix, Zoom calls with family, playing games or browsing the web. Add a keyboard, and it’s a decent laptop replacement. Invest in an Apple Pencil, and it’s a makeshift artist’s canvas. Yes, serious artists or productivity mavens can step up to the iPad Air, which is better all around — but far more expensive. With prices expected to dip south of $300 this season, meanwhile, this entry-level iPad remains the best bang for your buck, and a great upgrade option for anyone with a tablet from 2018 or earlier.
Disney Plus subscription
$70 buys 12 full months of Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and more
There are plenty of folks who let their Disney Plus subscription lapse between seasons of The Mandalorian. But if you have kids in the house, it’s tough to beat this streaming service, which pulls together the full range of the Disney library, including Pixar, Star Wars, National Geographic, The Simpsons and nearly everything in the Marvel superhero universe. And while the pace of promised exclusives has been slowed by the COVID pandemic, viewers still get to see new movies like Pixar’s Soul (arriving Christmas Day) and the 2020 live-action Mulan remake (arriving Dec. 4 at no extra charge).
The cost is just under $7 per month, but preordering 12 months of the service brings the price down to $70 — or just $5.83 per month. (It can also be bundled together with Hulu and ESPN Plus for $13 per month.) And because it supports four simultaneous streams and seven discreet user profiles, it’s an ideal gift for most families. Just keep in mind that some Verizon and Fios users will already be getting a free year to start.
This story was originally published earlier and is occasionally updated with new picks, pricing and links.