Gadget

The best college graduation gifts

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Graduating college is a huge achievement. If you’d like to show your appreciation for a tech-savvy grad, or if you just want to help them acclimate to their new life, there are tons of gadgets and services you can gift to make it easier for them. We at Engadget spend our days testing these kinds of products and figuring out which ones are actually good — if you need some help jogging your brain, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite college graduation gift ideas below.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

There’s a good chance that your graduate will be working from a few different locations when they start their first job. Maybe they’ll spend half of their time in an office and the other half in their new apartment, but you can help them stay focused anywhere by gifting them the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones. These are our current favorite high-end cans thanks to their excellent sound quality and equally stellar active noise cancellation. Their Adaptive Sound Control feature automatically changes the level of noise cancellation depending on your location and what you’re doing, blocking out as much of the world as necessary without the user needing to do much work. There’s also multi-device connectivity, so your graduate can seamlessly go from listening to music on their laptop to taking a call from their smartphone. — Valentina Palladino, Deputy Editor, Buying Advice

$325 at Amazon

Chipolo

Losing stuff is a bummer for anyone, grads included. I tried out Apple’s AirTags, Tile trackers and Chipolos for our Bluetooth tracker guide and ended up picking the Chipolo One as the best option for most people. That’s because it simply does what it’s supposed to do without hassle: help people locate their keys and let them know when they’ve been left behind. Chipolo One doesn’t have the massive, community-enabled (and potentially creepy) location tracking of Apple’s FindMy, but it rings loud with a tap from your phone and sends alerts about forgotten items faster than any other tracker we tried. – Amy Skorheim, Reporter, Buying Advice

$25 at Amazon

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

The Marshall Emberton II is a stylish Bluetooth speaker that offers impressively smooth and balanced sound for its compact size. It’s not the loudest or most bass-heavy device of its kind, but it’s a pleasant listen for smaller get-togethers and personal use. The six-inch frame has an IP67 rating, so your grad can safely use it to listen to podcasts in the shower, and Marshall says it can last up to 30 hours on a charge. Most appealingly, the guitar amp-style design looks classy in both its cream or black finishes. All of this was enough to earn the Emberton II a spot in our guide to the best Bluetooth speakers. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Reporter, Buying Advice

$132 at Amazon

CARTMAN

I received this Cartman 39-piece tool set right after college when I moved into my first apartment, and now, over 10 years later, it’s still with me in my home’s garage. I put this thing and all its contents through the ringer hanging pictures, putting together Ikea furniture, changing light fixtures and even repairing a broken door lock late on a Saturday night after coming home from a party (ah, youth). It includes all of the essentials one would need to do what I listed above, and much more, without much hassle: a measuring tape, hammer, screwdriver with 20 different bits, pairs of pliers and scissors and more. The plastic case that comes with all of the pieces has spaces designed to fit each tool and, while it’s a little flimsy, mine lasted a number of years before I accidentally broke the handle (totally my fault, too). The fact that it comes in a few different accent colors is icing on the cake; my “pink toolset” was a running joke in my family for a long time, but we were always laughing with the tools rather than at them because I used them so much. This is one of those gifts for graduates that isn’t flashy, but it’s necessary — and they will thank you for it. – V.P.

$23 at Amazon

LEVOIT

That first domicile after college isn’t always ideal — mine was above a heavily-trafficked LA boulevard, which didn’t result in the cleanest indoor air. We tested out the Levoit Core 300s air purifier and found it cleared out both VOCs and particulate matter (PM) quite efficiently, particularly for its size. It runs quietly and can automatically increase the fan speed when it detects the air is getting murky. Plus the replacement filters are much more affordable than other models, something any recent grad will appreciate. — A.S.

$150 at Amazon

Apple

If you really want to treat the iPhone-toting graduate in your life, get them the Apple Watch Series 9. It’s the best Apple Watch for most people right now, and it’s the best smartwatch, period. In addition to delivering all of their phone’s alerts to their wrist, the Series 9 is a solid workout companion, tracking most exercises and even connecting to some gym equipment. The new S9 SiP makes the Watch run a tad faster and makes Siri speedier at responding to requests, adding reminders to their lists and more. The new Double Tap feature is handy as well, as it lets the wearer use gestures to navigate the Watch’s interface if they’re unable to tap the screen at any time. If you have a new grad who’s constantly on the go, or who wants to whip out their phone less during the day, the Series 9 will be a welcomed gift. – V.P.

$329 at Walmart

Engadget

If the graduate in your life constantly has Spotify playing in the background, switching from lo-fi beats while working to today’s top hits when they want to unwind, a gift subscription will be much appreciated. A six-month gift card will set you back $60, but it will give them peace of mind knowing that something they already use regularly is paid for the next few months. Spotify is one of the best music streaming services available right now, and it’s particularly adept at suggesting new music that listeners might like based on their current habits. There are also a bunch of podcasts and audiobooks available to Spotify subscribers as well; in fact, Premium subscribers can listen to 15 hours of audiobooks per month for no extra cost. Ultimately, the best part of this gift is taking care of a recurring monthly cost for your graduate, just for a little while, so they can use those funds for other things. — V.P.

$60 at Walmart

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Google’s Chromecast dongle topped our list of streaming devices, but our runner up is probably better for new grads. Roku’s Streaming Stick 4K not only converts just about any screen into a smart TV, it also opens up access to an endless flow of free content and live programming (most of which is also free). Even if they don’t pay for every streaming service under the sun (or any), they’ll still find loads of stuff to watch. We like Roku’s uncluttered interface and playful illustrated robot motif. Plus the dongle hides neatly behind the screen, supports 4K content with Dolby Vision and has a long Wi-Fi range. – A.S.

$46 at Amazon

Instant Pot

The Instant Vortex Mini is a powerful little air fryer that any new college grad should be able to fit into even the most cramped of kitchen setups. It has an easy to use touchscreen with a few different cooking modes, but we expect most graduates will use it to cook snacks like mozzarella sticks and reheat leftovers to crispy perfection. We recommend checking out our air fryer guide if you want to give them something a little bigger that can cook more food at once — but if you’re only looking out for your grad and maybe their partner or favorite roommate, the Instant Vortex Mini will feed them well. — V.P.

$50 at Amazon

Engadget

Xbox Game Pass remains a great value for any grad who owns an Xbox or gaming PC and likes to play games in their downtime. The subscription’s library includes big-name series like Halo and Minecraft alongside more experimental gems like Hi-Fi Rush and Pentiment, and it still gets you access to first-party Xbox games on day one. Each title is available to download on-demand. The Ultimate tier includes perks like cloud gaming and online play, but there are cheaper options for just Xbox consoles or PCs as well.

If your graduate plays more on PlayStation or the Nintendo Switch, there are similar services you can gift: PlayStation Plus for the former, Switch Online for the latter. These will almost certainly be appreciated if you’re buying for someone who games frequently, though they’re not quite as strong a value as Game Pass in terms of cost or included games. — J.D.

$45 at Amazon

Anker

Whether they’re hitting the streets for interviews or heading out for the weekend with friends, either way, your grad will likely appreciate having a way to recharge their phone on the go. The Anker MagGo Power Bank 10K is our current favorite MagSafe charger in our guide. It has a sturdy but unobtrusive stand to prop up an iPhone, holding it in either landscape or portrait orientation so your grad can still make use of the handset as it charges. There’s a readout on the side that tells you how much juice remains and it can even charge the phone while it’s plugged into the wall. Plus, thanks to the new Qi2 charging standard, the wireless charging speeds are impressive — it got our tester iPhone 15 from near-dead to half-full in about 45 minutes. — A.S.

$90 at Amazon

Anker

If your grad plans on working remotely, a webcam that keeps them looking sharp and in focus during video calls is a wise investment. The Anker PowerConf C200, a recommendation from our webcam buying guide, is a great choice: It shoots crisp 2K resolution video, autofocuses quickly and does well to keep its subjects visible in darker settings. It can’t swivel from side to side, but it’s a cinch to set up and has a built-in lens cover for extra peace of mind. At $60, it’s relatively affordable to boot. — J.D.

$48 at Amazon

1Password

If your giftee thought they had a lot of logins to keep track of in school, just wait until they get into the workplace. A password manager will be a must-have, and you can easily give them a 1Password digital gift card so they have no excuse not to use one. Our favorite password manager is easy to use, even for those who have never had a password manager before, and it provides top-notch security. It uses industry standard encryption, a “secret key” that only your giftee knows along with their one password to keep all of their other information safe. In addition to login credentials, new graduates can keep other information like credit card numbers, banking information and sensitive notes in their 1Password vaults for safekeeping — and they can easily access it all on their phone or laptop whenever they need. At minimum, it’s much more secure than a tattered sticky note for keep tracking of their most important passwords. At best, it could be a crucial service that your grad decides to keep paying for long after they’ve used up their gift card. – V.P.

$25+ at 1Password

iRobot

There are a lot of things you need to learn (and remember) when you first move out of your dorm room and into your own space — keeping your home clean is one of them. And even if your grad isn’t “moving out” as much as they are moving into a dedicated portion of their parents’ home, they still need to make sure they’re tidying up on a regular basis. iRobot’s Roomba 694 is one gadget that can help them partially automate their cleaning routine. Our favorite budget robot vacuum, the Roomba 694 is dead simple to use — it can be a one-button process if they want it to be — and it does a good job sucking up dirt and debris across carpet and hard flooring. We also like iRobot’s mobile app, which is just as easy to use as the machine alone, and it gives them the ability to set cleaning schedules. If they go that route, it’s a one-and-done situation and they can sit back and watch the robo-vac do the work for them. — V.P.

$180 at Walmart

Kobo

Now that they’re done with syllabi, recent grads can read whatever they want (and maybe enjoy it). Topping our list of the best ereaders is the Clara 2E from Kobo, which has a six-inch, 300 ppi E-Ink display that’s far easier on the eyes than a tablet. The Clara 2E is waterproof, comfortable to hold and has a quick, responsive interface. It can access titles from the Kobo store, the local public library via built-in Overdrive integration or any other e-book source (except the Kindle store). On top of that, the warm light is great for reading late into the night – something that’s far more fun when you’re not doing so to cram for a test. – A.S.

$120 at Walmart

Headspace

Those early days in the working world can be an especially stressful time in anyone’s life. If your grad has expressed interest in using meditation to help manage their mental health, a Headspace subscription could be useful. It has a large and well-organized selection of guided meditations and mindful exercises to help reduce anxiety and build self control, including several sessions for beginners. There are one-off exercises designed to help with specific, real world crises (nerves before a job interview, for example) as well as courses that seek to address more complex states (grief, self-doubt, lack of focus, etc.) over multiple sessions. A “sleepcasts” feature, meanwhile, combines guided relaxation exercises with soothing narration to create a more healthy sleep environment. Apps like this aren’t cure-alls for mental distress, nor are they the only ways to meditate. Still, they can provide a more organized way for your grad to work toward better peace of mind. — J.D.

$6 at Headspace

nuphy

Mechanical keyboards can be pretty noisy, so they may not be the best gift if your grad has to work in an office all the time. But if they won’t have any coworkers or roommates around during the workday, a good keyboard like the NuPhy Air75 V2 should be a welcomed upgrade. This wireless, low-profile model puts the more gratifying feel of mechanical switches in a design that’s flatter and thinner than most enthusiast keyboards. For something so compact, it’s a joy to type on, with crisp keycaps, a wealth of different switch options and no annoying rattling on the larger keys. It works across Windows and macOS, and its playful design is just plain cute. Plus, if your grad ever wants to go wild and customize it with new switches and keycaps down the road, doing so is straightforward. — J.D.

$140 at Amazon

Otterbox

A recent graduate might be simultaneously looking for jobs, apartments and new places to hang out, so they’ll be out and relying on their phone a lot. If they have a model that accommodates wireless charging, they could probably use the OtterSpot wireless charging system from Otterbox. It earned the top spot in our guide to wireless chargers because it pulls double duty as a desk-based charger and a portable battery. The disc-shaped accessory accommodates up to three, coaster-like 5,000mAh batteries that can charge devices on the go. The batteries stack on the charger and the phone goes on top, allowing everything to power up at once. The batteries can even deliver a charge via USB-C, too. – A.S.

$100 at Otterbox

Anker

A good power bank will be an accessory your graduate won’t want to leave home without. The Anker Prime Power Bank is one of our favorites, and it’s pretty luxe for a portable battery. It has an attractive yet compact, rectangular design with a built-in screen that shows you how many watts are being pumped out into each device you’re charging, plus the remaining juice in the battery itself. The included base makes it easy to recharge the power bank, too, and it has a few extra built-in ports so they could treat the whole thing like a power station. The portable charger’s 20,000mAh capacity will be more than enough to juice up a smartphone a couple of times, and it can power larger devices like a tablet or laptop easily, too. – V.P.

$185 at Amazon

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