- Cullman, Alabama


November 25, 2012

Tech Gift Guide: Gifts under $100

Battery pack

Pro: You can never have too much battery power

Con: Needs to be charged on its own

Best for: Motor-mouthed mobile Web surfers

Retail price: $49.99

Just about everyone has run out of juice at a critical time because of a longer-than-expected conversation, Web-surfing session or airplane delay. Most solutions involve parking in front of an outlet somewhere. In most cases, that's not convenient.

Portable battery packs, however, give those with a little forethought an edge. There are plenty of options out there, but the most useful battery packs have multiple extensions that fit in more than one type of power-draining gadget — smartphones, MP3 players,e-readers and more.

Models like the Powermat portable battery have two cords: one for Apple devices such as the iPod, iPad or iPhone 4S and earlier, and another with a micro-USB that should fit most other portable electronics. Accessories for the iPhone 5 are coming soon.

These external batteries are a fixture at airport kiosks around the country but aren't often charged at time of purchase, making them useless in the moment. They're a great option for frequent travelers — or the frequently forgetful — to charge and slip into their carry-on in case of an emergency.

Digital subscriptions

Pro: More personal than cash

Con: Not gift-wrap friendly

Best for: Folks who have everything

Retail price: About $8 a month; $96 for a year

Digital subscriptions are a great way to extend your holiday spirit throughout the year and find a gift for people who seem to have everything. Subscriptions to services such as Netflix or GameFly, for example, get gift-buyers around the sticky situation of figuring out which movies or games their friends already own. (Or for parents to figure out what kind of games their kids like.)

Netflix subscribers pay $7.99 per month for either DVD or streaming video access, so you should figure out how folks like their movie nights before you pull the trigger on a subscription. Streaming generally will be more useful for those nights when you feel like a movie (or TV show) but don't really have an idea of what you want to watch. Physical disks definitely are for people who have a single movie in mind and are willing to wait a day or two to get their hands on it.

GameFly is particularly good for gamers of all ages, given that they have titles that span a variety of consoles going as far back as the early 2000s. You also can play PC games for free with a GameFly subscription while you wait for things to ship. Subscriptions start at $7.98 a month.

The major downside to these gifts is that they have nothing to box up. You'll have to be creative when it comes to gift-wrapping, particularly if you're one of those people who hates just giving a card.

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