We know shopping for the best tech gifts for teens can be pretty challenging, but in our experience, tech is pretty much always a hit — provided it’s age appropriate. And we’ve got that down! For more than 10 years now, we’ve been in on the hottest new tech trends so we can share them throughout the year, and especially during the holidays. (Ahem, we’re so good at it, I keep seeing our tech gift ideas for teens showing up pretty much verbatim on other websites. Hmm…)
What makes these tech gifts for teens so good? Well, because we’ve talked to actual teens (especially those who’ve outgrown the midddle-grade STEM kits and robots, sniff), because actually try them out or talk to parents who have, and because we’re not lured by retailer’s “recommended gifts” lists, or by no-name tech knockoffs that pop to the top of of Amazon searches.
Also, we really really hope they help you! We’re parents too — we get how hard these decisions can be.
You might also check out some of our fabulous recommendations for tech gifts for tweens and big kids if you’re shopping for younger teens; and no-screen tech and STEM toys for kids of all ages if that’s of interest, so there’s lots in our archives to choose from. However in 2022, these tech gifts for teens are specifically for our older kids who know how to use (and take care of) those gadgets and gifts that can often be more expensive.
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The best tech gifts for teens, according to actual teens
A tech gift for teens who love instant gratification: An Instax Camera
Fujifilm Instax Mini
($69.99 on sale)
Nothing beats the instant-gratification of a camera printing your photo out seconds after you take it. but for years we’ve been seriously impressed with the Instax Mini, which lets you print photos with lots of fun border styles that teens love, depending on which film you buy. My teens’ own Instax cameras have held up for years — including through the rigors of summer camp, and that’s saying something!
Related: 10 cool tech gifts each under $25
A tech gift for teens who want their music on the go:
A waterproof Bluetooth speaker
JBL Charge 4 – Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker
($108 on sale)
We’ve been longtime fans of JBL’s relatively affordable speakers, and their room-filling sound. This durable, 10″ speaker is perfect for teens who want a little more color than a typical black or white speaker — though those are available too.
A tech gift for artistic teens: A drawing tablet or new stylus
My own budding artist says the Apple Pencil was “life-changing” — and that’s a direct quote. A really nice gift at a not totally unreasonable price, provided they’ve already got the iPad to work with. Or uh, they just steal yours (as my teen does).
Wacom Computer Drawing Tablet
($50.99 on sale, Amazon)
Alternatively, I’m reading excellent reviews across the tech blogs about this wildly affordable drawing tablet that’s precise, intuitive for even beginners, and portable. It’s certified compatible with Chromebook — great if one is provided by your kid’s school — but also works with any Apple or Windows OS laptop or computer. Fans also love that it’s designed for both right- and left-hand use, which is an improvement from generations of lefties smudging calligraphy ink with their wrists.
A tech gift for teens: A gaming system upgrade
Yes, the fast, powerful Series X from Xbox is still the It Gaming System and is still (sigh) tough to get your hands on — even the Amazon link says “available by invitation” today (currently August, 2022) to avoid scalping and hoarding. Which I guess is a good thing. It’s expensive, but backwards compatibility means any and all Xbox games from previous gen consoles are still playable. Add that to the 1TB of storage and that 4K TV compatibility — incredible investment that will remain relevant for a good long time.
Also check local retailers and electronic stores and sign up for alerts should it not be available at this time.
Microsoft Xbox Series S System
A perfectly terrific — and more affordable — alternative to the Series X is the compact Series S console, which will still win you best mom-dad-aunt-grandparent-uncle ever this year. It’s speedy, has hundreds of the top games, and gamers love it. Unless you have a 4K TV and a super avid gamer who will know the difference that $200 (or more!) makes with the Series X, this is a terrific gift for teens who aren’t dreaming of becoming pro Twitch Streamers and just want to play NBA 2K22 with friends.
Meta Quest 2 VR All-in-One Headset (now with Beat Saber)
So you’re thinking about a VR system as a cool tech gift for a teen in your life? Well how nice are you! While there are quite a few VR options available now, the the MetaQuest VR Headset (formerly Oculus Quest, reviewed here) is the new gold standard. This package includes the accessories you need, plus the super popular Beat Saber game — one of 250 titles in the growing Quest 2 library. Just make sure you clear some space wherever it will be in use!
A tech gift for film-loving teens: A projector that turns
the world into your screening room
Anker Nebula Smart Portable Projector
No TV in your teen’s room? No worries. Just the size of a soda can, this portable, WiFi/Buetooth enabled smart projector lets them stream entertainment right onto their walls, the garage door, a sheet hanging in a dorm room lounge, a tent in the backyard, you name it. Sleepover party made! It can be personalized with more than 5,000 apps including YouTube, Hulu and Twitch, though it does require the Nebula Connect App for iOS or Android to stream Netflix. It also connects with Google Assistant and Chromecast easily.
Note: We previously recommended the Cinemood 360 portable movie projector and streamer, the tiny projector with streaming services built right in. Cool — but seems increasingly less supported as time goes on. Also seems that it’s better now for younger kids considering the gaming and kid-friendly streaming content built in — but feel free to check it out and compare.
A tech gift for active teens: A GoPro to capture it all
GoPro Hero10 Camera
($499 Amazon or Best Buy)
The GoPro is a splurge as far as tech gifts for teens go, but if you have a kid who’s serious about photography and filmmaking this would be an amazing gift to get their career started. My kids have loved using theirs to shoot while biking, skiing, swimming, or just running around outside with friends. Plus it includes the rechargeable battery, a USB-C charging cable, mount and hardshell case.
Tip: if you can want to save a bunch, get the slightly older but still excellent GoPro Hero9 with Accessory Bundle for $449 — it’s a lot of bang for your buck.
A tech gift for teens: The hottest new game of 2022
Elden Ring (PS4, PS5, Xbox)
($49.94 download, on sale)
Looking for the hottest game of 2022? Hands down, it’s Elden Ring, the immersive fantasy battle RPG game that is selling out everywhere. One of the reasons: The Lands Between, a new fantasy world created by Hidetaka Miyazaki and George RR Martin. (Yes, that George RR Martin.) Kids can play alone or with friends, and share the magic.
Of course, if you want something the whole family can play together, we still stand by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This remains a 5-star game since its 2018 release for good reason — our families love the player battles, where we can play against each other using our favorite Mario World characters — but it’s also good, clean fun for teens (and younger siblings) to play on their own. ($45.99)
A practical tech gift for teens: A new MacBook Air, now that the price has come downThe new MacBook Air
(From $1199, Apple Store)
I recently wrote about why I think the new MacBook Air a perfect laptop for families, at Apple’s most affordable price yet. So if a new laptop is on your kids’ need list as well as their wishlist, think the holidays and birthdays are a perfect time to splurge on a new laptop.
I happen to like buying my big Apple purchases right from the source, complete with AppleCare of course, but feel free to check retailers like Amazon and Best Buy for limited time deals, especially on older models.
A tech gift for teens who read: A year worth of audio books,
Air Pods optional
An Audible Subscription
Not every kid is a gamer, photographer or a music buff. Here’s to the teen readers of the world! (Who may also be gamers, photographers, musicians, of course.) As I’ve recently learned, audiobooks can be great for readers on the go… once you find the kinds of genres that work best as audiobooks. One you might consider starting with: The Sandmannarrated by Riz Ahmed — I’ve loved Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel series for years, and now teens are rediscovering it since it’s has become a hit TV series.
A tech gift for teens: Photos printed right from their phones
HP Sprocket Select portable instant photo printer
($65, Amazon; Zink photo paper packs $12.99)
We keep coming back to the HP Sprocket for anyone on your tech gift list, especially teens. This tiny, portable printer (it’s smaller than your phone) fits in your pocket, but it prints high quality 2.3×3.4″ photos right from your camera roll onto sticky backed Zink paper via Bluetooth. Perfect for journaling, that ever-important “wall of friends” photos over the bed, or your teen can take the printer to their next party and all their friends can connect to it to print their favorite pictures of the night too. Plus the price has come down a ton since the original $239 model– eep.
A tech gift for creative teens: 3-D printing supplies
3Doodler Create+ 3-D Printing Pen
($79.99 with additional project kits and filament sets sold separately)
Let them try their hand at 3-D printing using the clever 3Doodler Create+ 3-D Printing Pen — Wirecutter’s (and our!) choice for best 3-D printing pen. It lets your teen create any 3-D object they dream up, simply by drawing it. Plus you can add in sets of the plastic filaments in colors from neutrals to neons to metallics. Also check out the classic 3Doodler project book, filled with loads of inspiration.
Monoprice 3-D Printer
Want to step up the 3-D printer game for your future Parsons or RISD student? Monoprice makes a top-rated, relatively affordable 3-D printer that’s perfect for beginning projects, making it a terrific tech gift for teens. Some of the things tech editors and users love about it is the good value, the compact size, the network printing, and the fact that replacing the nozzle takes second — not 45 minutes and a box of tools. It’s also a brand I’ve trusted for a long time for deals on essentials like cables and chargers, in case you don’t know Monoprice. Solid first 3D printer choice.
A tech gift for teens on the go: Winter accessories for mobile life
Beanie with Bluetooth speakers
This smart beanie in 9 different colors has Bluetooth headphones built right in, so your teens can head in and out of the cold weather without missing any of those educational podcasts they’re listening too. Ha. In addition to streaming music for 10 straight hours, they can also answer calls and chat for a full 12 hours or so, Though hopefully not outside in the cold the whole time.
Fingerless texting gloves
($45, Nordstrom — styles may change)
It’s not like they’re going to give up texting all winter, right? But taking gloves on and off to let Mom know you’ve arrived safely is so annoying. We love these fingerless texting gloves that are chic enough for picky teens, whatever their style — and are great for older model phones with a fingerprint unlock, and touch functionality require contact from actual fingers.
A tech gift for gamer teens who already have all the games:
A seriously cool gaming chair
X Rocker Gaming Chair with Built-In Bluetooth Speakers
($199, Pottery Barn Teen)
Worried about your gamer’s posture as they crouch forward, cross-legged on the floor each weekend? This comfy, padded rocking chair (in several colors and styles) is an ergonomic delight, whether for your game room or your teens’ bedroom, and comes complete with a Bluetooth 2.0 audio system with built-in speakers. It even folds up when not in use. Uh…should it ever not be in use.
Be sure to check out our tech gift archives for lots more ideas!