While most students are enjoying their summer break right now, it’s never too early to start planning for a return to the classroom. Studying can be stressful; thankfully, there’s plenty of technology out there that can make school life a lot easier.
In this guide, we look at educational essentials such as laptops and backpacks, along with those tech products that no dorm room should be without—we don’t just mean Midea mini fridges, we’re also talking streaming sticks, projectors, fitness accessories, monitors, and more. So, if you’re getting ready to go back to school, here’s some of the tech you should consider.
When it comes to picking a laptop for studying, possibly the most important element to consider is weight and battery life. That’s where the stylish LG gram 14 excels. Despite sporting a 14-inch screen, the 2.2-pound machine is lighter than most 13-inch models, but that doesn’t mean any performance compromises. Just over $1,100 will buy a model with an 8th-gen i5, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD. You also get a long battery life, multiple ports, and the option to upgrade to an i7 on the same form factor.
Just because you’re at school doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make time for exercise, and nothing will get you motivated quite like a set of good wireless headphones. For the best mix of sound quality, comfort, and the all-important ability to stay in your ears, we recommend this pair from Bose. As you would expect, they’re water/sweat-resistant. Best of all, the SoundSport is competitively priced compared to rivals.
Wireless mice are no longer a poorer version of their wired cousins. Logitech’s MX Anywhere 2S not only has a precise sensor that reaches 4000 dpi, but it also comes with a slew of features: over 70 day’s worth of life from a single charge, multi-functional scroll wheel, and a sleek design. Moreover, it’s small enough to fit easily into a bag and works on almost any surface, while its Flow feature lets you move the cursor across three computers.
If you want to indulge in some gaming during your free time, both you and your roommates will appreciate the HyperX Cloud II headset. How Kingston managed to create what is possibly the best analog headset on the market for under $100 is a mystery. The 50mm drivers’ dual chamber design brings an audio quality to games that has to be heard to be believed, and they work on any platform with a 3.5mm port. Incredibly comfy with a great mic, you’ll enjoy some all-night Fortnite sessions with these.
With a combination of 4K, HDR10, and FreeSync, LG’s 27UK850-W is perfect if you want a monitor for both work and play. Anyone with a muscular GPU can enjoy titles in a glorious, super-sharp 3840 x 2160. It also boasts USB Type-C connectivity, four HDR settings, and ultra-thin bezels. Those working on graphics and photos will appreciate the 99% coverage of the sRGB spectrum, and games like Destiny 2 make great use of its High Dynamic Range. Thanks to recent Windows updates, HDR support on PCs has improved immensely, meaning now is a great time to invest in a compatible monitor like this one.
Sturdy USB drives are fine for most backup purposes, but there’s no guarantee you won’t lose them. For complete peace of mind, nothing beats the cloud. Backblaze among the best of the bunch. For just $5 per month or $50 per year, users get unlimited backup for their PC or Mac. That means it can automatically backup all the files on your PC quickly and easily—no having to select your most important items. You also get features including 128-bit encryption, 2FA, and courier recovery options. There’s a reason why it’s regularly voted the best online backup service.
While there are other 4K projectors available, these tend to be heavy and difficult to install, but that’s not the case with LG’s stylish, box-shaped HU80KA. Featuring 4-in-1 transforming design, it can be placed on a very narrow space either standing or on its side saving space in your room. The tower laser projector can throw a 150-inch picture onto any flat surface in stunning 4K and with support for the HDR10 format. It’s able to reach 2500 lumens, has Bluetooth compatibility, and features two 7-watt speakers. This easy to carry cutting-edge projector is rated for 20,000 hours of use, so expect it to last a very long time—28 years if used for 2 hours per day.
If you want to protect your electronic devices while on the move and won’t accept any compromises, you need one of Thule’s backpacks. This 32-liter version offers plenty of room for items and includes a padded section designed to hold a laptop up to 15 inches and tablet. There’s also a removable, crushproof compartment on the back for keeping your glasses or smartphone safe, compression straps for holding jackets, and plenty of organizational pockets. But it’s the bag’s comfort, durability, and fantastic build quality that really sets it apart from lesser rivals.
There are so many Bluetooth speakers on the market right now that picking one is no easy task. But for the ultimate sub-$100 device, look no further than the UE Wonderboom. A pair of 40mm drivers and the passive bass reflectors ensure that a powerful sound always reaches you, no matter where in a room it’s placed. And not only does the speaker boast a 10-hour battery life, but it’s also almost indestructible—perfect for attaching to bags. Plus, it’s waterproof, so don’t worry about taking it into the shower or bath.
If you want something to hold your laptop that offers the functionality of a backpack and the elegance of a messenger bag, all without costing a fortune, this backpack from Modoker has you covered. It comes with seven compartments to keep your items organized, including one designed for laptops up to 15.6 inches. Lightweight and stylish, the highlight of this bag, other than the $25 price, is the external USB port—stick a power bank in it and you can charge your devices on the go.
While a rugged bag like Thule’s offers unparalleled protection for your laptop, it doesn’t have the style and elegance of a messenger bag like this one from Mosiso. Don’t be fooled by that $27 price; this unisex product exudes quality and can hold laptops up to 15.6 inches. The inside contains a padded, Velcro-sealed compartment, and there are plenty of pockets for all your goods. It’s also waterproof and shockproof.
As the world’s largest backpack maker, JanSport has a huge range of bags, with many products tailored toward students. For those who value space and comfort above all else, we recommend the Big Student Backpack. Ergonomic straps, a 34-liter capacity and loads of pockets make this perfect for hauling school gear around. The two main compartments are great for large books and laptops, while the durability will ensure it lasts throughout your school years, after which you could use it to travel the world.
Some PC games are a massive pain to play with a mouse and keyboard. While there are plenty of options available, nothing beats the combination quality and convenience offered by the Xbox One controller. In addition to allowing a wired connection via USB, you can use the adaptor or Bluetooth (available in later models that launched with the Xbox One S) for wireless gaming fun. While some may prefer Sony’s DualShock 4, using it requires the installation of unofficial software.
When it was first released last year, the LG G6 was rightly hailed as the company's best phone to date. The device was the first to feature the now common 18:9 aspect ratio in its 5.7-inch (2880 x 1440) screen. It’s water-resistant, supports HDR, has a centralized rear fingerprint scanner, USB type-C, and looks great.
But the best reason for getting the G6 today? That ridiculously low $380 (unlocked) price. Keep it safe with the Tough Armor case from Spigen.
No company invokes brand loyalty quite like Apple, and nowhere is that truer than with students. But if you can’t wait for Cupertino’s next handsets to arrive, the iPhone 8 is arguably a better option than the X. The main reason is price—it’s over $300 cheaper—yet they offer similar performance through the A11 SoC. If you can live without a few features and don’t mind a smaller screen, save money and grab this handset instead. And always remember to protect it with a case: we recommend the Caseology Wavelength series.
Finding a pair of wireless headphones equally suited for both gaming and listening to music is no easy feat. Thankfully, the Astro A50 is perfect for both actvities. This set of cans offers beautiful sounds, great build quality, and a long life between charges. The included software is great, and the base charging station adds extra options, such as the ability to connect to a phone. And even though it fits the largest of heads, the A50 is light enough for long sessions. Plus, it works with the PlayStation 4.
Gaming laptops were once so bulky that they could barely count as being portable. That isn’t the case today, with PCs such as MSI’s GS65 Stealth packing massive power into a slim chassis. It features an 8th-gen i7-8750H, GTX 1060 (6GB), 16GB RAM, and a 15.6-inch FHD display with a 144Hz refresh rate, all while being one of the lightest and slimmest gaming laptops available. If you’ve got the cash, you can upgrade to the GTX 1070 Max-Q version for even more gaming performance.
Despite its name, VicTsing’s speaker isn’t limited to shower use. Its shockproof, dustproof and waterproof nature makes it perfect for outdoor use, too. The 5W speaker gives a crisp, clear sound, and it includes support for Bluetooth A2DP streaming. It comes with a built-in microphone and a hands-free function, so you can connect it to your smartphone and answer calls while taking a shower. A great speaker at a low price.
While many education institutes have a gym, there may be times when you want to workout somewhere else. For indoor or outdoor exercise that doesn’t require a ton of space, a jump rope is the perfect solution. The MountainKing Crossfit is a great option for keeping fit. With its foam-covered handles, PVC steel cable, and adjustable length, you’ll be moving like Rocky Balboa in no time. And even though it only costs $14, it comes with a 100 percent money back guarantee.
For students taking math, geometry, statistics, and science, a good scientific calculator is essential. Texas Instruments’ TI-30X IIS 2-Line is an ideal device, thanks to its 2-line display and scientific and engineering notation modes. It also has fraction features, can handle one- and two-variable statistics, and comes with basic scientific and trigonometric functions. With 4.5 out of 5 stars from over 1000 Amazon reviews, it's available for under $15 and comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
There are usually three contenders when it comes to picking a streaming media device: Roku, Chromecast, or Amazon Fire. While it has an understandable focus on the company’s own content and prioritizes Prime members, the Fire Stick is our pick of the trio. Users get tens of thousands of channels and apps, and the latest version now has Alexa integration, which adds voice controls and allows other tasks, like ordering a pizza. The quad-core CPU is snappy and fast, there’s 8GB of storage, and it costs just $40.
Despite attempts by numerous other companies, nothing offers a better tablet experience than an iPad. The Pro lineup may pack more features but they have a price tag to match. That’s why students should go for the new iPad 9.7 (2018). You still get a beautiful screen (2048 x 1536, 256 PPI), a great user interface, and strong, snappy performance from the A10 Fusion chip. Apple is pushing this sixth-gen iPad as a device for students, and it shows.
Keeping all your electronic devices charged can be stressful, especially when you’re on the move a lot of the time. That’s why Aukey’s dual-port wall charger can be a life saver. If you’ve got a phone that supports Quick Charge 3.0, such as the LG G6, you’ll love the way it juices your handset four times quicker than a regular charger. It also works with Quick Charge 2.0 handsets including the Galaxy S8/S9. Reliable, safe, and excellent value, you’ll wonder how you survived without it.
It’s important to keep yourself and your property safe while at college, so you may want to purchase a smart camera. Wyze showed the devices could be feature packed and 1080p-enabled for just $20 last year. Now, you can get Version 2 of its camera for the same price. It still has infrared night vision, cloud and microSD storage, movement-based auto recording, live-streaming, and a built-in speaker for 2-way audio. V2 adds an improved CMOS sensor, amp, and audio chip, as well as some AI smarts, all while keeping the same $20-ish price.
Masthead photo credit: Redd Angelo