Heading back to school is all about preparing for the future — and the tech that you bring should do the same. We’ve selected the best gadgets and accessories to do just that, from portable chargers to noise-canceling headphones, laptops to wireless speakers. Some are great deals. Others have one eye on your future (think: first apartment). All will allow you to have a better time at school, both inside and outside the lecture hall.
Amazon Prime Student
It’s the same thing as a traditional Amazon Prime subscription — you get free two-day shipping, access to movies and shows on Amazon Video, and unlimited photo storage with Prime Photos — but with a few added perks. Prime Student members get a free six-month trial and when that expires, a full Amazon Prime subscription costs 50% less than standard (that’s $49 annually instead of the normal $99); Amazon Prime Student subscribers also get access to exclusive College Deals. All you need is a valid university email.
Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL
You probably know by now: USB-C is the port of the future. Most of the latest laptops and smartphones have adopted it. Even the Nintendo Switch charges via USB-C. Mophie’s newest portable power bank is built to support your latest gadgets, and charge them fast. At 19,500mAh, it’s powerful enough to charge your MacBook Pro more than once. The power bank comes with USB-A port, so it’ll charge any older devices you have as well.
If you own an iPhone, Mac or MacBook, there’s really no more convenient wireless earbuds you can buy. The AirPods are driven by Apple’s W1 chip, meaning they’ll seamlessly pair your Apple devices. They’ve also been around long enough that people won’t look at you oddly for wearing them. And for Apple earbuds, they sound very good.
Riva Arena and Portable Battery
Riva’s Wand speakers truly have one eye on the future. They’re compatible with Spotify Connect, AirPlay, DLNA and Bluetooth; plus, they come with Chromecast built in, which, among other things, will allow you to connect them to a multi-room system. The Arena speaker ($249) is slightly more expensive than a Sonos Play:1, but it’s also so much more versatile. You can even buy a battery pack to turn this speaker into a wireless Bluetooth speaker with 20+ hours of juice. Think of this speaker as an investment; it’ll be part of your sound system for years to come.
Anker PowerPort Speed 4 Ports
How many times have you misplaced a power adapter, leaving a dead phone on your hands? Anker’s power hub has four USB-A ports, one of which supports Quick Charge 3.0). It’s a super convenient one-stop solution, especially for those who need to charge many devices simultaneously.
Vizio SmartCast M-Series 55-Inch TV
The Vizio M-Series is the company’s mid-range line of TVs and it’s near identical to Vizio’s high-end P-Series, save for a slightly lower effective refresh rate (240Hz vs 120Hz) and dimming qualities. They are 4K HDR TVs, though, so you’ll be able to stream high-res content and play any upcoming consoles that support it (like the Xbox One X). Each comes with built-in Chromecast, so you can stream easily. And best of all, you can get a 55-inch for well under a grand.
Despite the looming arrival of the Xbox One X and, eventually, the PS5, the Nintendo Switch might be the best console to invest in right now. Its games are fun and familiar; Zelda: Breath of the Wild is epic in its own right, and multiplayer titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Arms or Splatoon 2 will be hit in a competitive dorm environment. Plus, it’ll come in handy for any long trips back home.
Microsoft Surface Laptop or Laptop Pro
In the past few weeks, the Surface has received stellar reviews. Dan Seifert of The Verge even said it’s the best laptop you can buy right now. If you’re planning on using it as your primary laptop, you should configure it with Intel’s Core i7 processor and upgrade to a Windows 10 Pro operating system rather than stock Windows 10S. It boats a beautiful display, a powerful graphics card and 13.5 hours of battery.
If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 as a primary device, this year’s Surface Pro is a considerable upgrade from last year’s; just like with the Surface, you’d be best served with Intel’s high-end processor.
It’s important to note that Consumer Reports recently retracted its recommendation for several Microsoft Surface devices citing “poor predicted reliability.” We’ve experienced no such problems with the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, albeit we’ve only tested for several weeks. According to CultofMac, Microsoft insists that all problems with the Surface lineup have been addressed and future Consumer Reports’ reviews will reflects that.
Apple Watch Series 2
If you own an iPhone, the Apple Watch Series 2 is the best fitness tracker you can buy. It gives you everything you could want in a dedicated fitness tracker, like a built-in heart rate monitor and GPS tracker. You’ll get the added benefits of answering calls and texts without having to take your iPhone out of your pocket. If you don’t have an iPhone, we’d recommend the Fitbit Surge ($190), or Samsung Gear Fit2 ($120) if you have a Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
Amazon Echo Dot
A smart assistant can be extremely useful, even in a dorm room setting. It can help set timers and alarms, and answer questions about the weather. If you own other smart devices, such as lights or plugs, the Dot will likely control them; Amazon’s smart assistant, Alexa, boasts more third-party support than Google Home (or any other smart speaker). And, even though its audio won’t blow you away, the Dot’s speaker has no trouble filling a small room.
Sony H.ear On Wireless NC Headphones
These are the best wireless headphones that Sony has ever made, balancing a sleek, comfortable form factor with great performance and hi-res audio. (CNET‘s David Carnoy notes that they actually sound better than Bose’s QuietComfort 35.) The great battery life, a foldable design and multiple colorways make Sony’s H.ear On Wireless a great noise-canceling option for anybody.
If you’re like me, I constantly have to take “study breaks” to reheat my coffee. (I’m a slow drinker.) With this mug, there’s no reheating required. It’ll keep tea, coffee or other beverage at whatever temperature you like.
Powerbeats3 Wireless Earphones
Don’t wear your AirPods, or any other non-sport headphones, while working out. Get a nice pair of wireless running headphones. The Powerbeats3 feature Apple’s W1 Chip for easy iPhone pairing, and with their fixed earhooks, you won’t suffer an earbud falling out mid-run.