Smart buys: our favorite back to school tech essentials

These tech essentials will not only help you survive college life, but maybe even help you land a spot on the Dean’s list (no promises). Even though the majority of our top picks are geared towards college students living in a dorm, we think they can help students of all ages.

All of the recommendations below have been shaped by my experiences while attending a four-year private University.


The fall is not only back to school season, but also home to the baseball playoffs and the start of the football season. MLB.TV is expensive and NFL Sunday Ticket is a hassle. We recommend a Sling Media Slingbox to keep tabs on your favorite sports teams while away from home. The all-new SlingBox M1 was just released and is the most affordable Slingbox ever at just $149.99.

Xbox One and PlayStation 4 may be the flashy options for dorm room gaming, but we recommend saving a few bucks and opting for an Xbox 360 or Wii U. The Xbox 360 has a huge back catalog of awesome games that are now priced to move. Plus, some next-gen games (like Mortal Kombat X), will also be available on 360 and PS3. The Wii U has had a rough run, but party games like Mario Kart 8 and the upcoming Super Smash Brothers make it an excellent choice for dorm room hang sessions.

Skip Blu-ray and DVD. The players will take up prime TV stand real-estate and it’s a hassle to find the movie you’re looking for and then physically pop it in a player (I know, first world problems). Instead, go with a Roku 3/streaming stick or Apple TV to stream your media from Netflix (free trial), Hulu Plus (free trial), and iTunes.

It’s perfectly OK that listening to Norah Jones Spotify radio (student discount) helps you study, but don’t be that guy and play it out loud. A nice pair of headphones are key for school. If your budget allows it, then definitely upgrade to a set of noise-cancelling cans, like the Bose QC15, to drown out any background noise. Bust out a larger portable Bluetooth speaker like the Logitech UE BOOM (review) or Jawbone’s Big JAMBOX (review) when it’s time to party.


First off, skip the printer. They are a pain to maintain and honestly look terrible in nearly any setting. Most major universities offer free (or discounted) printing options. Also, most professors are now accepting work electronically so you may not even have a need to print any documents.

You probably have at least three mobile devices and a couple USB-powered accessories so you’ll definitely want to get a multi-port charger. We love the Anker IQ 40W 5-port smart USB adapter. Along the same lines, it would be a good idea to have a power bank handy for weekend trips or even extended night classes. This Lumsing 10400mAh power bank packs enough juice to charge your iPhone multiple times and is one of our favorites.

Unfortunately, college students with little to no income tend to have sticky fingers. Do yourself a favor and use a Kensington lock to deter potential thieves in your dorm, during class, or at the library. MacBook Airs and Retina MacBook Pros don’t include a Kensington lock (they’re too thin), but you can use a MacLocks security system or the Kensington SafeDock to add a locking mechanism to your Mac. Pro tip: many desktop external hard drives and displays support Kensington locks.

Cloud storage is a must. It’ll act as a backup source and provides easy access to your most important documents no matter where you are. Many products like Dropbox (2GB+), Microsoft OneDrive (15GB), and Google Drive (15GB) offer free storage options.

Local external storage is just as important as cloud. You should really be using both as backup options if you want to be truly protected. Unlike cloud storage, local external hard drives offer
huge amounts of super fast storage on the cheap. Our favorite pick is the WD My Passport Slim 1TB.

Last but not least, you should protect all this costly tech gear with a nice surge protector. We agree with Wirecutter’s pick and think the APC Performance 3020J SurgeArrest is the surge protector to get.

FTC: 9to5Toys is reader supported, we may earn income on affiliate links

Subscribe to the 9to5Toys YouTube Channel for all of the latest videos, reviews, and more!

Load more...
Show More Comments