Back-to-school shopping guide: phones, tablets, headphones, all the tech you need

Back-to-school shopping guide: phones, tablets, headphones, all the tech you need

The back-to-school season is almost upon us and kids and young adults are preparing to return to their respective educational institutions. And that often requires a set of new gear to aid in the learning process or help with relaxing activities, which are equally important.

Now, obviously, we’re not here to tell you which textbooks to get and how many notebooks and pencils will get you through the year. 

That’s boring. We’re here to suggest some cool gadgets and a few other items that will make your room a nice place to be while studying. The new school year is a good opportunity to not only get some new clothes but also change up your living environment a bit and improve it with some new things that you can enjoy for years to come. 

You can jump straight to the section that interests you the most from the links below:

Smartphones


Of course, we start with a few phones! These days, a smartphone is an essential item in everyone's pocket, even kids have one. How good of an idea that is is not our place to judge. 

A big part of our lives revolves around our smartphones and now more than ever we need a device we can trust to get us through a full day's use without causing us any unnecessary headaches.

So, here are our recommendations in case you want to kick-off the school year with a new phone:

Apple iPhone 11


The iPhone 11 is the best all-around value proposition from Apple right now and is perfect for users of all ages. It's fast, has great battery life, dual cameras and night mode. 


Apple iPhone SE


The iPhone SE makes for a great first smartphone. It's relatively cheap and very compact but still powerful enough for your kid to enjoy the latest games. Plus, it's an iPhone, which is often a must for youngsters. You have Apple's marketing department to thank for that.


OnePlus 8


If you want a flagship phone but don't feel like paying $1,000 for it, then the OnePlus 8 is the way to go. Beautiful display, sleek design and performance like the best in the class.


Samsung Galaxy A71


The Galaxy A71 is а great midrange option. Display and cameras are on point and it even comes with 5G support. All that, at a price way lower than the Galaxy S20 series, makes it perfect for students.


Samsung Galaxy Note 10+


If you're more of a power user and looking for something fancier, then the Note 10+ is the phone for you. With its S Pen and multitasking capabilities, the Galaxy Note is a dream phone for engineering and art students alike.
 

Motorola Moto G Power


If you're looking for a phone that will get rid of your battery anxiety for good, look no further than the Moto G Power. The efficient chip and the massive battery ensure that "my battery died" is off the excuse list for not calling.
 

Tablets


Tablets are an awesome side-kick device. While they've slowly become the designated movie-watching gadget at many homes, they can be used for a lot more than that. Watching an online lesson while taking notes? Sure. Doing research for a paper? Of course. If you spend a bit more, it can replace your drawing tablet and even your laptop.

Apple iPad (2019)


iPads have become a synonym with tablets and with good reason. They're reliable, long-lasting and do pretty much everything you'd want them to. They can also be quite affordable unless you're going for the top-tier model. Last year's standard iPad is a great choice for those that aren't looking for anything fancy, just a tablet that gets the job done.


Amazon Fire HD 8


Amazon's new Fire HD 8 tablet cuts some corners in terms of hardware but that's directly reflected in its price. If you're looking for a portable Netflix machine or something to give to your kid and not worry about it getting broken, then you can't wrong with a Fire tablet. 


Samsung Galaxy Tab S6


Now we're getting into the more serious stuff. The Galaxy Tab S6 is Samsung's high-end tablet and sits above most other Android tablets on the market. It comes with an amazing OLED display, decent-sounding speakers and even an S Pen. With the Tab S7 already out, the S6 can now often be found discounted, further improving the value. Add a keyboard cover and writing papers on it becomes a breeze. 


Apple iPad Pro (2020)


If you're in the Apple ecosystem and working with a higher budget, the new iPad Pro is the way to go. Performance is off the charts, iPadOS updates are making it more useful than ever and now it even has LiDAR. The drawback is that the Apple Pencil and keyboard cover are sold separately, bumping the price of the complete package to somewhat uncomfortable levels. Still, compared to college tuition fees, it's just a drop in the bucket.

Smartwatches and fitness trackers


Smartwatches are rapidly finding their way to more and more wrists each year. They're becoming more useful with each generation and battery life isn't as big of a concern as it used to be. A smartwatch can help you keep track of your busy schedule, read and reply to messages, and of course, there are a bunch of health-related features that are very handy.

Apple Watch Series 5


Apple's latest smartwatch is the obvious choice if you're part of the Apple ecosystem. Now with an always-on display and some of the best health features on a wearable, you can't go wrong by pairing your iPhone with an Apple Watch Series 5.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 


Samsung's newest flagship smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch 3 is now here and ready to take its place on your wrist. It comes with new, refined design, plenty of awesome features and twice the storage of the original Galaxy Watch so you can have all your favorite songs while exercising. If you're an Android user, this is the best smartwatch you can get right now.

Withings Steel HR


If you're a fan of traditional watches but still want some smart functionality, the Withings Steel HR is a great option. It has heart-rate and sleep tracking, shows notifications from your smartphone and lasts weeks on a single charge.

Apple Watch Series 3


The Apple Watch Series 3 is Apple's budget option if you're looking to save a couple hundred bucks or so. Although it's two years older, it still gets the job done when it comes to essential smartwatch functionality.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2


The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is another great smartwatch from Samsung. Smaller,  with a cleaner design and packed with features, it will easily match with any casual outfit.

Fitbit Versa 2


The Versa 2 might not feel as nice as Samsung's smartwatches, but it's pretty capable nonetheless and the Fitbit app and its active community are a great perk if exercising is your focus.

Fitbit Ace 2


The Fitbit Ace 2 is meant for the youngest school goers. It's simple and durable and will help motivate your kid to be more active during the day rather than spend its time glued to a screen.

Garmin Vivofit Jr 2


Another band designed with kids in mind. Garmin's Vivofit Jr 2 comes in a slew of different cool wraps that include favorite Disney and Star Wars characters.

Headphones


Headphones are a vital part of every modern person's arsenal. From enjoying your favorite tunes while out and about to keeping things quiet in the dorm room to not disturb neighbors and roommates, their usefulness is unquestionable. Wireless headphones get rid of those pesky cables we keep having to untangle and although that means charging yet another gadget, the convenience is more than worth it.

So, here are some of the best options on the market right now.

Apple AirPods Pro


The AirPods Pro are pricey but if you want to keep distractions at bay their active noise canceling is irreplaceable. Plus, if you're an iPhone user, you get an almost instant connection when you pull them out and you can even ask Siri a thing or two if you so desire. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds+


Samsung's Galaxy Buds+ have a massive advantage of their own: the battery life. It's almost unparalleled when it comes to true wireless earbuds. You can wear them for most of your waking hours without having to put them back in the charging case.

Anker Soundcore Life P2


If you're looking for a pair of earbuds on a budget, the Anker Soundcore Life P2 are a great choice. They sound much better than their price-tag suggests and can last up to 7 hours on a single charge, which is more than decent. 

Sony WH1000XM3


Moving to the over-the-ear category, we can't skip Sony's flagship wireless headphones. They set the standard for excellent active noise canceling and bring out near-perfect sound.

Sennheiser HD 4.50


Stepping down in terms of price, we get to a beloved pair of Sennheiser mid-range headphones. With a great balance between price and sound quality, these cans won't disappoint you.

Anker Soundcore Life Q20


Surprised? You shouldn't be! Anker is a bang-for-your-buck king and we often recommend the company's products to those that are looking for value. At that price, the ANC won't be as good as it is on Sony's pair but you still have it and the battery of the Soundcore Life Q20 will last for 40 hours! What's not to like?

Razer Kraken X


Maybe you don't mind wires? Well then, Razer's Kraken X will serve you well not only during gaming sessions but conference calls as well. The aesthetic of the headset is subtle enough that it looks suitable even for a professional environment.


Bluetooth speakers


A Bluetooth speaker is another must-have for students. They're just so versatile! Pump up your favorite beats at home or slip it in your backpack and jam in the park or at the beach, doesn't matter. They're durable and their batteries last more hours than you can dance continuously. There's no reason not to have one. 

That being said, here's which ones we would consider:

JBL Flip 5


JBL has established itself as one of the best Bluetooth speaker manufacturers and with good reason. The Flip 5 looks cool, has respectable bass for its size and can take a dive in a pool like it's no big deal. 

Ultimate Ears Boom 3


The UE Boom 3 is another durable Bluetooth speaker with sound that will satisfy the needs of every improvised party. And if any of your friends have one too, you can pair them all together and take it to the next level.

Marshall Acton II


This one you wouldn't want to roll around in the sand. Marshall Acton II oozes character and will add a pinch of class to your living space. Needless to say, it sounds amazing as well. With the Acton II, you're buying a Bluetooth speaker and getting a conversation starter as a bonus.

Bose Soundlink II


If the other suggestions don't fit you, maybe the Soundlink II will. We find the design a bit boring, but if that's not important to you then some of its other qualities might convince you to buy it. 

Anker SoundCore Pro+


Getting to the lower prices we again reach an Anker product. The SoundCore Pro+ has everything that counts: powerful sound, battery life, durability. No one will be amazed by it but it will do its job and it costs significantly less than the rest, so why not give it a try?

Arc Star Floating Speaker


If you're looking for something less traditional and more eye-catching, then this Bluetooth speaker might be a good choice. The Arc Star looks suspiciously like another popular "star" and is held in the air by magnets, giving it that cool levitating effect. When you're going somewhere you can just pick up the sphere and it's now a portable Bluetooth speaker.

Laptops


Image by Lalmch from Pixabay

Laptops are a vital part of any study efforts these days, so why are they so low on our list? Well, chances are you already have one that you're happy with. But if that's not the case, we have a few models that will be great companions both at home and in the classroom.

Apple MacBook Air


Apple's thin and light MacBook Air is the preferred choice of many students for its.. well thinness and lightness. Its performance is not top-notch and the SSD can fill up quickly, but if you're not studying anything that requires the use of heavy software, it should suit you just fine. Of course, if you already have a few Apple products, the MacBook Air will fit even better. 

Dell XPS 13 9380


Dell's XPS 13 is packing a lot more punch while managing to keep its profile relatively slim. An Intel i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 4K display are signs that this machine means business. If you want to separate yourself from the Mac crowd, this Dell is the right way to do it. 

HP Envy X360


The HP Envy X360 bets on AMD's mobile processors and that's a breath of fresh air. Team Red's chips enjoy better power efficiency without sacrificing performance. This means better battery life and less heat on your lap. The Envy's hinge allows the display to go all the way around, so you can also use it as a tablet. Pretty nifty! 

Acer Predator Helios 300


If you're looking for something with more horsepower that can run e-sport titles at high FPS, the Predator Helios 300 is a good balance between price and performance. It comes with a 144Hz refresh-rate display, which is quite rare at that price point, and a CPU-GPU combo that can handle almost anything you through at it.

Accessories


Time to go through a few sidekicks for your sidekicks. These accessories will make your life easier, especially if you like to have one of each device from the list above.

Joby GorillaPod Starter Kit


If you're often out and about with friends this handy compact GorillaPod tripod will be indispensable when it's time for a group shot or a nice picture of the night sky. It has so many uses there's no reason to not have one around. 

3-in-1 wireless charger for iPhone, Apple Watch, AirPods


Plenty of people reading this probably have the iPhone-Apple-Watch-AirPods combo either on them or around them right now. Well, with this charger you can spare your desk from a bunch of cables and have all three neatly organized and charging while you're doing something on your computer, for example. 

Anker wireless charger


Looking for something more universal? Anker is here to help you out once more! Charge any Qi-compatible device on this wireless charger without a hassle. 

5-port USB charging station


One of the worst things about having a bunch of gadgets is that most of them need charging. It's not long before a corner of your home becomes a rat's nest of cables and power bricks. With this 5-port charging station, you can significantly declutter your charging operation and add convenience in the process. This one even comes with the necessary short cables to keep things as neat as possible. 

Aukey 2-port USB car charger


Most cars these days have a USB port for charging or even a wireless charger. But those are often super slow. Aukey's car charger supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 and has two ports so you and your partner can both top up your phones in no time! 

Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 power bank


Like to have camping trips over the weekend? This power bank is far from the biggest on the market, but it's slim and relatively light and can still top up your phone around 3 times, plenty to get you through a nature getaway. Of course, it can also charge anything that uses USB chargers, which makes it an invaluable addition to your tech lineup. 

Logitech C920 Hd Pro Webcam


Unfortunately, even high-end laptops in 2020 often come with webcams that are simply not good. And now that so much of our communication is through video calls, it's worth investing in a webcam that will provide superior image quality.

Entertainment


Sure, it's back to school time, but you can't study all the time. Everyone needs some time to relax and blow off some steam. Here are a few devices that will help you with that endeavor.

DJI Mavic Mini drone


A drone is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking back-to-school, but when it comes to entertainment, it provides plenty. The Mavic Mini is one of the best compact drones out there and apart from the joy of flying it, you can record stunning videos with its camera. Take it with you on your adventures and your friends will be forever grateful for the epic footage you'll provide with this drone.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite


Who doesn't have a Kindle these days? But do you have the latest waterproof Kindle Paperwhite? Probably not. So give your old one to a younger(or older) relative and treat yourself to a nice new e-reader. There's no need to tell you what to do with it after that.

Fire TV Stick


You're stuck with an older TV in your dorm room that doesn't have integrated streaming services? Get a Fire TV Stick and you're good to go! Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, whatever your choice of streaming service is, you can probably get it via the Fire TV Stick. 

Roku Streaming Stick+


The deal with the Roku Stick+ is pretty much the same as with the Fire Stick, but with a slightly different lineup of services. Which one you'd get largely depends on what you're planning to watch the most. 

Asus Wi-Fi 6 Dual-Band router


Spending that much on a router might seem like an unnecessary expense, but think about it. Pretty much all of your devices rely on Wi-Fi, so why not treat yourself with a capable router that will provide a faster and more reliable connection?l----

Nintendo Switch


The Switch has been out for a while but if you don't have one already, it's still not too late to get one. It's great for cooperative gaming and will make your room the gathering spot for your friends to hang out at. Plus, you can always take it with you somewhere else and play hundreds of awesome games on the go. 

SteelSeries Stratus Duo Wireless Gaming Controller


If you don't have the money to spare for a console, then why not make your mobile gaming experience a lot better with a quality controller. The Stratus Duo can be used with any Android phones and PC, while iPhones would work with the SteelSeries Nimbus+. Get the $10 mounting bracket for your phone and you have a portable console ready to go!

Miscellaneous


Time for the final set of products that will aid you in your upcoming schooling adventures. They're not gadgets per se, but they will make your school life better one way or another.

TaoTronics Metal LED Desk Lamp


Okay, that's not a cheap desk lamp, but has plenty of features. It's energy-efficient, it swivels anyway you want it, has different light modes and brightness levels and even includes a USB charging port. And it just looks plain cool, which is important since you'll spend a lot of time near it. 

Peak Design Everyday Backpack


Sure, this backpack is targeted towards photographers, but even if you're not carrying a camera and 5 lenses around, you can still take advantage of its superior compartment design and durability. Put an end to the rummaging and wasting time to find that one thing you dropped in your backpack weeks ago. With the Peak Design Everyday Backpack, everything has its place. 

Sofa Sack Memory Foam Beanless Bag chair


This beanbag chair is actually beanless. What does that mean? Well, as the name suggests, it's filled with memory foam instead, giving you more comfort and less noise when moving around. This cloud-like chair will quickly become your favorite place to be. 

Nouhaus Ergo3D ergonomic office chair


Sooner or later, you'll have to get some serious school work done and that means spending hours at your desk. So, do yourself a favor and get a chair that's comfortable and ergonomic. The Nouhaus Ergo3D is just that and will give your body the support it needs. Additionally, it comes with roller-blade-style wheels which are great for carpeted rooms and are smooth and quiet on hardwood floors as well. 

SHW Electric Height adjustable computer desk


Maybe sitting while working isn't your thing. That's fine. With this height-adjustable desk, you can switch from a sitting desk to a standing desk in seconds. Just make sure all the cables have the necessary slack, or you'll be in trouble. It's not a small investment, but it's cheaper than physiotherapy, that's for sure.

Himalayan Salt Lamp


Studying can be very stressful at times. The Himalayan Salt Lamp will make for a calmer and cosier environment in your room and its reddish glow will help you relax after a long day in front of the computer.

Magnetic White Board


A magnetic white board is a necessity for every dorm room, it's just so useful! You can write reminders or notes for your roommate, stick pictures with magnets or just put on the magnets you bought as souvenirs during trips. Of course, you can also draw and doodle on it. There's no reason not to have one.

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