20 Must-Have Back-To-School Gadgets And Gizmos

Cheat Sheet

Any great college experience should be a mix of learning and fun, of course. And with the amount of technology innovation out there today, there are plenty of gadgets available to help on both endeavors. Electronic devices to make attending class and studying a better experience are basically a requirement, so are devices for hanging out and relaxing. Since getting the most out of the coming year of college is easier when you have the right stuff, we've rounded up 20 items worth considering.

For students heading back to school in 2017, here are our top suggestions for laptops, speakers, backpacks and more..

Sennheiser HD 4.50 Headphones

A major must-have for dorm life is a way to block out the commotion from time to time. Which basically means noise-canceling headphones. Among the top noise-canceling headphone options out there is Sennheiser's HD 4.50, which has the added feature of connecting wirelessly over Bluetooth.

The Sennheiser HD 4.50 Headphones is priced at $199.95 on Amazon.

JBL Flip 4

Sometimes just throwing on headphones isn't the answer, though. Blowing off steam after an exam, for instance, calls for playing that music out loud. But with space at a premium in the dorm room, small but powerful solutions are the ideal, which is where the JBL Flip 4 comes in. The Flip 4 can connect over Bluetooth to up to two devices, and can run for 12 hours on a charge. Bonus: It's ultra-water-resistant and portable for use outside the dorm.

The JBL Flip 4 is priced at $94.35 on Amazon.

Amazon Echo Dot

If you're giving a gift to a college-bound student, Amazon's Echo Dot is a go-to option. The voice-controlled speaker can play music, provide news and weather updates, offer reminders ("Alexa, remind me to go to class at 3:30 p.m."), and much more. The little 1.3-inch-tall speaker will also fit just about anywhere in the dorm room, and while the speaker itself isn't all that powerful, the Echo Dot can connect to external speakers over a 3.5mm output cable.

The Amazon Echo Dot is priced at $49.99.

Tile Mate

Can you really blame a busy college student for occasionally losing things? In the era of "connected everything," they don't have to stay lost for long. The Tile Mate is a Bluetooth-connected device that helps track down those misplaced items; the Tile Mate attaches to items such as keychains and then will "ring" when you command on your smartphone. Likewise, when you've lost your phone, a double press on the Tile Mate will make your phone ring.

The Tile Mate is priced at $24.93 on Amazon.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Microsoft says it developed this new laptop with the needs of college students in mind. As a result, the laptop rates highly on portability (2.76 pounds, 0.57 of an inch thick), design (appealing color scheme, Alcantara fabric around its keyboard) and battery life (up to 14.5 hours on a charge). It's also fast, with Intel's latest processors and up to 16 GB of RAM. One caveat: The laptop comes outfitted with Windows 10 S, which will only run apps that are downloadable from the Windows Store. Surface Laptop owners do have the option to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro if they like, though.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop has a starting price of $999.

Apple iPad

Thanks to Apple's recent introduction of a more affordably priced 9.7-inch iPad, the tablet is having a resurgence among consumers right now -- and it may just be one of the top items on many back-to-school shopping lists this year. The new version of the iPad gets a boost to speed, offers up to 10 hours of battery life and features Apple's much-loved Retina display technology. The new iPad is also just 0.29 of an inch thick, and comes in gold, silver and space gray.

The new Apple iPad has a starting price of $329.

Samsung Chromebook Pro

For many students, the Chromebook approach -- with its reliance entirely on web-connected apps -- is really all that's needed in a laptop. New this year, Samsung's Chromebook Pro is a sleeker, more-powerful and more flexible alternative to the typical Chromebook. The Chromebook Pro comes with a QHD display that can fold part or all of the way back, and has a built-in digital pen. The notebook also has a faster processor and better graphics than most of the Chromebooks on the market, and it's designed to work with certain Android apps as well.

The Samsung Chromebook Pro is priced at $549.99.

Rocketbook Everlast

Not every student wants to take their notes on a laptop, however, preferring handwritten methods. But that doesn't mean their notes have to be confined to their notebook (or that paper has to be wasted). The Rocketbook Everlast looks and feels like a normal pen-and-paper notebook, but the notes can be easily uploaded from the notebook directly to the cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox and many more cloud services are supported). The Rocketbook Everlast includes 36 pages and, once it's filled up, users can erase the contents with a damp cloth.

The Rocketbook Everlast with an accompanying Pilot FriXion pen is priced at $34 on Amazon.

Thule Paramount 24L Backpack

Toting around laptops, tablets, textbooks and more requires having a backpack that's up to the task. Thule's Paramount 24L backpack has tons of space for all of those student necessities -- including a special laptop sleeve that protects laptops as large as 15 inches and a tablet pocket for holding tablets up to 10.1 inches. The backpack also features a rolltop compartment for expanding the amount of carrying space inside.

The Thule Paramount 24L backpack is priced at $129.95 on Amazon.

Herschel Little America Mid-Volume Backpack

For a backpack with more of a retro look, but still with plenty of space for carrying devices and textbooks, Herschel Supply Co.'s Little America Mid-Volume Backpack is an appealing choice. The polyester backpack features a mountaineering-inspired style with leather straps, and comes with a padded 13-inch laptop sleeve as well as an internal media pocket with headphone port.

The Herschel Little America Mid-Volume Backpack is priced at $99.99 on Amazon.

Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO Y910

For some students, no college experience will be complete without having time for gaming. Lenovo's IdeaCentre Y910 is an all-in-one that's made for just this sort of student, with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics, top-notch connectivity (via Rivet Networks' Killer Double Shot Pro technology), up to 32 GB of RAM and a 27-inch QHD display.

The Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO Y910 has a starting price of $1,799.99.

Nintendo Switch

While we're on the topic of games, the Nintendo Switch is another can't-go-wrong gift for the gamer student in your life (provided they don't already have one). The console can be used both in the dorm room (docked and connected to a TV) and on-the-go in handheld mode. Apart from "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," other top games available for the console include "Puyo Puyo Tetris" and "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe."

The Nintendo Switch is priced at $379.50 on Amazon.

HP Sprocket

The dorm room isn't complete until it's decorated, and HP may have just the thing to help. The company's tiny Sprocket printer -- small enough to fit in your pocket--lets you print out 2 x 3-inch photos that double as stickers. And printing is done wirelessly from your smartphone. HP says the Sprocket is proving most popular in the millennial-aged demographic--the "selfie generation"--so it could be a much-appreciated gift by the college student in your life.

The HP Sprocket is priced at $129.95 on Best Buy's website.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

The latest Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon's e-reader for a paper-like reading experience, could be ideal for the college student who's both tech-savvy and looking to save some space in their bookbag (less physical books to carry around). The 6-inch display is glare-free ando features twice the resolution of the previous Kindle Paperwhite display. The e-reader also features strong battery life, so that students will be able to use it for weeks without having to think about charging up.

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is priced at $119.99.

Spigen iPhone 7 Ultra Hybrid Case

Life on campus means constantly being on the go -- with an endless number of opportunities for dropping and shattering that pricey iPhone 7. (While it's more water-resistant than past iPhones, it's not drop-proof.) A clear case is going to be the best bet in many cases, especially if the phone comes in a color that your student is really fond of (jet black, perhaps?). Spigen's Ultra Hybrid iPhone 7 case is available in crystal clear, and comes with "air cushion" technology to protect against the inevitable dropping incident around campus.

The Spigen Ultra Hybrid Case is priced at $12.99 on Amazon.

Apple iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case

For those students looking for both protection and some extra juice out of their smartphone case, Apple's own iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case is a great option. The case includes a microfiber lining for protection and an included battery that extends web usage to up to 22 hours on LTE. One advantage of going with an Apple-made battery case: the total battery life (from both the phone and case batteries) is displayed on the iPhone 7’s lock screen and notification center.

The Apple iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case is priced at $99.

Jackery Bolt Power Bank

Another option for keeping a smartphone charged up -- which, let's face it, is non-negotiable for the modern student -- is an external battery pack. While there are an endless number to choose from, the Jackery Bolt is a portable power bank that has more to offer than many. Features include charging for both iOS and micro USB devices, a large amount of stored power (6000mAh, enough to charge an iPhone 7 twice) and a small size (4.3 x 1.9 x 0.9 inches).

The Jackery Bolt is priced at $26.99 on Amazon.

Fitbit Charge 2

If avoiding the Freshman 15 is a key goal for the student in your life, a wearable fitness tracker might be a much-appreciated gift. The Fitbit Charge 2 offers features such as a cardio fitness level tool (which provides a snapshot of a user's fitness), continuous wrist-based heart-rate tracking and strong battery life (of up to five days).

The Fitbit Charge 2 is priced at $148.95 on Amazon.

Chromecast Ultra

Popular with the streaming generation, the Chromecast enables users to easily stream Netflix and other media to a TV, which is going to be a must-have for many dorm rooms. Google's newest version of the device, Chromecast Ultra, is faster than the original and can also provide 4K Ultra HD and HDR picture quality. Chromecast Ultra works with Apple devices (iPhone, Android, Mac) as well as Android devices, Windows devices and Chromebooks.

Chromecast Ultra is available from Best Buy's website for $69.99.

Roost Laptop Stand

No student should have to suffer from "laptop hunch" -- caused by hunching over a desk to work away on a laptop -- when there are products available such as the Roost Laptop Stand. The lightweight, collapsible stand aims to improve both ergonomics (i.e., health) and productivity. The stand can be adjusted to bring any user's laptop to eye level, though an external keyboard and mouse will be necessary in some situations. Crucially, it fits all but the very thickest laptops out there.

The Roost Laptop Stand is priced at $79.95 on Amazon.