20 Cool Back-To-School Tech Gadgets For 2019

Our top suggestions for students this fall include laptops and tablets, backpacks, chargers and smart speakers.

Cheat Sheet

What is the college experience really about—learning or fun? It's about both, of course. For the student in your life, their first taste of living independently—or at least more independently—should definitely not be all work and no play. (Or vice versa.) Without a doubt, there are plenty of gadgets available to assist with getting the most out of both work and play for your student. Devices to assist with college studies are basically a requirement, and so are gadgets for hanging out and relaxing. College goes better with the right gear, so we've rounded up 20 items worth considering—including devices from top manufacturers including Apple, Amazon, Bose and HP Inc.

For students heading to campus this fall, here are our top suggestions for cool back-to-school gadgets for 2019.

Amazon Echo Dot, Third Gen

We put Amazon's compact-size, Alexa-powered smart speaker at the top of our list because 1.) there's almost no student who wouldn't get something out of having one of these, and 2.) it's one of the most affordably priced smart speakers available. The voice-controlled Echo Dot offers music, news, weather, podcasts and tons more, on command. For better speaker quality, the Echo Dot can connect to external speakers over Bluetooth or 3.5mm audio cable. And the Echo Dot can fit easily into the dorm room with its 3.9 x 3.9 x 1.7-inch size.

The Amazon Echo Dot, third gen, is currently priced at $49.99.

Apple MacBook Air

The MacBook Air has long been a go-to for students, thanks to its excellent portability and sleek design. In July, Apple released an updated version of the MacBook Air, adding display improvements and a lower price tag. The MacBook Air now offers Apple's "True Tone" display technology, bringing more vibrant color to the notebook's 13-inch Retina display. Apple also lowered the starting price for the MacBook Air to $1,099, from $1,199 previously—and students can get the MacBook Air for $999 through Apple's education store.

Along with adding Apple's Retina display, the latest refresh to the MacBook Air gave it a big boost on display resolution (to 2,560 x 1,600) and processing power. The MacBook Air also now weighs just 2.75 pounds, down from 2.98 pounds previously, and measures 0.61 of an inch thick, compared with 0.68 of an inch previously.

HP Spectre Folio

Another laptop choice for students that's high on style is HP's Spectre Folio. HP is calling the Spectre Folio the world's first "leather convertible PC," with a 100 percent genuine leather covering around its exterior. The 2-in-1 notebook merges a vintage design with the latest computing advances, with the 13.3-inch notebook offering 18 hours of battery life and low-power, eighth-generation Intel processors that don't require a fan. The Spectre Folio can also be LTE-connected to allow it to be "always connected" for users—such as on-the-go college students—and it comes in "Cognac Brown" and "Bordeaux Burgundy" colors.

The HP Spectre Folio has a current starting price of $1,149.99.

Mancro Anti-Theft Laptop Backpack

Described as one of the best Anti-Theft Smart Backpacks, the Mancro packs some great technology into a lightweight bag. This Mancro includes anti-RFID protections with a protective layer sewn into the fabric to block magnetic scanners. The backpack also features a handle reinforced with steel to prevent it from being cut away from a user's grasp, and it's made of extra-strong polyester that is tear- and water-resistant. Meanwhile, the Mancro has more than 14 compartments, including a laptop compartment large enough to fit a 17-inch laptop.

The Mancro backpack is currently priced at $25.99 on Amazon.

HP Tango X

While much college schoolwork has gone digital, some students may still appreciate having a printer available—for instance, for reading over their papers before submission. HP's Tango X printer would be a terrific choice. The printer features a compact size for fitting into a dorm room, as well as a stylish design; the Tango X sports a fabric cover that makes the printer resemble a book when closed. The Tango X also serves as a scanner and copier, and comes with voice control capabilities for voice-activated printing.

The HP Tango X is priced at $199.99.

Tribit Bluetooth Speaker

When it's time for a trip off campus, there's no reason your student can't bring the music with them. And when it comes to choosing a portable wireless speaker, the Tribit Bluetooth Speaker is worth considering. For starters, the speaker is highly portable at 1.1 pounds and 7 inches tall, yet still offers 360-degree surround sound as well as a Bluetooth range of 66 feet. The Tribit Bluetooth Speaker also offers impressive battery life, at 20 hours on a charge. And did we mention it's waterproof? The Tribit Bluetooth Speaker features an IPX7 water resistance rating, meaning it can survive a drop in water as deep as 3 feet for up to a half-hour.

The Tribit Bluetooth Speaker is currently priced at $69.99 on Amazon.

GoPro Hero7 White

Your student's off-campus adventures might also demand a GoPro for capturing the biggest moments. The latest entry-level GoPro model is the GoPro Hero7 White—which shoots video at 1440p resolution and photos at 10 megapixels. The pocket-sized Hero7 White is waterproof in waters as deep as 10 meters (about 33 feet); includes video stabilization and voice-control capabilities; and offers features such as vertical capture and a photo timer for group photos and selfies. The GoPro Hero7 White also comes with a 2-inch LCD touch screen featuring a redesigned user interface that delivers smartphone-like simplicity.

The GoPro Hero7 White is currently priced at $172.99 on Amazon.

OtterBox Traction Series Case

Wherever your student is headed, chances are their smartphone could use some extra protection. One solid option for your iPhone-using student is the OtterBox Traction Series Case. It proves that protective cases don't just need to be about mitigating the effects of drops and shocks—they can also add style. With the OtterBox Traction Series Case for the iPhone XS or XS Max, a scratch-resistant clear backing is complemented by a grippy edge featuring a splash of glittery color. The case is also ultra slim yet rugged enough to offer strong protection for your summer adventures-- including through a raised, protective bumper that offers full screen usage.

The OtterBox Traction Series Case is priced at $39.95.

Apple Watch Series 4

The cellular connectivity on the latest Apple Watch could make it a great fit for your student's fitness routines and outdoor activities. For the Apple Watch Series 4, features include new hiking and yoga workouts along with advanced capabilities for runners, such as cadence and pace alerts. Other fitness features range from personalized coaching to activity sharing. The latest Apple Watch also includes up to 2X faster performance and a 50 percent louder speaker, while the cellular connectivity and 18-hour battery life of the previous model have been retained.

The Apple Watch Series 4 has a starting price of $399 (GPS only) or $499 (cellular/GPS).

Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless Headphones

Wireless earbuds will also be a big asset for your highly active student. And not just earbuds that connect to their phone wirelessly, but ones that are "truly" wireless—along the lines of Apple's AirPods, without any wires connecting to each other. Bose's SoundSport Free Truly Wireless Headphones are a great AirPods alternative for your student's life on and off campus. The SoundSport earbuds offer superior Bose sound and up to five hours of battery life (plus another 10 hours with the included charging case)—along with sweat and weather resistance. And, lost earbuds can be tracked with the helpful "find my buds" feature in an accompanying app.

The Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless Headphones are currently priced at $179 on Amazon.

NutriBullet Pro Blender

Don't forget about a healthy diet when it comes to your student's gadget needs. There are few things better than a smoothie after a long day in class, and the NutriBullet Pro Blender can deliver. The NutriBullet Pro is a great blender option (and relatively affordable, too) with its 900-watt motor for pulverizing fruits, vegetables and seeds and extracting all of the contained nutrients. The NutriBullet Pro can blend up to 32 ounces, which should be more than enough to satisfy your summer smoothie craving.

The NutriBullet Pro is currently priced at $89 on Amazon.

Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso Machine

For the caffeine-loving student, why shouldn't they be able to make lattes and cappuccinos of their own to save a few bucks? The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista is a semi-automatic espresso maker—with automatic milk frother—for a greatly simplified (and delicious) way to make espresso drinks right in the dorm. Users need only to add coffee grounds and milk, and the espresso maker does the rest, with a one-touch control panel for choosing a single- or double-shot espresso, cappuccino or latte.

The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso Machine is currently priced at $179.99 on Amazon.

Lenovo Smart Display

Your gadget-loving student has probably at least considered getting a smart display device—but if they haven't made the leap yet, the Lenovo Smart Display could make a great back-to-school gift. The device pairs the Google Assistant with a display of up to 10 inches in size—opening up the ability to watch YouTube, HBO Now and other streaming services by voice control. The Smart Display also has Chromecast built in, so users can cast video content from other devices. Other great uses include looking up recipes by voice, and then having the recipe directions presented on the screen—while the Lenovo Smart Display provides standard smart speaker functionality such as music streaming, weather and traffic, as well.

The Lenovo Smart Display comes in two sizes—10 inches (which is priced at $249.99 and has an FHD display) and 8 inches (priced at $169.99 with an HD display).

Apple iPad Mini

A highly portable tablet with a digital pen—such as the iPad Mini, Apple's most compact-size tablet—could be a major asset on campus. Key updates in the new iPad Mini include the addition of support for the Apple Pencil stylus (sold separately for $99) and improved performance. The 7.9-inch display also offers the "highest pixel density of any iPad," Apple said, and it's 25 percent brighter than in the past. The new iPad Mini measures just a quarter of an inch thick and weighs just two-thirds of a pound—making it easily the most portable iPad available.

The Apple iPad Mini is available for a starting price of $399.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

A major must-have for dorm life is a way to block out the commotion from time to time. In particular, noise-canceling headphones from Bose are always a solid choice—and Bose's QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones are in their second generation. Along with the Bluetooth connectivity and acoustic noise cancellation of the original version, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones add in the Google Assistant for voice control—for such things as playing music and sending texts—right from the headphones. The QuietComfort 35 II headphones also feature an impressive 20 hours of battery life.

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones are currently priced at $299.

Belkin Boost Charge Power Bank 5K With Lightning Connector

If your student's iPhone always seems to be in need of a charge, they might just appreciate this handy accessory from Belkin. The 5,000mAh Boost Charge Power Bank offers up to 35 hours of battery life per charge, and won't add much heft with a weight of just a third of a pound. For iPhone users, it also has a big advantage over other power banks: it can actually recharge itself using a Lightning cable. That means that your student can recharge the Boost Charge Power Bank using the same Lightning cable they use to power their iPhone.

The Belkin Boost Charge Power Bank 5K With Lightning Connector is currently priced at $39.99.

Tile Mate

This could be the ultimate gift for any student who is prone to misplacing their stuff. In the era of "connected everything," missing things don't have to stay missing for long. The Tile Mate is a small Bluetooth-connected device that helps track down those misplaced items; the Tile Mate attaches to items such as keychains and then will "ring" when commanded on a smartphone. Likewise, when a user's phone has gone missing, a double press on the Tile Mate will make the phone ring. Recent updates to the Tile Mate have included boosted Bluetooth range and replaceable batteries.

The Tile Mate with replaceable battery is currently priced at $23.63 on Amazon.

Amazon Kindle

The latest Kindle e-reader could be ideal for the college student who's both tech-savvy and looking to save some space in their bookbag (fewer books to carry around). Amazon just refreshed the Kindle in April, and the biggest new feature is the addition of a front light—which lets users adjust the display brightness for more comfortable reading. That includes during nighttime reads indoors, or doing some reading on the campus lawn in the bright sun. The Kindle features a 6-inch 167-ppi display for reading e-books, along with the ability to play Audible audiobooks—and, notably, the Kindle lets users easily switch between reading and listening to the same book.

The Amazon Kindle is currently priced at $89.99 (with "special offers" advertising) or $109.99 without ads.

HP Sprocket Plus

The dorm room isn't complete until it's decorated, and HP may have just the thing to help, with a Polaroid-like camera that's aimed at the Instagram generation. HP's Sprocket printers offer instant printouts of photos taken on mobile devices, and the prints double as stickers, too. The HP Sprocket Plus is the larger option in the lineup, offering bigger prints of 2.3 x 3.4 inches (compared with 2 x 3 inches with the original Sprocket). The Sprocket Plus itself is on par with the size of many smartphones, and measures just 0.71 of an inch thick, making it easy to take on an adventure off campus.

The HP Sprocket Plus is currently priced at $99.95 on Amazon.

Rocketbook Everlast

For students who still prefer handwriting over typing, they can have the best of both the physical and digital worlds with the Rocketbook Everlast—and save some trees while they're at it. The Rocketbook Everlast looks and feels like a normal pen-and-paper notebook, but the notes can be easily uploaded from the notebook to cloud services. The Rocketbook Everlast includes 36 pages, which can be erased with a damp cloth. Given that the notebook is "infinitely reusable," according to Rocketbook, the potential for saving paper is huge.

The Rocketbook Everlast, with an accompanying Pilot FriXion pen and microfiber towel, is priced at $34.