TechCo’s Guide to Back to School Tech and Gadgets

The sun is shining, Independence Day has past (and still no alien invasion), and before you know it back to school time will be here. For some, this is nothing more than returning back to college, but for many this will be the entry point of thousands of freshman across the nation. Sure, there will be countless kegs, about 15 pounds to pack on, and more autonomy away from your parents; however, there needs to be at least a little bit of studying in there somewhere.

As such, TechCo wants to set you off on the right path by giving you our own rendition of the Back to School Supplies list, which unfortunately doesn’t come with that mega pack of crayons with the sharpener on the back. From laptops to tablets, to noise canceling headphones to block out your drunk roommate having sex on the bunk under you, here’s what you may want to consider before heading off to college.

Tile Mate

Tile Mate

You’re going to have a few all nighters hunkered down in the library, and sometimes you’ll be so tired that you happen to forget your keys somewhere. It’s also slightly more likely you’ll get drunk at a bar, your keys will fall out of your pocket after you decided to joust your friends on a broomstick, and the next morning you’ll be curious as to where they went. Whichever the situation, you’re going to lose things, and Tile Mate is the super tiny bluetooth connected device to help you find them. You should probably get a few of these and maybe throw in a few Tile Slims too. They cost about $25, but you can buy combo packs for cheaper. We also gave them a perfect score in a recent review.

Himalayan Rock Salt Lamp

Salt Lamp

Quite possibly the new version of a lava lamp, Himalayan Rock Salt Lamps have been found popping up more and more in tech startups and dorm rooms across the nation. While they don’t exactly do anything, supposedly they help clear the air and dilute odors. These cost anywhere from $15 to $70.

Car Jump Starter + Battery Backup

1byone Multifunction Jump-Starter

For many college students, they may not have access to a car their first year into college, but for others, you get a big ole pile of metal and problems. We’re just going to ignore those of you who have parents buying you brand new ones. One of the quickest ways to make friends in college is to be the person with the car, but if it’s a mess on wheels, you may want to consider getting a portable car jump starter. Priced at about $50+ these devices also double as a battery backup for your phones and tablets.


Canon printer

The second best way to make friends in college is to be the person with a printer. Go to the library at 1am? Forget that. Printers are relatively cheap, you can find knockoff ink on Amazon, and now you can even skip the scanner by using an app like CamScanner. Prices range anywhere from $30 – $300, but all you really need are the basics like black and white printing and color printing, also it should be small since you’re probably living in a cinder block prison cell known as a dorm. Kidding, kidding, most colleges have apartment style residences now.

FitBit Alta, TomTom Touch Cardio

fitbit alta

If you don’t believe the mythical freshmen 15 is real, just you wait. Back during my undergrad years it wasn’t until I realized my meal plan allowed me to eat at Chick-fil-a three times a day, and before you knew it the damage was done. Had there been activity trackers like the Fitbit, Fitbit Alta, or TomTom Touch Cardio, I’d have had a better grasp not only on my health and activity, but also tracking sleep. The Alta starts at $130 and the TomTom Touch Cardio is $90.

Macbook Air

women founders influencer

If you don’t already have a laptop or are on the hunt for a new one that will support your massive amount of YouTube watching, the Macbook Air is a great place to start. While priced a bit high for just college use ($1000+), your parents can rest assured knowing that it’ll be really difficult to accidentally add viruses to it and delete your entire hard drive. You’ll professors will be just as happy to know that as well, because you’ll always get those assignments in on time, right? Between the battery life, basic processing power, and superlight design, this is a great computer for college students.

HP Pavilion 360

HP Pavilion 360

Not an Apple fan? No problem, there are a ton of great laptops, hybrids, other affordable solutions that are designed for the needs of students. The HP Pavillion 360 follows in the footsteps of the Lenovo Yoga, but comes in at a cheaper price point, a bit less processing power, and some added weight. It stands out by having a touch display, can fully charge in 90 minutes, and works with a stylus for designers and notetakers. Starting at $390, it won’t be that big of a deal when your roomie spills beer all over the keyboard.

Lenovo Yoga

Lenovo Yoga Book

A personal favorite, the Lenovo Yoga was one of the first to market with the 360 crossover computer. The latest entry-level model, the Yoga 900s is insanely light, thin, has a long lasting battery, and plenty of power. Like the Pavilion, this too has a touch screen, but is also more sensitive and better suited for designers, doodlers, and engineers. It’s priced at $950, which makes it competitive to Apple’s Macbook Air. They also have a few different versions from Android to a magic keyboard edition.

Bamboo Sketch

Bamboo sketch

If you’re already set on a laptop, the next best thing is to get an iPad, you know, for all those books you will need to read. While the iPad works great as far as basic touch goes, unless you are investing in the pro version, there is not a lot of precision on using your finger to write or jot down notes. The Bamboo Sketch on the other hand is a Bluetooth connected stylus that is designed to bring natural sketching to the iPad, but at only $80. They also have a version for Windows Ink based devices, too.

Roku, Apple TV, or Chromecast

Google Chromecast Ultra

Netflix and… study? Sure, let’s go with that. If you’re in a dorm, you can’t fully expect it to come with cable. With that, you’re going to have to rely on good ole Netflix, Amazon Prime, or one of the other cord cutter options out there; however, you’ll also need a device to let you stream them. Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and even Amazon Fire sticks range from the extremely affordable to full featured and slightly overpriced.

My Passport Portable Storage

wd my passport

Forget USB thumb drives, you should be backing your entire system up. While cloud systems are great, there are those times when you simply won’t have internet, and My Passport will do the trick. For $120 you’ll get a solid SSD with 4TB of space.

Bose or Beats Noise Cancelling Headphones

Noise is inevitable in the college world, and rather than hiding out in the library the next best thing is bring the quiet nature of a library to you. There are dozens of over-the-ear noise cancelling headphones out there, but Bose and Beats are among the most common. For truly blocking out sound, stick with Bose. If you want a bit of status along with your sound, get beats.

Libratone On-Ear Q Adapt

Libratone Q-Adapt On-Ear Headphones

If you’re not a fan of the can headphones, the next best option is with on-ear noise cancelling headphones. The Libratone Q Adapts not only allow you to block out the world around you, it has various settings using white noise to let as little or as much of your surrounding in. They are also stylish and boast some great sound. The Q Adapts are priced at a reasonable $250, and are totally wireless (with an optional 3.5mm cord).

Portable Security Devices

Blink, Canary, Nest Cam, there are plenty of devices on the market to keep an eye on your belongings, and each of these make it easy to install anywhere. When it’s time to move, they can just as easily come with you. For those of you who go away during the long breaks, these kinds of devices are particularly helpful since break ins are unfortunately quite common. They range anywhere from $100-$300, with varying features and ease of use.

Roomba or Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

iRobot Roomba 980

You’re not going to clean your place, let alone vacuum. Need we say more? A robotic vacuum will come in handy. While the name brand is a bit pricey for a college student, there are plenty of lower end models that only cost about $150.

JBL Flip 4

jbl flip 4

Record players are making a comeback, but nothing beats a portable bluetooth speaker with great sound and bass. Throw in some durability, a waterproof exterior, and only a $100 price tag, and you’ve got the JBL Flip 4. You can also read our thoughts on it, which we gave it rave reviews.

Read more about gear and gadgets on TechCo

Shoutout to Simone T for being our college-aged expert

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Written by:
Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@) or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.
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