Back to school season is moving full steam ahead, with many universities and schools just a month away from heading back to class. This day and age, its crucial to start the year off on the right foot tech-wise. Read on as we round-up some of the best back to school tech and accessories for the 2019-2020 school year.
Ecobee HomeKit Thermostat
As always, Apple is running its annual Back to School Promotion, offering a free pair of Beats headphones with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad. My personal recommendation for college students is the 2019 MacBook Air. Apple just dropped the price to $1,099 and added True Tone. Its thin and light profile is great for an always on-the-go college student.
For a bit more power, the entry-level MacBook Pro is an excellent choice – made even better by Apple’s recent update. You only get two Thunderbolt 3 ports, but Apple has added the Touch Bar and significantly improved the performance of the machine. If you buy it from Apple, you’ll also lock in a free pair of Beats headphones. Read our full review here.
If you’d rather save a few bucks than get a free pair of Beats headphones, the 2018 MacBook Air is still an excellent choice. You miss out on True Tone display technology, but you can pick on up in refurbished condition for $949.99. Read our full review here.
The new MacBooks all ship with USB-C connectivity, which means you might need some adapters if this us your first USB-C Mac. Here are some of our recommendations:
If you’re in a field that will require heavy mouse use such as video editing and creation, I can’t recommend the Logitech MX Master mouse highly enough. It’s incredibly ergonomic and versatile mouse that you can pair with up to three devices.
If you already have a Mac, or are looking to go the iPad route this year, the 10.5-inch iPad Air is a great choice. You can read our full review for more details, but you get Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil support, the powerful A12 Bionic chip, Touch ID, and more.
Meanwhile, the 2018 iPad Pro is also an excellent choice if you’re looking for the most power available in the iPad form factor. Of course, it’s pricey and likely overkill for most students, but you can’t go wrong with nearly bezel-less design, Face ID, and more. Check out our full review.
In terms of integrating an iPad into your workflow, the upcoming releases of iOS 13 and macOS Catalina will include a new feature called Sidecar, which turns your iPad into a second display for your Mac. For students especially, this has the ability to give you an easy, two-display solution when on-the-go.
As for iPad keyboards, the Smart Keyboard is an excellent choice, but it’s not necessarily for everyone. It lacks in areas like backlighting, lap-typing, and having dedicated function keys. My other top recommendations are Brydge keyboards, which are available for most modern iPads. I recently reviewed the Brydge Pro for iPad Pro, and loved the design and MacBook-like feel.
One must-have tech for every student during back to school season is a decent pair of headphones. My personal pick remains Apple’s AirPods (full review), which are incredibly small and portable, packing 24 hours of battery life in their case. If you plan to be a bit more active this year, the Powerbeats Pro are also an excellent choice. We loved them in our full review. The BeatsX also remain a popular choice, and are a bit more affordable at $99.
In terms of noise cancellation, I continue to love the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones – they’re pricy, but you really do get what you pay for with noise cancellation, Alexa integration, and more. Another popular choice are the Cowin E7 headphones, which are far more affordable than the Bose.
In terms of speaker for your back to school tech haul, HomePod is an expensive option that lacks portability – which is often a requirement of students. My personal top pick for an ultra-portable, yet incredibly powerful speaker is the Ultimate Ears Megablast, which works with Alexa and supports up to 16 hours of on-the-go playback.
Adopting smart home technology while living in a dorm is challenging, but if you’re living in an off-campus apartment, there are a few things that are worth investing in.
You never know what might happen in a college town, and one way to help make sure you can always have an eye on your house or apartment is with a smart camera. If HomeKit support is a must-have, the Logitech Circle 2 is a great option. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, however, the Wyze Cam is an excellent choice at just $26. Read our full review here.
In terms of other smart home solutions, fun accent lighting options like the Nanoleaf Aurora are a great way to make your college living situation stand out. Traditional smart bulbs are also an affordable way to give your home some basic “smarts.”
Last but not least, an external battery pack is crucial if you’re going to have long days of class and studying. There are a few different options here worth recommending. For keeping your iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air charged on the go, the Anker PowerCore+ is an excellent solution, but it is a tad bulky.
Mophie’s new Powerstation Hub is one of my favorite portable chargers due to its versatility. It packs a Qi charging surface, two USB-A ports, and USB-C to charge virtually anything while on-the-go.
When it comes to apps, everyone has different needs and wants – but two of my must-have applications are GoodNotes 5 and Things. The former is an excellent note-taking app with incredible power, especially if you plan to truly integrate the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil into your workflow.
Things is a versatile task manager that can be used for everything from organizing your assignments to making grocery lists and more. One thing you’ll also need for group projects is a cross-platform messaging solution. The most popular solution is GroupMe, but other options do exist.
These are just some of the tech products that I’ve personally relied on to make my school years a bit less stressful. What tech have you found that helps you succeed during the school year? Be sure to let us know down in the comments!
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