Make no mistake about it, going away to college is a big deal. From deciding on a school, to picking classes and, of course, decking out your dorm room, the list goes on and on. Fear not, though, thanks to this list of the coolest and most unique gadgets for your new home away from home.
TVs, speakers and game consoles just scratch the surface. There is an endless array of devices that can make your room the hippest one on the floor and low tech with high tech features. And many of these won’t break the bank.
Either the entry-level Google Home Mini ($49; target.com) or Amazon Echo Dot ($49.99; amazon.com) gives you the power of two equally smart assistants. Both can answer your most thought provoking questions, or at least try, with plenty of intelligence behind them. You can use these to control other smart devices, such as lightbulbs, and they are your on-call DJs. You can stream from services such as Pandora, Sirius XM, Google Music, Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music, YouTube, Spotify and countless others.
Both of these are regularly on sale for under $30, well below the $49.99 price point. If you’re trying to decide between the two, think about which ecosystem you prefer. Amazon’s Echo is powered by Alexa, which has thousands of skills that let you do nifty things — like getting news briefings, playing games and more. The Home Mini is powered by the Google Assistant, which integrates swimmingly with Google’s suite of services, such as calendar and maps.
To help you focus while writing that paper or studying, a pair of trusty earbuds can be helpful. Apple’s AirPods ($144.99, originally $159; amazon.com) are in their second generation and integrate incredibly well with the iOS and macOS ecosystem. A new custom chip lets you pair with one device and have it work across all your Apple devices. You can also expect up to 24 hours of battery life via recharges from the case. If you’re looking for richer sound and a more athletic build, the Powerbeats Pro ($249.95; amazon.com) is still super impressive. The carrying case is huge, but the ear hook design, physical buttons and easy pairing make them winners. Sony’s WF-1000XM3 ($228; amazon.com) also feature great audio, solid battery life and impressive noise cancellation.
Depending on your college’s Wi-Fi situation, chances are you can add smart lights to the mix. Nanoleaf’s Canvas ($199; homedepot.com) are some of the most unique smart lights out there. Instead of a bulb, these square LED panels can be mounted almost anywhere and in any formation. These panels can be controlled with the smart assistant of your choice (Alexa, Google or Siri) or with your hands, as each panel is touch controlled. And with a rhythm module, these can even perform a light show based on your music.
The printer hasn’t changed all the much over the years, but HP’s Tango X ($199.89, originally $249.98; amazon.com) aims to shrink the size and add smarts. For starters, it’s small and can fit on a bookshelf. Secondly, it can handle printing class notes, essays and even funny memes. Third, it’s all controlled via an app for iOS or Android. It lets you print from almost any device, and yes, it still supports computers. You can also enroll it in HP Instant Ink to have new cartridges delivered before your current ones go dry.
Marshall’s Stockwell II ($249.99; marshallheadphones.com) is a trusted and true Bluetooth speaker. With dedicated controls for volume, bass and treble, you get more customization over the sound than a traditional Bluetooth speaker. It has a multi-host capability over Bluetooth, which lets more than one person control the music. Plus, with an audio jack, you can connect it to a smart speaker for more robust sound. It also has an epic design that pulls from Marshall’s heritage. It’s a speaker that you can proudly display in your room.
What if your wireless charger could do double time? Well, the Twelve South HiRise wireless charger ($79.99; amazon.com) can do just that. It can be used as a stand to prop up your iPhone, which is easy to use while charging. It also solves the problem of unlocking your iPhone with Face ID, as you don’t need to hunch over to unlock the screen when its flat. And you can take the charging pad with you. Simply pop it out from the stand. It also supports fast charging at up to 10 watts. Just make sure you have a wall plug that can push that out. For instance, the one included in your iPhone box doesn’t, but this one from Anker can.
You’ll do plenty of work in college, and much of it will likely be done at your desk. I fondly remember staying up into the wee hours of the morning cranking out papers. This desk lamp from TaoTronics ($29.99; amazon.com) is powered by LEDs and features five different modes. You can choose from a warmer or cooler shade; just pick the one that works best for you. You get five levels of brightness and a built-in USB port, so you can charge your devices from one outlet.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.