Whether a fresher or master’s student, technology editor Adrian Weckler offers ideas for six college-friendly pieces of kit to consider this year.
What a student really needs to study in this era of heavy workloads and ultra-thin student accommodation walls is a good set of noise-cancelling earphones or headphones. For those on a budget, I’d recommend Sony’s overhead CH710N (€120), while Irish brand OneSonic also has a very decent, affordable pair (BB-HD1, €99 from OneSonic.com). For those who can afford a premium set, you won’t do better than Sony’s WH-1000XM4 (discounted to under €300 because the updated XM5 model is just out) or Sennheiser’s latest Momentum 4 (€349). While overhead models are generally much better at blocking noise than buds, if you must go for the smaller variety, I’d opt for Huawei’s Freebuds Pro 2 (€199), Google’s Pixel Buds Pro (€239) or Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro (€239).
A good monitor not only allows you to plug your laptop in for a bigger, more productive screen, but doubles as a decent TV in student digs. Samsung’s Odyssey G32A 27 (€349) is a very nice choice for a number of reasons. The screen quality itself is excellent and it has all the relevant ports for your gadgets. It’s also pretty good as a gaming display, with a fairly high refresh rate (165Hz) and the ability to swivel the screen into a portrait (vertical) position. 27 inches is a sweet spot in terms of size, too.
For a student-focused laptop, all roads lead back to the world’s best-selling model. While the updated Apple MacBook Air M2 may have a few more bells and whistles, the brand’s 13.3-inch MacBook Air M1 is €300 cheaper and has all the killer features that really matter.
These include the best battery life on the market (a solid 10 to 18 hours, depending on activity), great power, a great keyboard, good speakers and a very good screen. It’s nice and light, too, as well as being very thin. Furthermore, because iPhones are unusually popular among the under-25s, there’s a big ecosystem benefit where calls and texts can be handed off and shared between devices, and content such as photos and videos can easily be Airdropped. This should last your whole college career.
If you’re in digs or student accommodation and have a telly or a monitor, the best way of turning it into an occasional TV is by plugging in one of Google’s Chromecasts or Amazon’s Fire Sticks (€40 to €60). Assuming your large screen has an HDMI port (and it almost certainly will), these will work off your local wifi signal to give you access to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, Paramount Plus and a whole lot of other platforms. Pricing depends on whether you get one with its own remote control or not.
Spending a long day in lectures or the library without access to a power outlet? Despite recent improvements in the battery reserves of smartphones and some laptops, a power bank is still one of those accessories that’s hard to live without. A basic 10,000mAh model (from around €20 up) is fine for phones and tablets, but you’ll need something a bit more substantial for a laptop. These aren’t cheap, but Omnicharge’s Omni Mobile (€179) is a good option. With a 25,600mAh reserve, it has more than enough to recharge a typical 13-inch laptop with enough left to refill a full-size smartphone from empty. It also has multiple ports to charge different things on the go, including the ability to wireless charge a phone.
A good portable speaker can come in handy in umpteen ways. Paired with any basic smartphone, tablet or laptop, it’s great as a hifi. It can also serve as a decent speaker to a laptop, PC or monitor. It should also be wireless (unlike the smart speakers from Amazon and Google), have excellent rechargeable battery life and be able to take a few knocks. In that context, JBL’s Charge 5 (€149) is one of the best in the category at the moment. A bonus is that it’s also splashproof and can, itself, be used as a backup power reserve for your phone.