What can I get for my back-to-school student?

September is often a busy, stressful time. Teens and young adults are headed back to school, and the rush is on to get them prepared. Why not get a head start?

From laptops to phones to desks, you're going to find something your favorite student needs (or just plain wants) for a new year at college.


Best option: Microsoft Surface Book

Microsoft Surface Book

There's no way around it — your student is going to need a laptop for college. Why not get them a laptop that doubles as a tablet? That's two gifts in one!

The extra sharp 13.5-inch touchscreen display detaches from the comfortable keyboard, and a Surface pen pulls out for precision work when in tablet mode. Putting the Surface Book in a backpack isn't going to cause any problems; it weighs only 3.34 pounds and has a very slim profile. There will be plenty of room for textbooks, and your student won't have a sore back after hiking across campus.

Worried the Surface Book won't have the power to tackle all projects your student faces? This thing comes with an Intel Core i5 Skylake processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid state drive. Top things off with Windows 10 Pro and you have a laptop that is perfect for anything college throws at it.

Check it out now — this model starts at about $1500, and it can be upgraded and customized to best fit your student and your budget.

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Budget option: Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

Your student needs a PC, but there's no room in the dorm for a desktop. Enter the Dell XPS 13, the compact laptop with desktop power.

Dell's XPS 13 is a marvel of engineering; they managed to fit a 13.3-inch display on a chassis usually reserved for an 11-inch display, effectively removing the bezel around the screen. Don't worry about performance in this small package; it comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, up to 8GB of RAM, and a solid state drive up to 256GB in size.

With battery life that Dell says will last up to 18 hours and a backlit keyboard for working late at night, your student is going to love this desktop disguised as a laptop. Check it now at Dell — models start at about $800.

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Noble Security Wedge Profile XPS 13 lock kit

Noble Security Wedge Profile lock

Dorms and classrooms can be busy places; friends and fellow students come and go, and your student won't necessarily be around for every second.

The Noble Security Wedge Profile lock is the perfect addition to the Dell XPS 13. It attaches via security slot to the laptop, and a cable made from galvanized steel can be looped around any immovable object. That's easy security that will keep your student's laptop where it belongs.

Not only is the looped cable versatile, the lock actually attaches to any laptop, desktop, or monitor with a built-in security slot. Peace of mind is important, especially when it only costs about $45.

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WD My Passport Ultra

WD My Passport Ultra

The quality of media continues to increase, and with it increases file sizes. Your student, no matter their field of study, will undoubtedly one day require more digital storage space. Why not get them an external hard drive that fits in their back pocket?

Western Digital has been providing quality storage solutions for many years, and is a leading manufacturer of external hard drives. This 1TB model — about the same size as an actual passport — comes formatted and ready-to-go right out of the box, and it can even be protected with 256-bit AES encryption.

This hard drive even comes with backup software that will automatically ensure that important files are always kept safe in the event of a catastrophic computer meltdown. Throw in a 3-year limited warranty and you have a fantastic storage option that starts around $60.

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Dorm Room Entertainment

Xbox One S

Xbox One S

The Xbox One S, the latest and greatest from Microsoft's console team, just made a big splash when it landed August 2, 2016.

Even though it is 40% smaller than the original Xbox One, it has retained all the features with some added bonuses. It can play 4K Ultra HD movies, stream 4K video, and upscale your existing 1080p games to 4K — and it comes with an updated controller. The 2TB hard drive has plenty of room for digital movies and the new HDR games coming soon.

While the gaming aspect remains mostly unchanged, the fact that the Xbox One S can act as the centerpiece of a 4K theater might just set your student over the edge with excitement. Having this thing sitting in the dorm room will certainly be a conversation starter thanks to its minimalist design, and it won't even take up a lot of room thanks to its decreased size.

Want to give your student the perfect tool for relaxing after studies? Check out the Xbox One S; it starts at about $400.

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VIZIO SmartCast E-Series Smart TV

VIZIO SmartCast E-Series Smart TV

What's a room without a TV in it? Certainly not a dorm room! Your student is going to love this 1080p Full HD smart TV that delivers a dazzling picture thanks to its LED-backlit, 32-inch display.

It's the perfect size for a dorm; it will fit on a shelf or desk, and if that doesn't work it can be mounted to the wall. The bezel around the screen is narrow, giving the appearance the picture stretches from side to side. It's going to look real nice no matter where it sits (or hangs!).

VIZIO also has a SmartCast app that effectively collects libraries from a bunch of different streaming services. Your student will never be behind the TV trend, and they can use their phone or tablet to switch effortlessly between shows — that's convenience.

If you want to give your student a beautiful TV they can use to relax after a hard day of studies, consider the VIZIO SmartCast E-Series. It won't break the bank at about $200.

See at Dell


Best option: UE BOOM 2


There's a reason why this little speaker is called BOOM — it's going to knock the ears off whoever's listening.

Its 360-degree design allows it to deliver sound to an entire room even when it's sitting right in the middle. Users can't stop raving about the quality of sound that comes from a speaker about the size of an energy drink can.

The speaker is Bluetooth enabled and your student can stay connected up to 100 feet away. Not to mention up to eight people can connect their devices to the speaker, meaning their friends can all share DJ duties. A 15-hour rechargeable battery will keep the party going late into the night and will still have some juice the next morning when your student catches up on recorded lectures.

A companion app regularly delivers updates and even entirely new features to the speaker, and because it's waterproof and shockproof, it won't be going anywhere anytime soon. Check out this awesome speaker that starts at about $180.

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Budget option: UE ROLL


What looks like a pincushion and delivers amazing 360-degree sound? The UE ROLL Bluetooth speaker! Your student will be able to carry this speaker around campus in their pocket or attached to their bike or backpack using the marine-grade bungee cord. How cool is that?

Current users love this speaker because of its waterproofing, durability, and sound. Even though it's so small, it delivers deep bass and clean treble that can be heard inside and outside. The battery lasts for up to nine hours, and your student can wander up to 65 feet away and still remain in Bluetooth range.

The speaker doubles as an alarm clock thanks to the companion app, so your student won't be late for class ever again. Want to give a portable speaker with amazing sound that won't break the bank? Check out the UE ROLL — it starts at about $70.

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Best option: Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones

Bose QuietComfort 25

Bose headphones have long been known for their exceptional sound quality and noise cancelling technology, and these live up to those lofty expectations.

Your student will be thankful for the ability to shut out the sounds of college life while they study, and the comfortable over-ear fit means they can be worn over extended periods of time.

Whether or not your student is an audiophile, they will be blown away by the sound these headphones generate. Every instrument comes through clearly, and the vocals sound like you're sitting next to the singer. Where a lot of headphones suffer is the bass, but not here — it's clean, it's crisp, it's deep.

Give your student the (best) sound of music with these headphones — they start around $300. And if your student's adamantly opposed to cables of any kind, the new QuietComfort 35 headphones are a great option, with the same great sound with added Bluetooth connectivity for $350.

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Budget option: AmazonBasics lightweight headphones

AmazonBasics lightweight headphones

Don't be fooled by AmazonBasics headphones' $15 price tag — these are quality headphones. They fit on your student's ear, but the soft padding and lightweight construction ensure they stay comfortable over extended periods. Although they aren't equipped with active noise-canceling tech, the on-ear design does a lot block out sound.

Users have reported that the bass is deep and clear, and the treble is crisp and full. Your student is going to love listening to their favorite music on the go or in the dorm, and when they're finished listening the headphones can be folded flat for easy storage.

The 47-inch cable fits any 3.5mm jack and is more than long enough to not have the headphones ripped off your head when moving around. Want to surprise your student with rich sound for a cheap price? Check out AmazonBasics lightweight headphones.

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Best option: Microsoft Lumia 950

Lumia 950

The Lumia 950 is like the Cadillac of phones; it's packed with quality parts, it performs very well, and not everybody has one.

This Windows 10 Mobile phone has a beautiful 5.2-inch Quad HD display that looks brilliant even on sunny days, and the 20-megapixel camera will capture all of your student's greatest moments while away at college. The 32GB internal storage can be upgraded by 200GB with a microSD card, so there won't be any shortage of space for pictures and videos.

Perhaps the best college-oriented feature of this phone is the ability to use the full suite of Microsoft Office tools — including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint — no matter where your student goes. When they're back at the dorm, the Lumia 950 can be docked at a monitor with a USB-C cable, and the apps can be used on a big screen. This phone is basically a PC that fits in your pocket.

Let Cortana act as your student's assistant while they're away at college. This phone comes completely unlocked and can be used on AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket, MetroPCS, or any other GSM carrier — it can be your student's for about $550.

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Budget option: Microsoft Lumia 650

Lumia 650

Coming in as the budget option doesn't necessarily mean budget quality build and features. A perfect example: the Lumia 650.

This phone comes with a 5-inch AMOLED display that makes Windows 10 Mobile look just great whether walking to class in the sun or kicking back in the dorm. An 8MP rear camera and 5MP front camera will capture the best that college has to offer. The 16GB internal storage can be upgraded by 200GB with a microSD, which is more than enough for storing your student's memories and homework.

The Lumia 650 is capable of running the entire Microsoft Office suite of tools, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Quick edits are available anywhere thanks to cross-platform syncing of files. There should be no excuse for not finishing homework!

If you want to give your student a great Windows phone, but don't want to break the bank, have a look at the Lumia 650. You can pick one up today for about $200.

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Microsoft Band 2

Microsoft Band 2

Each time your student looks at their wrist, they will be reminded of the gift you gave them. They'll be able to organize their course schedule, essay due dates, and even romantic dates, all from this stylish watch.

Is your student an athlete? This watch is basically a personal trainer! They'll love the ability to track heart rate, burned calories, and even sleep quality. Popular activities like cycling, running, and gym workouts also have seriously in-depth stat-tracking.

The Band 2 can be paired with a Windows phone; your student will be able to control Cortana and receive text alerts on the curved AMOLED screen without disturbing the classroom. Want to give your student the watch with so much more? Check out the Microsoft Band 2; it will set you back about $175.

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IKEA is known to design furniture for every room and every situation. What we have here is the perfect desk for a dorm room.

The MICKE desk's minimalist design will suit your trendy student's style, and its compact size won't cut down on living room. The pieces can be put together in a few different combinations, meaning it will fit just about anywhere.

To cut down on cable clutter, the desk has a built-in cable outlet that effectively hides laptop and phone chargers. The desk also features a drawer for binders, notebooks, and just about anything else. Nothing like less mess in a dorm room! The MICKE desk can be your student's new study partner for about $50.

See at Ikea

Booq Daypack

Booq Daypack

Every student needs a backpack, so why not get them a modern, well-made product to suit their style? Booq has been making quality bags since 2002, and the Daypack is no exception.

A dedicated pocket inside holds up to a 15.6-inch laptop, the zippered main compartment holds up to 26 liters (or about four or five big textbooks), and the side pockets have snap-buttons on them to allow for expansion if your student needs to store a tablet or water bottle. That's some serious storage space. All that cargo weight will hardly be noticed thanks to the padded back and contoured shoulder straps.

The bag comes with a 5-year warranty and a serial number that can be used to recover the bag if lost. This gives you and your student peace of mind; no one wants to buy new textbooks and a new laptop.

Give the student in your life a fancy new bag for all their fancy new gear for about $70.

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