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College Essentials – 8 top tech tools you need for third grade

What’s the best laptop, monitor, power bank, or noise-cancelling headphones for a student? Or rather, what’s the best you can get for a reasonable price in a cost-of-living crisis? We pick eight decent options for the freshmen of 2022.

1. Budget Laptop – HP 14s-dq2512

(529 €)

For something basic with adequate performance, this is about the best you’ll get around the £500 mark. The 14-inch HP laptop covers all the bases pretty well, with some features that are hard to find on many laptops now.

These include a memory card slot and a choice of USB-A (older type) and USB-C (newer type) ports, as well as a full-size HDMI port. Getting an Intel i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, a combination that’s good for anything but gaming or heavy graphics usage like video editing, is a very decent deal at this price point.

Where you might notice the compromise is in the screen, which has a fairly basic resolution and isn’t as bright (250 nits) as more expensive models. The webcam is pretty basic too. And the case feels a bit plasticky. But for the money it’s quite good.

2. All-round laptop – MacBook Air M1

(€1,229)

While the all-new MacBook Air M2 is arguably the best all-round laptop you can get (see my recent review on Independent.ie), the 13.3-inch M1 model is almost as good and costs £300 less.

For a student, it has some killer features that are hard to beat.

These include the best battery life on the market (a solid 10 to 18 hours depending on activity), great performance, a great keyboard, good speakers and a very good screen. It’s also nice and light and also very thin.

Additionally, with iPhones being unusually popular among the under-25s, there’s a major ecosystem benefit where calls and texts can be routed and shared between devices, and content like photos and videos can be easily airdropped. That should take years.

3. Noise Canceling Headphones – Sony CH710N

(120€)

Noise-cancelling headphones can be incredibly useful to help with learning, whether it’s in a irritatingly noisy library or in a college dorm with ultra-thin walls.

The choice is really huge. While the gold standard – for the combination of noise cancellation and audio quality – is Sony’s WH1000-XM4, these still cost upwards of £289, which is difficult to justify on a student budget.

In general, decent noise-cancelling headphones start at around $80-$90. Overall I think Sony’s CH710N set (€120 from multiple outlets) is probably the best all round pair as it’s a mix of quality and price. Irish brand OneSonic also has a very decent affordable pair (BB-HD1, €99 from OneSonic.com).

If you want to go the bud route, you’ll have to pay a fair shot to even come close to the effectiveness of the overhead models. The best package is probably the Freebuds Pro 2 from Huawei (199 euros from various retailers). There are cheaper noise-cancelling bud models out there, but they’re nowhere near as good.

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Samsung Odyssey G32A 27 monitor

4. Screen – Samsung Odyssey G32A 27

(349 €)

A good monitor not only allows you to connect your laptop for a bigger, more productive screen, but also serves as a decent TV in student dormitories. Samsung’s Odyssey is a very good choice for several reasons.

The screen quality itself is excellent and it has all the relevant ports for your gadgets. It also does quite well as a gaming display, with a fairly high refresh rate (165Hz) and the ability to pivot the screen to a portrait (vertical) position. 27 inches is also a sweet spot in terms of size: not too big to overwhelm a desk, but easily big enough to either work on multiple websites at once or just watch Netflix from the student bed several feet away.

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Omni Mobile 25600 power bank

5. Power Bank – Omni Mobile 25600

(179 €)

Do you spend a long day in lectures or in the library without access to a power outlet? Despite the recent improvements in the battery reserves of smartphones and some laptops, a power bank is still one of those accessories that is difficult to live without.

A basic 10,000mAh model (from around €20) is fine for phones and tablets, but for a laptop you’ll need something more substantial. These aren’t cheap, but Omnicharge’s Omni Mobile is a good option.

With a reserve of 25,600mAh, it has more than enough to charge a typical 13-inch laptop, with enough left over to refill a full-size smartphone. It also has multiple ports for charging various things on the go, including the ability to charge a phone wirelessly.

6. Speakers – JBL Charge 5

(149 €)

A good portable speaker can come in handy in many ways. Paired with any basic smartphone, tablet or laptop, it’s as good a hi-fi as any the student’s parents might have had in college 25-30 years ago.

It can also serve as a decent speaker for a laptop, PC or monitor whose speakers are often terrible when you want to watch a movie on Netflix.

In general, a good portable speaker should be small but pack a powerful, oversized audio performance.

It should also be wireless (unlike Amazon and Google’s smart speakers), have great battery life, and be able to take a few hits.

In this regard, JBL’s Charge 5 is currently one of the best in this category. A bonus is that it’s also splashproof and can itself be used as a backup power reserve for your phone.

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Wukur 45w charging station

7. Charger – Wukur 45W Multiport Charger

(32 €)

When access to power outlets is a problem, multi-port chargers come in handy. But most of them are very slow and only offer one port type, either the older USB-A port or the newer USB-C ports.

This one offers a very decent charge rate and also offers two of each type of connector, so you can use cables that you get in new phones as well as those you’ve had for a while.

8. Entertainment – Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick 4K

(€40 to €60)

If you’re in digs or college dorms and have a TV or monitor, the best way to turn it into an occasional TV is to plug in one of Google’s Chromecasts or Amazon’s Fire Sticks.

Assuming your big screen has an HDMI port (and it almost certainly will), these will knock out your local Wi-Fi signal, giving you access to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, Paramount Plus, and many more others to give platforms.

The price depends on whether you get one with its own remote control or not.

https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/college-essentials-8-top-tech-tools-you-will-need-for-third-level-41903324.html College Essentials – 8 top tech tools you need for third grade

Fry Electronics Team

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