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Back to school and college tech guide 2023

The GearBrain guide to the tech you should be taking back to school, college and university this fall.

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Summer is behind us, and along with plenty of fun under the sun, there's an upcoming school year upon us. And with this year, we expect technology to play a bigger role in learning, particularly as the pandemic changed the course of teaching from classroom to kitchen table last year. Thankfully, the 2023-24 school year should be closer to "normal," but that doesn't mean technology will take a back seat.

These 10 tech items below comprise some of the base-level technology high school, and college-age students are considering must-haves this year. If you are the parent of a student who'd benefit from some tech gear and wants to get a jumpstart on the school year, or you're a student yourself, check out these products. They will make school more productive this year.


Laptops are an essential tool for every student, whether you are in high school or college. Every student needs a reliable machine to help them get through a bunch of school years. GearBrain has listed below two products we tested that are powerful machines for either high school or college students:

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch) with M2 Chip

a product shot of new MacBook Pro with M2 chipFeatures of the new MacBook Pro with M2 chipApple

The Apple MacBook Pro with a 13-inch Retina display is the perfect on-the-go (or stay-at-home) machine for classroom notes, after-school studies, and everything in between. Super speedy and more powerful than ever, along with an impressive battery life, the MacBook Pro notebook operates on a unique chip (M2), making the device astonishingly efficient.

Sleek and stylish, in silver or "space gray," the lightweight MacBook Pro is remarkably responsive, full of memory and storage space, and securely protects your personal data. Starting at $1299.00, it's an investment but well worth it, especially when it comes to school. The MacBook Pro also comes in a 16-inch version.

Save $200 when you buy on Best Buy

Lenovo - Yoga 7i 2-in-1 14" 2.2K Laptop

product shot of Lenovo Yoga 7i 2-in-1 14" 2.2K LaptopLenovo Yoga 7i 2-in-1 14" 2.2K Laptop with evo processor is available at Best BuyBest Buy

The Lenovo Yoga 7i 2-in-1 14" 2.2K Laptop is a versatile laptop that can be used as a laptop, tablet, or stand. It features a 14" 2.2K (2240 x 1400) IPS touchscreen display, an Intel Evo platform processor, 8GB or 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, and up to 1TB of PCIe SSD storage. It also has a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader, and a variety of ports, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports.

The Yoga 7i is a great choice for students, professionals, and anyone who wants a powerful and versatile laptop. It is lightweight and portable, yet it still offers plenty of performance for everyday tasks and more demanding applications. The touchscreen display is great for watching videos, browsing the web, and taking notes. And the Intel Evo platform ensures that the laptop stays responsive and efficient even when you multitask.

The Lenovo Yoga 7i 2-in-1 14" 2.2K Laptop is available in a variety of configurations, so you can choose the one that best meets your needs. Prices start at around $1,000; you can pick one up on Lenovo's site or Best Buy. Our recommendation would be to use Best Buy since they are offering deeper discounts on this laptop.

Buy on Best Buy



photo of NVIDIA Studio on laptopsNVIDIA StudioNVIDIA

For students who are pursuing a creative major, such as photography, video production, animation, game development, illustration, or graphic design, and need to be prepared with the best tools at their fingertips, we would recommend using the NVIDIA Studio ecosystem. It can enhance their creative endeavors.

For those who don't know, NVIDIA Studio is an ecosystem of hardware, software, and developer tools designed to help creative professionals/students get the most out of their NVIDIA GPUs. The ecosystem includes laptops, desktops, workstations, and mobile devices that are powered by NVIDIA RTX GPUs. It also includes creative apps optimized for NVIDIA GPUs and developer tools that help developers create new and innovative applications. Here are four apps that would work best for students this semester:

  • NVIDIA Omniverse– accelerates any 3D workflow to create like never before. Individuals pursuing a career in 3D animation can create stunningly rich and realistic visuals with the plethora of tools Omniverse provides.
  • NVIDIA Broadcast – looking to jump-start a podcast or a live streaming career? NVIDIA Broadcast app can transform any room into a home studio. The noise removal and room echo removal feature uses AI to eliminate unwanted background noise at the touch of a button, and the eye contact feature uses AI to make it appear as if you’re looking directly at the camera, even when glancing to the side- so whether you’re looking to use video or just audio, you’ll never have to worry about any distractions.
  • NVIDIA Canvas – aspiring art students can utilize AI to turn simple brushstrokes into hyper-realistic landscape images. Creators can swiftly customize images with a variety of painting styles and allow the option to import work into Adobe Photoshop, where creators can continue to refine or combine creations with other artwork.
  • NVIDIA Studio Laptops – need a laptop that will power any type of creative demand? NVIDIA GeForce RTX 40 Series and Studio laptops use the power of AI to accelerate your studying, gaming, and creating. Accelerate STEM applications so you get your classwork done faster, supercharge the latest games with realistic AI-powered graphics, and access the exclusive NVIDIA Studio platform of creative tools and tech.
To learn more about NVIDIA Studio, you can visit their site here.

EXCaliberPC 2023 ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED UX8402VV-PS96T (i9-13900H, 32GB RAM, 1TB NVMe SSD, RTX 4060 8GB, 14.5" 2.8K 120Hz Touch, Windows 11) Multi-Touch Laptop - Works with NVIDIA Studio

Portable Backup Drives and Power Chargers

Other essential devices for this coming school year are portable backup drives and power chargers. These devices will come in handy when your smartphone loses power or you don't have any more room on your hard drive to store your term paper. Check out these devices we recommend from Samsung, Belkin, and Anker.

Belkin BOOST CHARGE 20K Power Bank with Integrated Cables

Belkin's Boost Charge 20k Power BankBelkin's Boost Charge 20k Power BankBelkiin

The perfect addition to any student's backpack this coming school year is a portable charger that powerful enough to keep their smartphone or tablet charged all day. We like Belkin's Boost Charge 20k Power Bank. It comes with 20,000 mAh of power which is strong enough to keep an iPhone up and running for an additional 78 hours.

Boost Charge 20K Power Bank is available in three colors: rose gold, black, and blue. It also comes with two USB-A ports and a USB-C port for immediate, out-of-box use. Its costs only $39.99 and is available on Amazon or Belkin's site.

Buy Boost Charge Plus here.

Portable SSD T7 Shield USB 3.2 2TB - $129.99

a product shot of The Samsung Portable SSD T7 Shield is $129.99 for the 2TB versionThe Samsung Portable SSD T7 Shield is $129.99 for the 2TB versionSamsung

Having a backup drive makes a lot of sense while in school, ensuring you have a place to store that important research paper or a project you're working on that you just don't want to lose — no matter what. There's a lot to consider when picking a backup drive, but we do think one of the smallest and most portable is the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Shield. You can pick up a 2TB version for just $129.99 or spring for 4TB (which we honestly don't think you'll need for school reasons) for $249.99. Note this portable SSD is durable (enduring up to 9.8 ft drop), IP65-rated weatherproof, and has read/write speeds of up to 1,050/1,000 MB/s. All are good for students to have with them at school or on campus.

Buy T7 Shield

Anker 747 Power Bank (PowerCore 26K for Laptop)

a product shot of Anker 747 Power Bank (PowerCore 26K for Laptop)Anker 747 Power Bank (PowerCore 26K for Laptop)Anker

When it comes to an extra boost, a power bank is almost a necessity. You can use it to charge your smartphone, laptop — or any device needing a charge—deciding what you need means considering your surroundings. We're big fans of ToughTested's line of solar batteries, which can also be charged the regular way by plugging it into an outlet, as well. But for dorm room life, you probably don't need something that rugged.

The Anker line of power banks is a great backup. The Anker 747 Power Bank (PowerCore 26K for Laptop) is more than enough juice, 25,600 mAh, to get your smartphone up and running seven times over and an iPad two times. You're not going to need that over a day on campus, but you can be a friend and offer someone else a boost. The Anker 747 comes with Anker 515 Wall Charger (65W), USB-C to USB-C cable, a travel pouch, a welcome guide, an 18-month worry-free warranty, and friendly customer service. And you'll pay $169.99 for the entire set-up but the company is offering $20 off for Back to School on their site. We recommend buying it on Amazon for only $129.99.

Headphones, Earbuds and Bluetooth Speakers

JBL Charge 5 - $139.50

a photo of JBL Charge 5 portable speakerJBL Charge 5 waterproof Bluetooth speaker JBL

What's a college kid's dorm room without a decent sound system? And the students still at home need some time off from studying to listen to their favorite songs too. The JBL Charge 5 is a waterproof, portable small speaker which provides powerful sound despite its petite size. Wireless Bluetooth streaming can connect to 2 smartphones or tablets at a time.

With 20 hours of battery life and a built-in power bank, the entertainment won't end abruptly. Of course, we want our students to succeed in school, but a break for a good beat now and then is the perfect way to decompress. The JBL Charge comes in 6 different colors/patterns to match any dorm room décor or a student's signature shade. (Use The GearBrain to find the right color JBL Charge 5 Speaker for your dorm room.)

Buy on Amazon

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)

Apple AirPods ProCompact AirPods Pro offer excellent noice cancelling Apple

A nice set of in-ear headphones is a student's personal getaway, where they can drown out school stressors with soothing sounds or time-off tunes. The Bluetooth-connected Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Gen are waterproof and wireless, with active noise cancellation, delivering a crisp, clear sound. Choose the transparency mode to hear outside sounds for safety on campus or curiosity about nearby conversations.

Cute and comfortable, with a customizable, tapered design, and three size options for in-ear silicone tips, students can wear these earbuds all day without cramping their style. You can even get them personalized with an emoji, numbers, or text (no additional charge), which makes for a great gift idea, and they come with a wireless charging case.

Buy on Amazon - $199.99 - 20% off

Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 Headphones

Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 HeadphonesGearBrain

It's hard to believe we finally feel this way, but we do — we've turned our Bose headphones over for the Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 headphones. Time and time again, these are the ones we want for listening to music, watching the news, or just blotting out ambient sound as we crack through our latest story.

At $229.99, the headphones are not budget-friendly. But they're great. The headphones feature Adjustable Sensory Bass, Active Noise Canceling, 60 hours of battery life, rapid charge technology, customizable EQ modes, design updates with comfortability in mind, and Skull-iQ technology, making the headphones future-proof through over-the-air updates. And keenly, there's a Tile tracker built inside — which means if you leave these in the library, you can find them again.

Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC Wireless Earbuds with Touchscreen Charge Case

a photo of Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC Wireless Earbuds with Touchscreen Charging Case and BT700 Bluetooth AdapaterPoly Voyager Free 60+ UC Wireless Earbuds with Touchscreen Charge Case Review GearBrain

Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC Wireless Earbuds with Touchscreen Charge Case are a pair of true wireless earbuds that are designed for business but also for Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls. If you plan on taking virtual classes this school year, these are the earbuds for you. They feature active noise cancellation (ANC), a touchscreen-enabled charging case, certified for use on Microsoft Teams or Zoom calls, and long battery life.

One of the key features of Poly Voyager earbuds is the touchscreen charge case. It is the first touchscreen charge case we have seen that can control your audio content and is Qi certified. This case can keep track of the power in each earbud, help you switch listening modes, pair with your smartphone, and offer controls for your music and source of content. Think of it as a portable Bluetooth wireless headphone adapter you can take on your Spring Break trip.

You can pick up a pair on Amazon for $299.99.

Read GearBrain's review of Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC Wireless Earbuds here.


Since remote learning is still an option for students, you need to make sure you have a reliable webcam with good video resolution and easy setup. Listed below are a few webcams we have tested or are in the process of testing that would be a good addition to your child's workstation, whether it be in their room or dorm room.

Logitech C922 Webcam

Logitech C922 webcamThe Logitech C922x webcam works with both Mac and PC computersLogitech

If you need a new webcam this school year, we have a few devices for you to consider this year. Most computers, it's true, have a camera built inside. But a webcam adds that little bit extra, the ability to know you're being seen at your best, perhaps even a little bit less exhausted after an all-nighter as you join your fellow students in a discussion.

There are a lot of considerations and many webcams to consider, but we're pretty fond of the Logitech C922, which works with both PC and Mac computers and clips easily to your device. There's autofocus, a built-in stereo microphone, and even a tripod. The list price for this device is $99.99, but — as you can imagine — it is on sale on Amazon since it's such a popular item.

Cyber Acoustics CA Essential Webcam 1080p 5MP Super HD With integrated privacy shutter

Cyber Acoustics CA Essential Webcam 1080p 5MP Super HD With integrated privacy shutterGearBrain

Another good webcam is made by Cyber Acoustics. We recently tested their CA Essential Webcam 1080p 5MP Super HD (WC-3000)(WC-3000), and it provided exceptional video resolution during our Zoom calls and was easy to set up. The 1080p HD webcam comes with a privacy shutter, 5MP Super HD camera, Zoom Certification, HD Auto Focus & Light Correction, Dual Omni-Directional Surround Mics, and a Wide Diagonal Field of View. It's also easy to set up thanks to its Plug and Play USB.

The CA Essential Webcam (WC-3000) costs only $59.99 and is on sale on Amazon.

Smart Air Monitors and Purifiers

Smart air monitors and purifiers are popular devices for dorm rooms these days. These smart devices can help keep your room's air germ-free and are easy to set up. We have tested many smart air purifiers and monitors. They are available in all shapes and sizes as well as price points. Here are a few smart air monitors and devices we would recommend for your dorm room or study room this school year.

Awair Element Indoor Air Quality Monitor, White/Grey Trim (2nd Gen)

a photo of Awair Element on a shelfThe Awair Element air quality monitor Awair

One of the best smart air monitors we have tested was Awar Element. It's an indoor smart air monitor that can notify you when the air quality in your room is bad and gives you advice on improving it. It can also provide the room's temperature, humidity, CO2, volatile organic compounds (VOC), and fine dust particles. Awair Elementi also seamlessly integrates with Alexa or Google Assistant-enabled devices.

This smart air monitor has a list price of $235.88

Read GearBrain's full review of Awair Element here.

Buy on Amazon

Dreo Air Purifiers for Home Large Room Bedroom

a photo of Dreo Macro Max S Smart Air Purifier.Dreo Macro Max S Smart Air Purifier.GearBrain

We have been testing this new smart air purifier from Dreo and really like it. For those of you who have never heard of Dreo, they have a line of smart air purifiers that are designed to remove pollutants from the air in your home. They feature an H13 True HEPA filter that can remove up to 99.97% of particles, including dust, smoke, pollen, and pet dander. They come in a variety of sizes, so you can choose one that is right for the size of your room. They are also relatively quiet, so you can use them in your dorm room without disturbing your roommate.

We would recommend the Dreo Macro Max S Smart Air Purifier. it is designed for large bedrooms and comes with an H13 True HEPA Filter that can remove 99.985% of Pet Hair, particles, dust, smoke, and pollen. It also can monitor PM2.5 and has an Auto Mode. And for the rooms that want voice control, the Dreo does have Wi-Fi Voice Control using Alexa-enabled devices.

The Dreo Macro Max S Smart Air Purifier costs $219.99 and is available on Amazon.

Air Monitor - Coway Airmega 150

Coway Airmega 150The Coway Airmega 150 air purifier Coway

Coway Airmega air purifier

The Coway Airmega 150 is an air purifier with a 3-stage filtration system including a HEPA filter and real-time monitor in one, ideal for small rooms. The device is intuitive and easy to install and use, and students know when it's time for a filter change thanks to clear indicators that alert them as necessary.

The Coway Airmega 150 is automized, adjusting to the surrounding air quality and conditions. It is compact yet provides considerable coverage – up to 214 square feet.

Students can feel secure that airborne particles, viruses and bacteria, pollutants, odors, dust mites, and the like will be filtered from their living space, keeping things fresh and clean, leading to a healthier lifestyle. It's too bad late-night pizzas, and 6-packs can't be filtered away. GearBrain's review of the Coway Airmega 150 provides a deeper dive into the device.

Buy Coway Airmega 150

Note: Coway does provide a renting option on their more powerful smart air monitor and purifiers. You can learn more here about these options.

Smart Robot Vacuums

Another key smart device for a college dorm room is a robot vacuum. We know how much high school and college-age students love to vacuum and keep their rooms clean. One device that can help them keep it clean is a good reliable robot vacuum. They come in all shapes, sizes and price points. They can also sweep, mop and self-empty their dust bin when finished. Here are a few robot vacuum options we would recommend for this year.

Yeedi vac Robot Vacuum

a photo of yeedi vac robot vacuum unboxed.yeedi vac robot vacuum unboxed. GearBrain

The Yeedi Vac robot vacuum is a great entry-level robot vacuum. It's easy to set up and comes with 3000Pa suction power, and can easily avoid obstacles on our floors with its 3D obstacle avoidance technology. And for navigation, the yeedi vac comes with advanced visual mapping technology, which helps the vacuum avoid bumping into chairs and furniture. Users can edit the map when needed. This navigation and the robot vacuum’s floor tracking sensor allow Yeedi vac to detect what type of flooring it’s cleaning and clean it faster and easily compared to other robot vacuums. And you can easily add a self-emptying station for a little more money.

Read our full review here.

Ecovacs Deebot X1 Plus Robot Vacuum and Mopping Cleaner

a photo of Ecovacs Deebot X1 Plus robot vacuum on a kitchen floorEcovacs Deebot X1 Plus Robot Vacuum and Mopping Cleaner

If you are looking for a 3-in-1 smart robotic vacuum that can mop, vacuum, and self-empty, we would recommend Ecovacs Deebot X1 Plus Robot Vacuum and Mopping Cleaner. This robot vacuum can mop, vacuum, self-empty, monitor your floors, act as an air freshener, and comes with its own voice assistant. It's a little expensive (over $1000), but it has excellent suction power to pick up pet hair and act as an air freshener to remove orders from unwashed clothes or your pet. It can even mop and vacuum your floor at the same time with self-emptying capabilities.

You can read our full review here.

Check out The GearBrain, our compatibility find engine, to see the other compatible products that work with your smart devices for school as well as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa-enabled devices.

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