It's that time of year when students are gearing up for their return to school. These days, gearing up doesn't just mean textbooks and pencils. Your budding academic is going to want some of the best tech available to enhance their student life — both in the lecture hall and in the dorms.

Laptops

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

College students today need a laptop that's compact and light enough to take along with them everywhere, yet still reliably powerful for everything that college life throws their way.

Enter the Dell XPS 13, a 13-inch laptop with a decent amount of power under the hood and a brilliant display. We're talking a Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB solid-state drive, and a battery Dell says will last up to 18 hours on a full charge. This won't be enough for heavy video editing or top-end gaming, but it will be more than serviceable for most students to get through a full day. And then there's that sweet InfinityEdge display that goes edge-to-edge, maximizing every possible inch of the display.

It's so good, we gave it a Windows Central Choice Award.

See at Dell

MacBook Air

MacBook Air

Walk around any university or college campus and what do you see? MacBooks. MacBooks everywhere.

If your student wants a MacBook for school this year, we recommend getting them a MacBook Air. With its slim profile and outstanding battery life — 9 hours for the 11-inch model, 12 hours for the 13-inch model — the MacBook Air has the right size and longevity to go from lecture to lecture throughout the day.

Starting at around $1100 for the 11-inch model, you get a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB of onboard memory (upgradable to 8GB if your student needs more power), and an option between 128GB and 256GB flash-based storage (hint: you should definitely opt for 256GB).

Each MacBook Air comes standard with Apple's full collection of productivity apps, perfect for taking notes in a university lecture, working on an important presentation — or just watching Netflix.

See at Amazon

Noble Security Wedge Profile XPS 13 Lock Kit

Noble Security Wedge Profile XPS 13 Lock Kit

It's every student's nightmare: you step away from your computer for only a minute in a busy study hall and when you turn back around, your laptop is gone. All those important lecture notes and ongoing assignments gone — but at least you backed up the most important stuff somewhere safe… right?

Eithe way, you just can't trust people not to jack your shit. That's why if you get your student a Dell XPS 13, you should definitely also get something to keep it safe and secure. The Dell XPS 13 wedge lock kit from Noble Locks gives you added peace of mind that your laptop will never walk away on you. It's quick to click into the locking port built into the laptop's top-right corner, and lets you use the loop-ended galvanized steel cable to tether your laptop to something secure as you work. The four-inch stand built in on the bottom is an added bonus.

It's also perfect for shared dorms. Your student might trust their roommate, but their friends... maybe not so much.

See at Dell

Kensington SafeDock Security Dock

Kensington SafeDock Security Dock

If you decide to go the MacBook Air route, you'll want to make sure your investment is kept safe wherever you go on campus. But due to the sleek design of the MacBook Air, there was absolutely no space for Apple to include a dock for a locking mechanism.

That's where Kensington has come in, with their SafeDock Security Dock for the MacBook Air. Simply slide your laptop into the dock, flip up the aluminum plate and pop in the included Click Safe Lock. The security dock doesn't add much bulk to the slim laptop profile so you can still slip it easily into your bag, plus it might actually make typing with the MacBook Air more ergonomic.

Make sure to protect your laptop investment with this quality Kensington SafeDock locking system; just because you trust your student, doesn't mean you should trust their classmates.

See at Amazon

Battery Pack

Anker Powercore 10000

Anker PowerCore 10000

With how busy college life can be, your student might not have the time to stand around tethered to the wall waiting for their phone to charge. That's where a quality battery pack comes in real handy.

The Anker Powercore 10000 holds 10000mAh of power, which Anker claims will charge most phones at least three times or a tablet at least once. Thanks to QualComm Quick Charge 3.0 technology, it should charge a phone up to 80% in around 35 minutes, so your student can get on with their day without worrying about their phone's battery life. And best of all, the Powercore 10000 is smaller than a deck of cards making it incredibly portable — it fits perfectly into a pants pocket or bag. Also small? The price, starting at $30.

If your student is worried about the charger overcharging their phone or causing damage they can rest easy; the Power Core 10000 has surge protection and temperature control to keep both your device and your student safe when the phone is charging.

See at Amazon

Music

Best option: UE Boom 2

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.

See at Amazon

Best Option: Bose QC25

Bose QC25 on-ear headphones

Give your student the gift of amazing Bluetooth audio with the Bose QuietComfort 25 over-ear headphones.

Bose is the premiere name for quality audio, and its QuietComfort 25 headphones are top of the class. Designed to be lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all day, your student is sure to get hours of enjoyment from the crystal clear sound we've all come expect from Bose.

And with superb noise cancellation, your student deal with a noisy roommate, or just to turn off the sounds of the outside world for awhile; extremely helpful when they're hitting the books in a noisy study hall, or deep into binge watching their favorite show on Netflix for the umpteenth time.

See at Amazon

Accessories

WD My Passport Ultra

These days, an external hard drive is as essential for students as a backpack or textbooks; every student needs to know that all their most important digital files and projects are backed up and secure in case something horrible happens.

Western Digital is one of the most trusted names in external drives, and their My Passport line is a reliable and convenient option. We recommend getting 1TB model, since that will give your student more than enough space to backup everything on their laptop, their notes and project — with some space remaining for their favorite movies and TV shows to bring along with them wherever they go.

It connects via USB 3.0 for quick file transferring and is preloaded to work out of the box with any PC running Windows 10 or earlier, but can also be easily reformatted to work with a Mac with the included software. With a three-year limited warranty, My Passport is durable and portable, so your student can confidently keep it in a bag pocket without worry.

See at Amazon

Chromecast

Chromecast

If your student is complaining their dorm TV lacks the funtionality of their neighbors smart TV, there's no need to drop serious coin on a new TV. Just get them a Chromecast.

Don't let the small package fool you; Google's Chromecast is an incredibly handy accessory that turns any TV with an HDMI port and access to a WiFi network into a smart TV. With a Chromecast, your student will be able to stream their favourite movies, TV shows, YouTube, play music — even casual party games! Seriously, there are a lot of really cool apps that are compatible with Chromecast (even if someone has an iPhone).

Set up is dead simple, and it's portable enough that your student can bring it along with them wherever they go. Anyone with a phone and WiFi access is able to connect up to the Chromecast, allowing for collaborative playlists of party jams, or a convenient way of sharing hilarious YouTube videos without everyone crowding around a laptop screen.

Ready for more good news? It's also dirt cheap at under $40. Thanks Google!

See at Google

Booq Daybag

Booq Daybag

Every student needs a reliable bag for carrying all their textbooks and supplies, along with a laptop, tablet, and any other tech or accessories they carry on a daily basis around campus. What's more, you want it to be comfortable to wear and look really cool.

The Booq Daybag checks off all those boxes. This deceivingly compact bag opens right up and provides enough space to hold a 16-inch laptop, along with your student's texbooks, binders of notes, and whatever else they might need during the day. With a bevy of pockets inside and out, comfortable shoulder straps, soft back padding, and a high-quality handle it's both comfortable and convenient to carry around throughout the day.

Side pockets remain flush, or can expand out to accommodate a water bottle or umbrella. Speaking of rain, the zippers are also waterproof, meaning your bag might get a little wet, but your valuables inside will remain protected and dry.

Starting at $90 and available in four colors, the Booq Daybag is a perfectly stylish and functional option for your student.

See at Booq

Phone

BlackBerry DTEK50

BlackBerry DTEK50

So your student loves BlackBerry and needs a new phone. What timing! BlackBerry just came out with their latest phone, the DTEK 50, and it's pretty decent for the company's second attempt at a pure, mid-range Android device.

Powered by a Snapdragon 617 processor and backed up with 3GB of RAM, the DTEK 50 is no slouch. It also features a hot swappable microSD slot that supports up to 2TB and an ingenious customizable Convenience Key, which you can program to quick launch your favorite app and use as a mute key on active calls.

BlackBerry took what they learned from the Priv and streamlined things a bit to create, admittedly, a more traditional Android-based phone experience. While some may be quick to bemoan the lack of a physical keyboard, the DTEK 50 features BlackBerry's Intelligent Keyboard, which uses swipe gestures for predictive text, quickly deleting text, and toggling between letters, numbers and characters. And if your student doesn't like the keyboard? That's okay, they can simply download any of the other great Android keyboard alternatives from the Google Play Store.

But unlike any other Android phone on the market (save for the Priv, of course), the DTEK50 comes with BlackBerry's commitment to protecting your privacy. They're calling it 'the world's most secure Android smartphone', and seem to have done the due diligence to back that claim up.

Keep your student's data protected by giving them the brand new phone from BlackBerry!

See at Amazon

Desk

Ikea Micke desk

Ikea Micke desk

Dorm rooms are small, but your student is still going to need to cut out a quiet space for them to study and store all their things. For those reasons, Ikea's Micke desk is an ideal candidate to send out with your student as they head off to college.

As with most Ikea furniture it's intelligently designed to keep cords organized and out of sight, while also providing a built-in drawer for some added dorm storage. Plus, it's reasonably cheap and available in a classy black-brown or modern-chic white.

Some assembly definitely required.

See at Ikea