The Best Gadgets and Gear for Students New and Old

By Tom Pritchard on at

September is close to ending, which means the students have started heading back to University to drink their way through an education. Whether you're a first timer, or going in for repeated years, there are things you can buy to make your life a lot easier. Here are some of the technological marvels that can make your three-four years more comfortable.

A Prime Student Membership, £40 per year

Amazon wants your money, there's no doubt about that, so much so that it's willing to give cash-strapped students a discount on certain Prime services. For half the price of a regular Prime membership, anyone with a .ac.uk email address (or proof they're a student) can sign up - and get a six month free trial in the process. It comes with next day delivery, exclusive deals, plus access to Prime Video, Music Unlimited, Prime Reading, unlimited photo storage in the cloud, plus discounts on a bunch of stuff including textbooks and Amazon devices. [Sign up here]

Amazon Fire TV Stick or Google Chromecast

If you have a TV you might as well jazz it up with some smart features, because what's on Freeview isn't always that great and student housing doesn't feel too happy about you installing your own Sky dish. So grab a little doodad to improve your TV, and watch Netflix on that instead of your laptop. The best simple low-cost options you have right now are the Fire TV stick (£40) for a stand-alone experience, or Google's Chromecast (£30) if you'd rather just beam content from another device.

Both have their ups and downs (like the fact neither offer 4K), but they both do the job well. [Buy Fire TV Stick here | Buy Chromecast here]

George Foreman Grill with Removable Plates, £40

Some sort of grilling device makes cooking food one hell of a lot easier, but they are a pain to clean. Who has time to be that careful? Thankfully George Foreman knows what's what, and this grilling machine has removable plates that you can clean in the sink like any old piece of crockery. It's also a five-portion-sized model, meaning you've got plenty of room to cook all your stuff. [Buy it here]

TP-LINK TL-WA801ND Wireless N Access Point, £27

Your room might not have Wi-Fi, or the Wi-Fi might be so terrible that it's hardly worth using. There should be an ethernet port, though, which you can use to plug in this wireless access point and create your own Wi-Fi network. It only has one port, so if you want to hardwire anything else in you'll need to get yourself an ethernet switch, but it is the perfect way to make sure everything can get online wirelessly. It can also be mounted on the wall if you need precious floor/desk space, provided you don't mind losing your deposit. [Buy it here]

Kindle

If you have a Prime Student membership, or you have an extensive library of ebooks, you'll need somewhere to read them. You might as well get yourself a Kindle of some sort and make that happen. There's the basic e-reader-only Kindle (£60), which has a big long battery life and lets you read ebooks on the glare-free eink display.

There's also the Kindle Fire 7 (£50), which is a very underpowered Android-like tablet (running FireOS) that does all the things a tablet can do - albeit with far less impressive hardware (read slower) than you'd find in, say, an iPad. But for reading, it's a decent choice since it can read more filetypes than the standard Kindle - so you don't necessarily need to get them all from Amazon. [Buy the Kindle here | Buy the Kindle Fire 7 here]

Poweradd Pilot X7 20,000 mAh USB Battery Pack, £20

Regardless of what course you're heading in to do, there will be days where you have to be out all day without easy access to a power socket. Even if you do something that only has three lectures a week like Geography. So make sure you have an extra bit of juice with this USB battery pack, which holds 20,000 mAh of juice for you to enjoy. That's enough to recharge most phones five to seven times. [Buy it here]

Nokia 105, £20.45

There are times when a smartphone just won't do. Nights out, field trips, or when your battery has died. When that happens get yourself a Nokia 105. It's cheap, it's more durable than your iPhone, 12 1/2 hours of talk time (35 days of standby juice), and all the basic phone features you need like calling and texting. It's not one of those fancy dumphones that has Facebook Messenger installed, only functions with GSM/2G, and uses a mini-SIM, but if you need a cheap phone this is worth a buy. [Buy it here]

An External Hard Drive

Whether it's for back-ups or transferring data from your laptop to the library computer, buying a decent hard drive is essential. Something rugged, like this one from LaCie might be best, since that drive is probably going to be beaten about a bit over your three/four year degree. Prices start at £75.40 for a 1TB USB 3.0 model.

If that's too rich your your blood, you can go for Seagate's regular portable hard drive. It's not as damage-proof, but it is quite a bit cheaper. Models start at £42.10 for a 500GB model (USB 3.0), but for £50 you can double the storage space and get 1TB.

Fridge Anti-Theft Lock Cage, £20.47

Unless you're rich enough to afford your own place, or a studio, you're going to be sharing a fridge with a bunch of other people. Sometimes you end up with someone who pinches your food, and if you want to avoid that there's always this cage you can keep inside the fridge. It's not massive, so you wan't be able to use it for everything, but it does have a three-digit combination lock to keep prying hands out. [Buy it here]

NeoLab N2 Smartpen, £140

Typing up stuff is fine, but sometimes it's easier and faster to get it done with a pen. Provided you don't need to type it up later, of course. The NeoLab N2 smartpen helps you with that latter problem, digitising your handwritten notes and beaming over to a companion app via Bluetooth. After that they can be stored on the cloud, or whatever it is you do with your digital words. It's not a unique device, but it is designed to be as close to a proper pen as possible and can even record audio notes. It does require special paper to work, but you can print off your own if you don't fancy buying expensive notebooks all the time. [Buy it here]

Universal Computer Lock, £4.95

It doesn't matter who you are or what you study, you will end up having to do work outside of the safety of your own bedroom. Whether it's the library, Starbucks, or somewhere else entirely, you might be there for so long you have to choose between taking your stuff to the toilet and risk losing your seat, or leaving them unattended and risk them being stolen. With a laptop lock you can at least leave your laptop there, and not worry about it being pinched before you return. Just don't take too long, and don't leave it unlocked. [Buy it here]

Sofia Sam MultiTasking LapDesk, £35

Sometimes you just can't get a table, and have to sit in a chair or on the floor to get your work done. Don't worry too much, because you can always bring this with you. It's not particularly bag friendly, but you can turn any place you plonk yourself into a work space. It has a dedicated space for your laptop, a stand for your tablet if that's what you prefer to use, and a sliding ambidextrous mouse pad (with phone stand) if your trackpad sucks.

It has a USB port as well, designed for the lamp it comes with, but you can plug just about anything in there - provided it can draw enough power from the AA batteries inside. [Buy it here]

ASUS E200HA-FD0042TS 11.6 inch Notebook, £186

Need a laptop to work on, but don't want to take advantage of Apple's hefty student discount? I don't blame you, Macbooks are expensive. This one isn't, because it's just shy of £200. Inside you have 2GB of RAM, a 1.44GHz quad-core processor, an 11.6-inch 720p display, a full version of Windows 10, 2 USB 2.0 ports, mini HDMI, a microSD card slot, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a 14 hour battery life. Not just that but it weighs 980 grams, so it won't be killing your back. It's not the most powerful of machines, but it's reasonably cheap and full-featured, so it's perfect for working on. [Buy it here]