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The ultimate guide to tech essentials for university, from laptops to printers

To help you ace your studies, these are gadgets you need to aid your productivity

Louise Whitbread
Friday 11 September 2020 16:11 BST
From noise cancelling headphones to power banks, don’t leave home unprepared
From noise cancelling headphones to power banks, don’t leave home unprepared (iStock/The Independent)

As many people prepare to begin their studying at university later this month, there’s a detailed checklist to tick off before you pack up the car and head to your new digs.

While we’ve got you covered when it comes to decorating your halls of residence room on a budget and the essentials you need from bedding to cutlery, there is still one important category left: tech.

From laptops and printers to power banks and noise-cancelling headphones, you’ll need to be fully equipped for note-taking from lectures, essay-writing, completing coursework and research.  

It’s especially necessary should you be attending lectures and seminars virtually, as you’ll want to ensure it goes smoothly with no connection issues or lost work you can’t recover.

So we’ve rounded up everything you need to get you started on the right foot, while still keeping to a student budget.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Laptops

While universities will often offer computers in their student library, a laptop is a recommended purchase to complete essays, coursework and for binge-watching your favourite shows on Netflix.

Although it is the priciest item on your shopping list, a decent laptop doesn't have to cost the earth. In our guide to the best laptops for under £250, our reviewer loved this HP stream 11.6 (Amazon, £239.95).

With 32GB of storage, this is a budget-friendly option that will serve you well
With 32GB of storage, this is a budget-friendly option that will serve you well (Amazon)

A keenly priced model, we were impressed with the light build and smaller display that makes this good for carrying around and the battery life is better than most, not least because the display, being relatively low resolution, doesn’t draw as much power. 

Printers

Depending on your course, there may be work deadlines that require a physical hand-in, which means having a printer will come in handy. There will be printers at your university library, but for big deadline days, avoid the queues with your own machine.

It will also come in handy if you want to print off pages of research that may strain your eyes when reading from a screen.

We loved the Epson expression home XP-3100 (Argos, £49.99), an affordable option from our guide to the best.

This wireless design is both affordable and easy to use
This wireless design is both affordable and easy to use (Argos)

According to our reviewer, “There’s one black cartridge and three individual colour ones here, which helps keep costs down – usually budget-priced printers have much higher ink costs.”

It can also still print on both sides of the paper too, so for a cheap, cheerful bargain that gets the job done, this is it.

Laptop bags

When buying a laptop, don’t forget to pick up a bag to keep it secure and easily transport it when you’re not using it in your room. 

One will also keep it scratch-free when you’re travelling between the campus and halls of residence.

If you want something super-affordable but still effective, we found this AmazonBasics 15.4in felt laptop sleeve in light grey (Amazon, £12.49)  has a lot going for it.  

Keep your precious tech safe and secure on the go with a carrier
Keep your precious tech safe and secure on the go with a carrier (Amazon)

The soft interior keeps the laptop safe from any damage and there’s a second main pocket which will take a tablet up to 9in, plus two rear pockets for accessories like a phone.

Power banks

Small but mighty, a portable power bank is a godsend if you’re in a lecture and rapidly running out of phone juice.

One of the more affordable items in this guide, we loved this Anker power bank (Amazon, £16.99).

Don’t leave home without this portable charger
Don’t leave home without this portable charger (Amazon)

It will fit in your pocket easily but offers two full charges of an iPhone, and charging it up is a speedy process. 

There’s also a travel pouch which allows you to put your phone and power bank in a bag while charging without them scratching each other. 

External hard drives

When working on a big project, piece of coursework or research ahead of a seminar presentation or deadline, ensure all your work is backed up through an external hard drive.

It’s particularly useful if you are low on space on your laptop too, and we’d recommend buying storage that bigger than you need, to ensure it has a decent shelf life. As a general rule,  buy one with double the capacity of your device.

This SanDisk 128gb ultra dual drive luxe USB Type-C (Western Digital, £30.99) is compact but offers enough storage to see you through university.

Smart and compact, this will give you ample storage space
Smart and compact, this will give you ample storage space (Western Digital)

Our reviewer said: “The USB-C drive is extremely convenient and pocketable, and with this kind of capacity, 128GB, it will match that on many laptops. It’s also cleverly versatile: it’s reversible with USB-C one end and USB-A the other, so it works with every laptop.”

A no-brainer buy, don’t start the first day of term without one.

Noise-cancelling headphones

If you’re working in the library or other communal areas where there’s likely to be background noise you’d rather drown out, then you need a pair of noise-cancelling cans.

They needn’t cost a fortune either, in our guide to the best we loved these JBL Tune 750BTNC (JBL, £83.99) that delivered high-quality audio, solid bass and great clarity.

Tune into your studies with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to help you concentrate
Tune into your studies with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to help you concentrate (JBL)

There are also plenty of features such as voice control using your phone’s virtual personal assistant, activated by touching an earcup button.

Wireless speakers

If you love blasting tunes while you work, want to zone out while doing yoga in your room, or like the radio in the background, get yourself a wireless speaker. They are great for pre-drinks in halls or parties, too.

In our guide to the best bluetooth speakers, we loved this JBL Clip 3 (Amazon, £39) that won’t break the bank, but will feel like a real treat. 

This cool little speaker is a lot of fun and will add atmosphere to your room
This cool little speaker is a lot of fun and will add atmosphere to your room (Amazon)

It has an integrated carabiner which means you can clip it to your jeans or backpack. It’s only 220g too, so you can bring it to meet friends easily, and has an audio quality that’s much better than its price tag would suggest. 

Our reviewer says: “It also has strong water resistance so it won’t matter if you drop it in a puddle or a swimming pool.” Read: it will survive wine spillages at pre-drinks. 

Extension cables

Although it's not the most exciting purchase, you'll need to pack an extension cable as plug sockets in your room might be few and far between.

To keep your phone, laptop, games console and other tech functioning, add this Masterplug four socket extension lead (Wickes, £9) to your basket.

Plug in all your devices without overloading wall sockets with this extension lead
Plug in all your devices without overloading wall sockets with this extension lead (Wickes)

It has built-in surge protection so it’ll protect valuable electrical equipment from surges and spikes and has a 2m cable length.

For more on university must-haves, read our guide to the affordable homewares to decorate your room

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