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Best electronics gear for college students

Our recommended TV, streaming media player, tablet, and more for small rooms and small budgets

Last updated: August 2013

All right, college students: You'll soon be cracking open those books again. But school doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Using our recommendations, you can make sure that your room is the place to relax and kick back, for you and your friends.

 

 

 

Vizio E420i-A0

One of the first things you should consider bringing along is a TV large enough for you and a few friends to watch comfortably. Depending on the size of your room, a 36-to42-inch set is probably ideal. And you can get a fairly inexpensive TV with built-in Internet features, such as streaming movies from Netfilix.

At less than $500, the Vizio E420i-A0 is a good option. This 42-inch set did well in our TV Ratings: It has very good picture quality and a wide viewing angle, so you can stick your friends in every corner of the room, and they'll still be able to see the picture. And if you think your room might be a little too small for a TV this size, move that pile of dirty laundry and toss out the pizza boxes. You probably have more space than you think.

Western Digital WD TV Play
Photo: Western Digital

If you already own a decent TV and want to add Internet features, consider a streaming media player. They’re fairly cheap and very easy to set up: You can plug one in once and not worry about swapping cables around, as you would with your laptop.

The Western Digital WD TV Play is a good choice. For a little less than $60, you get a simple-to-use box with access to popular streaming services, including Netflix, Vudu, Hulu Plus, and CinemaNow. You can also access content from a computer on your home network, so you can watch videos stored on your laptop without having to connect it to the TV.

You may also be thinking that this is the perfect time to spend some of the money you earned over the summer—or hit up your parents—for a new gaming console. While playing video games is obviously crucial, you might want to hold off on a new console until the holidays. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are arriving before the end of the year, and if you want to be the envy of your friends, you’ll want to grab one (or both?).

If you're strapped for cash, you'll probably be able to get a better deal on a current-generation console when the new ones are released. More pre-owned consoles will be available too, as people start trading in their current systems for new ones.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.0

A tablet is must-have for most college students: Tablets are versatile and useful for leisure and study. You can do everything from listening to music and watching movies to accessing your text books. It’s like a dream come true: You can do all that without ever leaving your bed.

The 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is a likely candidate. It costs just $200, is very portable, and has a rear-facing camera (so you won’t miss out on capturing any of your friends’ crazy antics). And it has access to the Google Play Store, so you can access tons of apps.

TDK Life on Record

One thing you may not have considered is wireless speakers. TDK offers a wireless weatherproof speaker system called Life on Record. You can use Bluetooth to pair your mobile devices to the speaker and play your tunes wire free. As a bonus, you can also connect your TV to the speaker to get a boost to your sound quality, especially if you have a smaller set. You’ll probably need stereo audio cables for that.

Sennheiser CS 215

 

Finally, consider buying a decent pair of headphones. Trust me: Even if you don’t think you need headphones, your roommate probably thinks you do.

For about $40, you can get a solid pair of portable ear buds, the Sennheiser CS 215 earbuds. If audio quality is more important to you than portability, though, a larger set of headphones would be a better match. For $99, the Grado Prestige SR80i offers excellent sound. [updated 8/2/13]

—Matt Ferretti

 

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