Trick out your dorm room

For this back-to-school season, a great laptop, headphones, smartphone and more—all without busting your budget

Published: July 28, 2015 04:00 PM

Surround yourself with our high-rated tech to get the most out of your semester. Whether it’s for cramming a paper the night before it’s due or to take a study break, these electronics are affordable and could help reduce some of the stress of school. Got your own must-have electronics suggestions? Let us know.

Calla Deitrick

The fundamentals

Smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S 5 ($500)

The 5.1 inch touch-screen Samsung Galaxy S 5 runs on the Android operating system and has many of the standard features that you expect from a smartphone, as well as more unique features like the ability to handle a quick, unintended dip in the water and Multi Window that allows you to run two apps simultaneously in a split-screen view. A great battery life, a display you can see easily in bright light, 16 GB of storage, and a 15.9-megapixel camera that shoots excellent HD videos are a few more features that make this smartphone outstanding. The Samsung Galaxy S 5 was one of our highest performing phones in our Ratings and should be a reliable companion on campus. And while it's far from cheap, the S 5 is considerably less expensive that the newer S 6 or an iPhone.

Laptop: HP Spectre x360 -13t Touch ($900)

The 13.3-in convertible HP Spectre x360 makes an outstanding option for students for its performance and speed with a core i5-52000 processor and 4GB of memory. The laptop runs on Windows 8.1 (upgradeable to Windows 10 for free) and has a touchscreen and a 128 GB solid-state drive to sweeten the deal. The laptop is a breeze to carry around campus because it’s both thin and light, plus it has a long battery life of 16 hours so you don’t need to panic if you aren’t near an outlet.

For Apple Lovers: Go for the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display for $1,300.

Printer: Epson Expression Premium XP-620 printer ($90)

When you’re rushing to class before a deadline and there’s no time to run to the school library, having a reliable printer could make all the difference. This highly rated all-in-one inkjet printer can print wirelessly and produces excellent quality photos and good quality pages of text. The printer is versatile and has scan and copying functions, and it can print on both sides of a page; there's also a memory card readers. For a printer that could save you and your research paper in a pinch, the Epson Expression Premium XP-620 is a solid choice.

The entertainment

Headphones: Grado Prestige SR60e headphone ($79)

Unwind and enjoy your music without disturbing your roommate and neighbors. For a very good sound quality that has a warm character and won’t break the bank, these headphones are an excellent choice. The home/studio style open-air on-ear headphones won’t block out external noises, allowing you to maintain some connection with the outside world. If you want an old-school look that delivers on sound, these headphones are worth the investment.

If you prefer ear-insert portable earphones, consider the Sennheiser CX 215 headphone that also has very good sound quality and only costs $30.

Wireless speakers: Bose Soundlink Color Wireless Speaker ($130)

Transform your dorm into a party space on the weekends with these easy to use wireless Bluetooth portable speakers. The speakers have good overall sound quality and intuitive controls. They can connect with two devices at the same time and remember the last eight devices they paired with. With their small size, selection of five different colors, and relatively low price, the Bose Soundlink Color Wireless Speakers make a great option for students who want to add convenience and music to their lives. 

TV: LG 22LF4520 TV ($170)

Have your friends over for a movie without needing to fight to see the screen. This 22-inch LCD HDTV, which has 1080p resolution, delivers excellent high-definition quality and color accuracy without taking up half of your dorm room. The TV has one HDMI input, one VGA, and one USB port. And the price is very, very right.

Streaming media players and services: Amazon Fire TV Stick ($40)

For any student, Netflix is a lifeline. When you need to turn off your brain and binge on some television, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is an easy way to stream from Netflix, or your favorite services such as Hulu, Showtime, HBO Go, or Amazon. The stick is easy to set up and comes with a relatively simple remote that operates via Bluetooth. The stick is small, has an HDMI jack, mini USB port, and supports a 1080p output. The streaming picture quality is very good and the price makes it an easy decision.

Video-game console: Microsoft Xbox One ($500)

If you would prefer to go for broke (perhaps literally) and buy a console that can support streaming (Netflix!) and your favorite games, then you may want to consider Microsoft’s newest console. The Xbox One comes with a built in Blu-ray player and has a Kinect sensor that allows you to use motion-control and voice commands (although if you buy the console without Kinect you’ll save over $100). The console has many entertainment apps to choose from as well as the ability to video chat with your friends or family by making Skype calls in HD.

For a more economical choice, consider the older Microsoft Xbox 360 for $200.

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