1. The laptop
f affordability is a main factor, Dell’s Inspiron 15 3000 (€649 from Dell.com) is hard to beat. It’s a good, solid all-rounder with lots of ports, a reasonable keyboard and a decent 15.6-inch (non-touch) screen. It’s not exactly light (1.9kg) or ultraportable. But with 8GB of Ram and the most up-to-date Intel i5 processor, there’s not much you’ll face at school or college that you can’t do on this. 256GB of storage will easily be enough, too.
Another €120 moves you up the scale to Samsung’s new Galaxy Book (€769 from retailers). While it still has a large 15.6-inch screen, it’s much lighter (1.6kg) and has good basic power and port configurations too.
But if portability is absolutely key, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go (€739 from Microsoft.com) is probably the best deal out there at present. The 12.4-inch Surface Laptop Go weighs just 1.1kg, making it perfect for bags. It’s also powered using a USB-C connection, making it chargeable with a much smaller accessory than the usual proprietary brick. And it has a touchscreen that works with several kinds of stylus. Finally, it comes in a choice of three colours. Microsoft also offers a student discount of 10pc on most of its laptops.
2. Hear, here
Noise-cancelling headphones are no longer an optional extra for those who struggle to concentrate with a disruptive din around them. While the likes of Sony’s XM3 or XM4 still set the standard, they’re somewhat pricey (from €249 up). A decent budget pair is JBL’s Tune 750 (€80 in Currys). But don’t get caught out by relying on wireless buds, no matter what their ‘noise cancelling’ claims. They don’t do it nearly as well as overhead versions, which cover your ear completely.
3. Anti-clutter desk tech
If you’re studying away from home, you may not have much space on your desk. One way of making sure your cables don’t get out of control is a charging hub. Moshi makes a couple of very decent ones. Its Sette Q (€109 from Moshi.com) not only charges two separate phones, but does so at a speedy 15w, with room for a third USB charging port for devices that can’t wirelessly recharge. Spend another €50 and you’ll get the excellent Symbus Q hub. As well as wirelessly charging your phone, this small gadget is especially handy if you want to connect your laptop to a desktop monitor through a built-in USB-C cable that connects to your laptop and a separate HDMI port that lets you connect your laptop to the monitor at either full HD (60 frames per second) or 4K (30 frames per second). That same USB-C cable, though, can also power your laptop at up to a 60-watt charge. And it also has an ethernet port and two USB-A ports, both of which can be used to charge other devices.
4. The tablet accessory
While you definitely can use an iPad instead of a laptop for projects and research at college, it largely depends on having a decent keyboard. The golden standard, unquestionably, is Apple’s Magic Keyboard; it’s just about as good as any laptop’s keyboard and even has a trackpad on it for those who prefer on-screen cursors (yes, iPads now support mouse control and cursors). The only drawback is that the Magic Keyboard is expensive — from €339 — and only fits newer, high-end models, such as the iPad Air (€679) and iPad Pro (€919). You’ll get better value from alternatives such as Logitech’s nice Folio Touch Keyboard Case with Trackpad (€159). As for a stylus, Apple’s Pencil is good but pricey (€99 or €135). More affordable alternatives are Zagg’s Pro Stylus (€79) or Logitech’s ‘Crayon for iPad’ (€69).