With summer drawing to an end once again, students all over the world are getting ready to re-adjust to the grind of school. While we can’t recommend where you can get your textbooks for cheap or what pen provides the most comfortable writing experience, we can certainly help you out with any tech that you may need for the upcoming term and school year.
Here’s our back to school tech guide for 2017!
It’s hard to think back to a time where everyone didn’t have or need a phone, and it’s certainly a fantastic advantage to have a phone, camera, music player, mini TV, calendar, notepad, calculator, and so much more, all in one sleek device that can slide into your pocket. If you’re still undecided on what smartphone to rock this year, here’s our top choices:
- HTC U11 – The HTC U11 may come with a more traditional design up front, but it is anything but when you look at the back, with the “liquid glass surface” a guaranteed head turner. HTC also returns to form with the availability of an excellent audio experience and great camera, and you also now get features that we’ve come to expect from flagships, like dust and water resistance. Further uniqueness comes in the form of “Edge Sense,” that lets you squeeze the phone to perform certain activities, which may seem weird at first but becomes a nice way to interact with the phone, as well as the inclusion of all the AI assistants you can think of, like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and HTC’s own Sense Companion. The HTC U 11 is currently priced at $649.
- Samsung Galaxy S8 – Nothing makes as good an impression as the infinity display of the Galaxy S8, and the gorgeous display makes the latest Samsung flagship an excellent media consumption and gaming companion. It’s not all about the looks either, with top of the line specifications, more streamlined software, an excellent camera, and other high-end features like wireless charging and dust and water resistance all making for an extremely well rounded smartphone. While generally priced at $725, the great news is that you can now get the Galaxy S8 for just $575, an offer that will likely last for a limited time only.
Of course, not everyone is looking to spend close to $700 on their latest smartphone, but the amazing thing about the current smartphone market is that you can still enjoy flagship specifications and features with devices that are a bit cheaper, but in some cases, even end up offering more than the more expensive competition.
Here are top picks for the more affordable flagships out there:
- OnePlus 5 – OnePlus delivers on their promise to “Never Settle” with the latest flagship offering, the OnePlus 5. Apart from the latest and greatest processor on-board, you also get to take advantage of a whopping 6 GB or 8 GB of RAM, more than you get with the options above, but at a price point that is much cheaper. If you are looking for a very powerful smartphone for a more affordable price tag, the OnePlus 5 is definitely the way to go. The version with 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage is priced at $479, the 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB storage model will set you back $539, and there is a special edition soft gold variant available for a limited time as well.
- Motorola Moto Z2 Play – The Moto Z2 Play is more mid-range in nature than the options above, but you still get to enjoy a sleek design, solid performance, and excellent battery life with this phone. What makes this device stand out however is its modular capabilities, with a slew of Moto Mods available to enhance your smartphone experience. If you are on Verizon, the Moto Z2 Play can be yours for $408, but keep in mind that it is the version with 32 GB of storage and 3 GB of RAM. The unlocked version with 64 GB of storage and 4 GB of RAM is currently priced at $499, but that does include a speaker mod as well.
Not everybody’s smartphone usage requires the latest and greatest that is currently available in the market, or if budget is a concern, there are certainly some solid options out there for you choose from. Here are our top choices for the best affordable smartphones currently available:
- Honor 6X: Honor is one of the few companies with smartphones that feature dual camera setups, and the company has also introduced that feature with their more affordable offerings like the Honor 6X. The 12 MP + 2 MP dual camera setup on the back impresses, the mid-range specs provide good performance, and the battery life is great as well. If you are looking for a budget-friendly smartphone with a good camera, the Honor 6X is definitely worth considering. The device is currently priced at just $199.99.
- Moto G5 Plus: It’s not really surprising that the Moto G has proven to be the most popular smartphones for Motorola and Lenovo, with the series getting better and better with every iteration. The Moto G5 Plus is a big upgrade from its predecessor, with a new metal composite construction, more storage, an improved camera, and impressive battery life. The version with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of built-in storage is usually priced at $229.99 but is now available for a limited time for just $179.99 while doubling both the RAM and the storage will set you back $299.
You don’t have to love tech to love music, and a good Bluetooth speaker is definitely a great buy for someone headed to school. Be it for the quiet evenings where you want some music in the background to help you study, or to be the life of the party, here our top picks for Bluetooth speakers –
- Marshall Stockwell: Marshall is known for their legendary guitar amps, and you now get to enjoy that great design with this Bluetooth speaker. Up top are metallic knobs for controlling the treble, bass, and overall volume, and inside is a battery that’ll get you around 25 hours of playback. The audio quality is excellent, and the speaker will look great in any room. The Marshall Stockwell is currently priced starting at $183.99.
- UE Roll 2: If you aren’t looking to spend close to $200 or more for a Bluetooth speaker, there are some great options like the UE Roll 2 available as well. It has a very unique disc shape that comes with a nice waterproof fabric and handy bungee cord makes it a winner. It has an IPX7 rating for water resistance, so it won’t be out of place in your shower either. The UE Roll 2 is a good sounding speaker with a very unique design, and with a price point of just $72, it’s definitely a good choice.
If you have a roommate or share a house with friends, not everyone will appreciate having your music blast from a Bluetooth speaker all day, or you may just be looking for a good pair of headphones or earphones to enjoy watching videos in private. In any case, we’ve got you covered with our top picks for headphones –
- Sony MDR1000X – If you’re looking for the best headphones with active noise cancellation out there, the Sony MDR-1000x is definitely worth considering. The build quality is excellent, with its synthetic leather ear cups that also have touch controls built in. The sound quality is of course, fantastic, and they also come with 20 hours of battery life with both Bluetooth and ANC active. However, with a price tag of $328, these headphones are certainly not cheap.
- CB3 Audio Hush: If you do want a good pair of headphones with active noise-cancelling on a budget, the CB3 Audio Hush is the one for you. There are a lot of features packed into a modern design, with impressive sound quality available, not only for the price, but in general. Which is why it’s great that this excellent pair of headphones is priced at just $90.
Not everyone is comfortable with a large pair of headphones on their head and around their ears all the time, and a good pair of earbuds may prove to be more comfortable. Here are our top choices:
- Jaybird X3: Jaybird’s products have always been at the top of the list when it comes to wireless earbuds, and that remains the case with the Jaybird X3. These are a great pair of earbuds all around, and you get a strong connection so you won’t have dropped signals, a good mic for phone calls, sweat resistance, good sound quality, and an eight-hour battery life. The Jaybird X3 is currently priced at $95.
- Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23: Active noise cancellation is a feature we generally see with over the ear headphones, so it’s great to see this feature as an option with earbuds as well. You’ll get really good sound quality and the buds come with a mic to answer calls. It also helps that these earbuds are the most affordable option when it comes to earbuds with noise cancellation, with a price tag of just $45.
There’s no shortage of amazing content available online from subscription based services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and a whole lot more, and while it is easily accessible on your laptop or smartphone, the best way to truly enjoy all of it is on the larger screen of a TV. The good thing is that you don’t need a fancy and often expensive smart TV to be able to stream all your online content on your TV. Here are our picks for media streaming devices that you should get your hands on –
- Google Chromecast – The Chromecast is one of the most affordable and convenient ways to access content by simply attaching the compact and portable device to the HDMI port of your TV. An impressive number of apps are supported so you won’t miss out on any of your favorite TV shows, movies, music, news, sport, or anything else. The regular Chromecast supports content up to 1080p, while the new Chromecast Ultra comes with support for 4K and HDR content if you do have a 4K television. The former is priced at just $35, while the Ultra will set you back $69.
- Amazon Fire TV – The only thing you can’t officially access with Chromecast is Amazon Instant Video and Prime Video, and if that’s something you use a lot, getting the Amazon Fire TV is the better way to go. You get support for 4K and HDR content and are able to control everything using Alexa if you also have the Amazon Echo. Popular apps are available with both the Chromecast and Fire TV, but the main advantage of the latter being the availability of Amazon’s own video services. The Amazon Fire TV is currently priced at $89.99.
A Chromebook isn’t for everybody, but if you are looking for a relatively affordable laptop and your usage is generally web-centric, these devices will more than do the trick. Chrome OS has also been slowly evolving over the years, and apart from there now being some offline apps available, the addition of Google Play Store support is another big boost for the ecosystem. If you are in the market for a new Chromebook, here are a couple of our top picks –
- Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro – The Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro are the devices to beat in this world of Chromebooks. Both versions come with a beautiful high-resolution 12.3-inch display that can be rotated a full 360 degrees to be used as a tablet, an S-Pen like stylus, and support for Android applications. The only real difference between the two is that the Plus is powered by an ARM-based chipset, whereas the Pro comes with a more powerful Intel Core m3 processor. The Samsung Chromebook Plus is currently available for $415, and the Pro is available for $549.
- Acer Chromebook R13 – Acer was one of the first manufacturers to get into the world of Chromebooks, and their latest offering doesn’t fail to impress. The Chromebook R13 also comes with a rotating 13.3-inch Full HD touchscreen, and features a premium construction that looks great. The specifications are more than enough to surpass the needs of Chrome OS, and one of its biggest selling points is the impressive battery life that you get. The Acer Chromebook R13 is currently priced at just $358.
These are just two of some great options out there, so if you are looking for other choices, don’t forget to check out our guide for the best Chromebooks of the year so far.
Smartwatches never really took off the way many expected them to, but I can attest to how convenient having one on your wrist can be. Being able to swipe away social media notifications, reply to messages either using or voice or even a keyboard, and the ability to answer calls even if your phone is in the other room is fantastic. A smartwatch is definitely more of a “want” than a “need,” but once you get one, it’s difficult to go back to being without it. If you are looking for a smartwatch, here are our top picks –
- LG Watch Sport – To showcase Android Wear 2.0, Google and LG took the wraps off of two new smartwatches, the higher-end one being the LG Watch Sport. The Watch Sport offers everything you’d want from a smartwatch, including a big AMOLED display, built-in GPS, an optical heart rate monitor, LTE connectivity, and an IP68 water resistance rating. The main button on the right side of the device also acts as a way to scroll through menus in Android Wear, which allows for a much faster and more robust navigation experience. It is on the pricey side at $349, which isn’t really surprising given how feature packed it is.
- Huawei Watch 2 – The Huawei Watch 2 is another feature packed smartwatch that comes with everything the LG Watch Sport offers, save for the fact that the Watch 2 has a slightly smaller display and doesn’t offer a secondary navigation method. The Huawei Watch 2 is admittedly not as elegant looking as its predecessor, but if you want a touch of style, the Watch 2 Classic is the way to go. The Huawei Watch 2 is currently priced at just $255.99, while the Classic edition will set you back $337.20.
While Android Wear 2.0 and devices like the LG Watch Sport and the Huawei Watch 2 come with good fitness tracking features, many don’t want a bulky device on their wrist, especially if you are only interested in the fitness aspect. It also doesn’t hurt that regular fitness trackers are often quite cheaper than smartwatches. Whether you are a fitness enthusiast or just want to know how many steps you take to get to all your classes, here are our top picks for fitness trackers –
- Garmin vivosmart HR+ : The Garmin vivosmart HR+ is one of the best fitness trackers you can get right now that is packed with features. A big touchscreen display shows you all the info you may need without needing to pick up your phone, and it comes with a built-in GPS which adds new running features. It also has a waterproof rating of up to 50 meters deep, which not a lot of trackers offer. The Garmin vivosmart HR+ is currently priced at just $149.99.
- Polar M600: The Polar M600 brings Android Wear to the world of fitness tracking and comes with a built-in GPS, IPX8 water resistance rating, and an optical heart rate monitor. It also comes with support for Polar’s Flow app, allowing you to track any activity, including rowing, skiing, hiking, and much more. Of course, you also get a full smartwatch experience with Android Wear on-board. It is pricey though, priced at $299.99, but the M600 is one of the few smartwatch/fitness tracker hybrids around.
For even more options with regards to smartwatches or fitness and activity trackers, don’t forget to check out our guides on the best Android Wear smartwatches and best fitness trackers that are currently available!
We generally think of computers, smartphones, smartwatches, and the like when thinking about mobile technology, but the products below add some tech to everyday things that we all have and add another useful element to them. Here’s our top picks for smart tech:
- Wearsafe – The Wearsafe tag is a discreet, compact, button that you carry on your person, attach to your clothes, or have on a key ring. Pushing the button automatically launches the app that then sends critical information to friends and family, who can then act on the information. Your emergency contacts also receive your GPS coordinates, and the tag vibrates silently each time someone gets your alert, which is a great way of reassuring you that help is on the way. Wearsafe is available with a subscription package of just $5 a month, with the tag included for free, and that is a negligible amount to pay when your personal safety is the concern.
- Mancro laptop backpack – The Mancro backpack (38 liter capacity) comes with a separate laptop compartment that can comfortably hold most large laptops, a spacious main compartment for your books, a third compartment with a lot of small pockets for your tablet, phone, hard drive, pen drives, and more, and two mesh side pockets to hold water bottles. There is a removable key ring as well so you can have all your essentials organized in one place, and another nice addition is a USB charging port on the body of bag. You can connect your own battery pack on the inside and then charge your smartphone on the go. Every student needs a backpack, and the Mancro laptop backpack should easily cover all your needs. This bag is currently priced at just $27.99.
- Raden smart luggage: The Raden smart suitcase comes with twoUSB charging ports that can charge most smartphones fully at least twice, features an integrated scale so you know how much the luggage weighs after you pack it, and leverages Bluetooth technology for location awareness. Smart features aside, these are good pieces of luggage by themselves, with durable bodies, four wheels, and sturdy handles. The Raden A22 (carry-on size) and the larger A28 (checked-in) are priced at $295 and $395 respectively, and you can also pick up both together for a discounted $595.
- Car accessories: From Bluetooth car kits, dashboard replacements with Android Auto support, to car chargers and phone holders, there is a lot you can do to make your driving experience enjoyable and more importantly, hands-free. To find something that best suits you, here is our roundup of best car accessories, that cover the range of any tech that can go into your car.
- Portable battery packs: If you have been facing issues with your phone battery running out halfway through the day, a portable battery pack is a great option. You can find our roundup of the best portable battery packs currently available here, and in case you get a newer phone that features a USB-C port, you can find a list of relevant portable chargers here.
- Phone cases: A good phone case can go a long way in keeping your smartphone safe from unfortunate and accidental bumps and drops, and an additional layer of security is never a bad idea. From slim, transparent cases that show off the design of your phone, to the ultra-rugged options that will keep your device safe from anything, every type is available in our best cases roundups for a variety of smartphones. You can search for your particular device on the site, or look for the phone here.
- Multi-port USB Wall chargers – Nowadays, everyone has a slew of gadgets at any given time, with smartphones, tablets, laptops, and more. It can be quite a task to keep track of the various chargers and cables, and you sometimes have to charge devices one at a time, because of a lack of available wall outlets. This is where multi-port USB wall chargers help make things a lot easier and can make a big difference. Ranging from 2-port to 6-port chargers, there is something for everyone in our roundup of the best multi-port USB wall chargers that you can find here.
So there you have it for this back to school tech guide for 2017!