School is starting back up, and one of the best ways to ensure success is to have everything you need. There's the usual books, notebooks, calculators, and so on, but there are a few other tools and accessories that can make your next semester a little bit easier.
In this guide, we'll go over a few inexpensive items that can help you be a bit more productive or keep you organized.
This one might seem obvious, but if you travel with your laptop at all, get a sleeve or carrying bag for it. If you carry it in a bag with other items, get a laptop sleeve to prevent loose debris from scratching the screen or damaging the casing.
There usually isn't much of a difference between laptop bags, though some may have more space for chargers/other items. This bag from Lenovo (opens in new tab) is a nice option, and Amazon makes a variety of laptop sleeves (opens in new tab) in different sizes and colors.
If you do the majority of your work from a laptop, or if you use a desktop with a very old mouse, you should definitely get an external mouse. The Logitech G203 (opens in new tab) is a great option for anyone with a tight budget—it's usually under $30, it's very reliable, and it has an ergonomic design. The buttons are also customizable using Logitech's desktop software, so you can change the mouse's functions to better suit your workflow.
If you have a bit more money to spend, we have an entire list of recommendations here (opens in new tab). If you use computers for long periods of time, and you're prone to experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome or other similar issues, something like the MX Vertical (opens in new tab) or Microsoft Sculpt (opens in new tab) might be a better option.
You might already have a smart speaker with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, but if you don't, you should definitely grab one for school. Whether you take classes online or live in a dorm, a smart speaker is a great way to quickly access information or complete tasks while you're focused on something else. You can quickly ask it for your upcoming schedule, set reminders (that can appear on other devices too), check facts in a report, or have it start streaming your favorite Spotify playlist.
The Google Home Mini (opens in new tab) is my personal favorite smart speaker, as Google Assistant is usually a bit smarter at understanding questions than Alexa. It's technically priced at $49, but you can easily find it for around $25. If you're not in the Google ecosystem already, an Echo Dot (opens in new tab) might work better.
If you have a bit more cash, a smart display like the Google Nest Hub (opens in new tab) or Amazon Echo Show 5 (opens in new tab) functions exactly like a smart speaker, but they have a screen for videos, controlling music playback, video calls, and so on. Most of them will also give you visual alerts for upcoming reminders and calendar events.
If you need more storage on your laptop, or you just want an easy way to backup more files than a cloud storage service will take, external solid state drives are cheaper than ever.
The Samsung T5 (opens in new tab) is an excellent option in this category. It's just as fast as an internal SATA drive (as long as you connect it to a USB 3.0 port), and it fits in your pocket. The prices are also fairly low, with the 500GB drive costing just $90 as of the time of writing.
If you want to save as much money as possible, you can also buy a cheap SATA SSD drive and place it in a USB enclosure. For example, this 250GB Kingston drive (opens in new tab) and this enclosure (opens in new tab) will get you a quick-and-dirty portable SSD for under $50.
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