Weíre going to cover laptops, tablets, smartphones, fitness trackers, and even cameras. For each category weíll give you our top pick, as well as a few honorable mentions, just to give you more choices.
Every kid going back to school wants a shiny new laptop. Everyone adult going back to school probably needs one. If you have the budget to spend, than dude, you should get a Dell.
Dell XPS 13
Starting at $799, itís not cheap. Itís also only 13-inches, and some people may take issue with the idea of spending so much for so little real estate. Remember, though, that this for school, so portability is definitely a big concern and at 13-inches the XPS 13 strikes the perfect balance between the slightly-too-tiny netbooks and the bigger, heavier laptops.
Itís also got it where it counts with a speedy Core i5 processor, strong speakers, and a gorgeous screen.
Apple MacBook Pro 13.3-inch with Retina Display
If youíre an Apple fan, this is the way to go, but know that youíre taking a huge step up in terms of price. This particular MacBook starts at $1,449, but Apple isnít known for putting out cheap products - in price nor in quality. If you decide to fork over the cash, know that youíre getting portability, power, long battery life, and one of the best screens on the market.
Lenovo Thinkpad E555
If you donít have money coming out of your ears, donít fret. Welcome to the cheaper side of laptops, where things donít look quite as pretty or run quite as fast, but the job gets done all the same. The Lenovo Thinkpad E555 should set you back less than $400 and youíll get a 2.20GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and a comfortable keyboard, which is arguably the most important thing when it comes to typing that 30-page thesis.
While many parents might prefer giving their kid a barebones cellphone for the singular purpose of making and receiving phone calls, smartphones can be a wonderful productivity tool. For those getting their high education, smartphones are practically a must. Might I recommend the 2015 Moto G?
Motorola Moto G (2015)
First off, why the Moto G instead of an iPhone or something from Samsung? While the Moto G may not have all the bells and whistles youíd find in an iPhone 6 or a Samsung Galaxy S6, itís a really great smartphone for a fraction of the cost. And if youíre buying anything else on this list, youíre going to need those savings.
For around $179.99, the Moto G gives you great battery life, an effective suite of software, and a phone that can survive a bump or two. If youíre a stressed out college student, the last thing you want is a broken smartphone.
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Of course, if you have the money, why not go high end? Appleís first phablet has been a knockout (save for a little bending issue) and by getting that big 1920 x 1080 5.5-inch screen, your smartphone may be able to perform a few tablet tasks as well. You have your choice of 16, 64, or 128GB of storage, but be warned: if you get one off-contract, they start around $800.
HTC One M9
The HTC One M9 starts at $199 on contract, which is a great price for a pretty great phone. Youíll get a 5-inch screen, a Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage (with MicroSD slot), and a 20-megapixel camera on the back. Best of all, HTC will replace your phone for free if it suffers water or screen damage.
Tablets have been popular with adults for quite some time, but itís getting to the point where itís not unusual to see little kids using them, either. While they certainly arenít a requirement for school, at least not in the way computers are, they certainly serve a purpose, and that purpose is still quite adequately served by the nearly two-year-old iPad Mini 2.
Apple iPad Mini 2
Appleís tiny tablet is a wondrous little machine and the reason weíre recommending it over its successor, the more-recent iPad Mini 3, is because the iPad Mini 2 does largely the same things but now at a reduced cost. A brand new, Wi-Fi-only 16GB model will cost you $299 brand new, but you can certainly get one on sale or refurbished for a much lower price. You have to be familiar with iOS, but even if you arenít, the iPad Mini 2 is a good reason to learn.
Google Nexus 9
Googleís Nexus 9 tablet is an 8.9-inch beauty. Itís thin and light, making it easy to carry around, but itís also packed with a quad-core processor, making it more than capable of handling your favorite apps. And if you go with the 16GB Wi-Fi model, youíll only pay $369 for Googleís biggest tablet.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0
If youíre looking for a reliable budget tablet, Samsung has you covered. The Galaxy Tab A 8.0 boasts an 8-inch screen, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of built-in storage (with a MicroSD card slot). Itís not a beast, but it works, and you can get a new tablet for just over $200.
While fitness trackers wonít help you with your school work, they will help you stay healthy, which is even more important. Depending on your class load, you might not have a lot of time to exercise, but a fitness tracker can show you just how many calories youíre burning just walking around campus. And if youíre a starving college student, look no further than the $15 Xiaomi Mi Band.
Xiaomi Mi Band
The Xiaomi Mi Band is a fitness band made of thermoplastic elastomer, so itís super comfy, and it uses a nifty app to track all sorts of things including your step count and even your sleep schedule (though apparently itís not very good at this). Did I mention it costs $15? Itís not a smartwatch, but it will vibrate when you have a call coming in. Oh, and the battery can go for over two months on a single charge. Did I mention it costs $15? Our own Michael Kwan tried one out back when it was $20 and was impressed by the bang-to-buck ratio.
Fitbit Charge HR
The Fitbit Charge HR is considered by some to be the king of fitness bands at the moment. It costs a hundred and fifty bucks, but thatís not too pricey for the best of the best. You also canít put a price on your health, so if one of the cheaper trackers isnít doing it for you, the Fitbit Charge may be the way to go. Itís discreet, itís comfy, and for the most part itís very accurate.
The Jawbone UP 3
The Jawbone UP 3 costs the same as the Fitbit†at $149.99, but it seems like all of the people who donít consider the Fitbit Charge HR to be the best fitness band around instead consider this to the best you can get. Itís comfy and accurate, but the best thing the Jawbone has going for it is its sleep tracker, which just plain works better than other fitness bands.
Again, a fancy digital camera isnít going to help you with your schoolwork. Itís not going to help you stay in shape, either. However, a camera will help you capture memories during what are arguably the most important years of your life. Sure, a smartphone can take pictures, but the act of pulling it out of your pocket and firing up your camera app is not only tedious but slow, putting you at risk of missing key moments. You need a real camera, and you should consider the Sony Alpha a6000.
Sony Alpha a6000
The Sony Alpha a6000 is around $700 new, which is honestly a fair price for a solid digital camera. It shoots fast and clear and has a nice variety of features to augment your photography. Itís not going to satisfy those looking for a professional setup, but thatís not who this guide is for.
Canon PowerShot SX600 HS
Maybe you donít have $700 just lying around. Thatís okay! Check out the Canon PowerShot SX600 HS, which for†three hundred bucks will give you excellent photo and video quality thatís easy to shoot. Itís even further from a professional setup than the Sony Alpha a6000, but itís a definite step up from a smartphone.
Nikon Coolpix L830
Hereís something slightly in the middle. You can get the Nikon Cool L830 for under $200 and it gives you not only good picture quality but higher-end features like a high-res tilting LCD so you can get that perfect shot. Itís easy to use and gives you a solid 34x zoom.