college tech lead
CNN  — 

Getting through another semester of college is something to look forward to as it brings you one step closer to your degree. In an effort to help you get through your courses with ease, you’re going to need the right tools.

In this case, those tools are various tech products and gadgets that will make your life easier. Whether it’s a reliable portable external drive, a better webcam or a new MacBook Air, there’s plenty of tech that you’ll want to check out. Below you’ll find our top recommendation for tech to help you this semester in college.

Rocketbook ($21.49, originally $24.88;


The Rocketbook is a reusable notebook that wipes clean with a damp cloth once you’ve committed your notes to memory. Or, you know, are done studying for a test. There’s also a companion app that you can use to scan and upload your pages to your favorite cloud storage service like Dropbox or OneNote. Just remember to wait long enough for the ink to dry —- about 15 seconds —- before turning the page. We don’t want you to end up with ink all over your hands and notes lost forever.

Anker USB-C Hub ($27.99;

Anker USB-C Hub

With computer manufacturers switching to USB-C ports on laptops, they’ve also cut back on the number of ports that are included. Take the new MacBook Air as an example, it only has two USB-C ports. That’s not near enough to connect all of your accessories and charge the MacBook at the same time. Thus, you’ll want to pick up a USB-C hub that makes it possible to connect multiple devices through a single port – and you can even charge your laptop. This particular hub has a total of 7 ports, including HDMI, 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB-C, SD card reader and a microSD card reader.

Otterbox Power Pack ($37.40;

Otterbox Power Pack

Running low on battery is not a situation any of us want to be in, and that’s why a portable battery pack makes a ton of sense. But this particular pack comes from Otterbox, which takes its rugged know how from smartphone cases and applies it to a portable battery. It packs 15,000mAh which is more than enough to charge your phone a handful of times. And it even has the ability to function as a wireless charging pad you don’t have to worry about remembering your cable.

Nomad kevlar cables (Starting at $34.95;

Nomad kevlar cables

Regardless of what brand of phone, tablet or computer you use, we can all relate to frayed cables that fail far too soon. Instead of replacing one bad cable with another cable that’s sure to break in a few months, invest in a high-quality cable that’s built to last. Enter: Nomad’s Kevlar cables. These cables are built for high-speed charging and to last even if your puppy decides to treat one as a chew toy (true story). Nomad has cables for all device types, and even offers universal cables with built-in adapters to switch from USB-C to microUSB to Lightning.

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 ($49.99, originally $59.99;

Anker Soundcore Life Q20

You don’t have to empty your bank account to grab a high quality pair of wireless headphones with active noise canceling. They performed well enough in our testing that they earned the best budget pick for noise-canceling headphones, nearly matching the high-end Bose 700s. In addition to drowning out loud background noise, the battery life on the Q20s is 40 hours on a single charge. Insane. Now, keep in mind, audio quality will leave some to be desired, but it’s good enough for our ears.

Chromecast with Google TV ($49.99;

Chromecast with Google TV

Google recently updated its Chromecast streaming dongle, complete with a brand new remote and a new interface. Both of which were very much needed on Google’s streaming platform. For $50 you get the new Chromecast and the remote, which will provide access to all of your favorite streaming services and apps. It’s one of the better streaming devices out there, and is an easy recommendation.

Echo Dot with Clock ($54.99, originally $59.99;

Echo Dot with Clock

Need something to help you get out of bed on time, but don’t want a boring alarm clock? The Echo Dot with Clock will do the trick. This sphere-like smart speaker not only has Alexa built-in which you can use to control smart devices, ask questions or play music, but it has an LED display that makes it easy to see the time from across the room. It comes in glacier white or twilight blue. Amazon is even offering a free smart bulb with it right now that you can then control with your voice. Pretty cool.

Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard ($59.99;

Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard

Long typing sessions are the worst when you’re using a basic keyboard. Instead of relying on what’s built into your laptop, or what came as the free option with a desktop, treat yourself to one of our top picks for best ergonomic keyboard. We really loved the split keyboard that’s shaped in an arch and the customization options the Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center allows for on a PC. You can use the wired keyboard on a Mac, but you’ll miss out on any software features.

WD 2TB My Passport ($59.99, originally $79.99;

WD 2TB My Passport

It can feel like you never have enough storage on your computer, especially as file and app sizes continue to grow. With an external hard drive like the Western Digital My Passport, you can add more storage for relatively little money. My Passport comes in varying capacities, ranging from 1TB to 5TB should you need more or less room. It even comes in different colors, with red, blue or black currently available.

Apple Pencil (1st generation) ($94.88, originally $99.99;

Apple Pencil (1st generation)

The original Apple Pencil is still around and still needs to be charged, either by using an adapter and a Lightning cable or plugging it directly into the bottom of your iPad. It not only looks weird, but it’s kind of dangerous. But we digress.

The original Apple Pencil will set you back just under $100, but can be used across iPadOS to enter text, jot notes or sketch during a lecture that’s way too boring. And yes, it will spice up your note-taking experience.

Apple Pencil (2nd generation) ($124.98, originally $124.99;

Apple Pencil (2nd generation)

If you have a third or fourth-generation iPad Pro or decide to get the new iPad Air, you’ll definitely want to get the second generation Apple Pencil. In addition to being able to write in your favorite apps, the latest generation wirelessly charges when it’s magnetically attached to the side of your iPad Air or Pro. As a side benefit, you’ll always know where the Pencil is.

With the release of iPadOS 14, Apple added the ability to write inside any text field using the Apple Pencil and your tablet will automatically convert your handwriting into text. Yes, that means you can use the Pencil to fill out online forms or reply to iMessages.

Logitech C922x Pro Webcam ($124.99;

Logitech C922x Pro Webcam

Tired of looking horrible on your video calls? Get a better webcam. The C922x Pro from Logitech looks fantastic, with 1080p HD video quality and a 78-degree viewing field. It includes two mics to help with your audio, as well as a mount that keeps it atop your monitor or laptop lid. It’ll work with a Mac, PC, Chrome OS or even an Xbox One.

AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249;

AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods went from a goofy-looking earbud to something you see in people’s ears all the time. The AirPods Pro are the best Apple has to offer when it comes to wireless earbuds. The real highlight here is they have active noise cancelation, meaning you can put them in and all that noise your loud roommates keep making disappears as your favorite podcast or music fills the void. With 4.5 hours of listening time on a single charge, or a total of 24 hours total when you include the charging case, battery life isn’t an issue with the AirPods Pro. (if the $180 is a little steep, the Beats Flex are a great budget option we also recommend). If the $199 is a little steep, Beats Flex are a great budget option we also recommend).

Apple iPad (8th Generation) ($299, originally $329.99;

Apple iPad (8th Generation)

If you’re looking for a more budget friendly tablet, look no further than the base iPad. Currently on the eighth generation, Apple’s iPad still has all of its iconic features. It boasts a 10.2-inch display, Apple Pencil support and will work with Apple’s Smart Keyboard cover.

For under $300, you get 32GB of storage (you might want to upgrade to the 128GB model just to be safe), and your pick of a gold, silver or space gray housing.

The iPad still boasts Apple’s Touch ID-equipped home button for quick and easy unlocking. You simply cannot go wrong with the entry-level iPad.

iPad Air ($559.99, originally $599;

iPad Air

Apple’s fourth-generation iPad Air borrows a lot of the same features we’ve come to know, enjoy and expect from the high-end iPad Pro line. It’s not only slightly smaller than the iPad Pro, it’s also cheaper. For $599, you’ll get a 10.9-inch iPad Air with 64GB of storage. It works with the second generation Apple Pencil, allowing you to jot notes or sketch out thesis thoughts in your favorite apps.

You’ll get around 10 hours of battery life out of a single charge, and have the option of adding Apple’s Magic Keyboard with Trackpad if you want to turn it into a laptop replacement.

Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99;

Logitech MX Master 3

Not every laptop’s trackpad is smooth and responsive, it’s an unfortunate fact. However, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Instead, treat yourself to Logitech’s MX Master 3. It’s our top pick for the best ergonomic mouse, but it does more than make for a comfortable device to use. It works worth a PC or Mac, and can switch between up to three devices with the tap of a button. The Master 3 includes extra buttons that you can customize to trigger actions, like launching an app or minimizing all open windows. Oh, and the scroll wheel is just downright fun to spin. Seriously, give it a try.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go ($599.99;

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go walks the line of providing a top-tier experience while staying affordable. At $599, you’re getting a whole lot of laptop. The Laptop Go provides a 12.4-inch touchscreen display, an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It also includes a fingerprint reader so you can sign into Windows 10 without having to type in a password – it’s great. The Laptop Go includes a 729p HD webcam, which should help with your Zoom video calls. All of this adds up to a handy 2-in-1 that can tackle most college workloads.

Apple MacBook Air (2020, M1) ($949.99, originally $999;

Apple MacBook Air (2020, M1)

MacBooks more your speed? The latest MacBook Air is one of the most impressive laptops we’ve ever tested. The reason? Apple made the switch to its own processor line, called Apple Silicon. The M1 chip, specifically, is found in the new MacBook Air and it boosts the performance and extends battery life to 18 hours on a single charge. The base model comes with 256GB of storage, 8GB of RAM and Apple’s M1 processor.

Bonus: You can install the same iPhone and iPad apps you know and love directly on the M1 MacBook Air.