The Fall 2021 school year is about to start, and good (and more importantly, useful) tech can help the student in your life stress less. Whether they need help focusing or relaxing, we have some great gift recommendations.
The Best Gifts for Students in 2021
What to Look For in Student Tech Gifts
If you’re shopping for someone that’s heading back to school or college, there are two key factors you’ll need to keep in mind, especially when it comes to technology: how useful an item is and if it helps them in daily life.
Generally, a student living in a college dorm room isn’t going to have a ton of space, so the last thing they’ll need is a bulky desktop PC setup or a big TV set. The likelihood is that they won’t have the room for it! Instead, you’ll want to focus on smaller, easy to store items that won’t take up a lot of space.
Also, you really want to be sure that your gift will be useful to them! While things like printers or scanners might seem helpful on the surface, if the student rarely uses them (or goes to the library to print documents out), then it’s just taking up space.
Of course, you also should ask the student in your life what they need! Their needs will differ drastically on what they’re studying, where they’re living, and how much spare money they have to buy items they want. Generally, students don’t have a lot of extra money, so even simple gifts, like a gift card to Netflix or a new pair of headphones, will be more appreciated than a big expensive gift that’s less practical.
With that said, here are our recommendations.
Noise-Canceling Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones
Any student would absolutely love a quality pair of headphones. It can be difficult to concentrate on studying if there’s a lot of noise in a common room or outside, so spending extra on a good pair of noise-canceling headphones will go a long, long way in making school life more bearable.
Over-ear headphones tend to be better about noise-canceling, and the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are the best in class. The XM4s have superior noise-canceling, great audio, and are wireless to boot. They’re a bit more expensive than the average pair of headphones, but they’ll last for years and are worth the price.
If your student prefers earbuds (because say, for example, noise-canceling headphones hurt their ears), you can’t go wrong with purchasing a pair of Apple AirPods Pro. Despite being an Apple product, they can connect to Android devices, and they offer active noise canceling. They’re also much easier for your student to carry around and great for workouts!
Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones
These headphones are a bit pricey, but with incredible noise-cancellation, great audio, and more, they're worth every penny.
Apple AirPods Pro
Noise-canceling is also available in earbuds! Apple's AirPods Pro are some of the best earbuds around, with active noise canceling and the ability to pair to both Android and Apple devices.
A Quality Tablet: iPad Air
One of the best items you can get for a student that probably can’t purchase for themselves is an excellent tablet, and Apple’s tablet offerings are typically far and away the best of them. For students, the best bet is the iPad Air, the middle point of the iPad line.
With the iPad Air, students can read their textbooks, study, and relax with Netflix and games easily, without the need for a TV or bulky laptop. With the Magic Keyboard, it can even function as practically as a laptop in its own right. Unless your giftee really prefers Windows, they will make good use of an iPad. If you’re interested in looking at other iPad products, though, check out our best iPad roundup!
iPad Air (2020, 4th Generation)
The iPad Air is the midpoint of Apple's tablet line and is great for students. They can study, relax, and keep in touch easily without the need of additional tech.
Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad Air
The Magic Keyboard can help in making the iPad Air even more versatile, allowing the tablet to be used similarly to a laptop.
A Windows Laptop: HP Envy x360
If your giftee is staunchly against Apple, or they need Windows for specific apps or coursework, a laptop is the next best thing. While the laptop market is very diverse, we personally recommend the HP Envy x360 for college students.
This 2-in-1 laptop has nine hours of battery life, and the touch screen can be used with a finger or a pen. Even better, it’ll be able to upgrade to Windows 11 later this year without any fuss! It’s not the most powerful PC, but for most students, it doesn’t have to be—and the Envy is versatile enough that a lot of students will be happy with it. If you think your giftee needs something different, though, make sure to check out our best laptops roundup!
HP Envy x360 13
The HP Envy x360 13 is a 2-in-1 laptop that has a handy touch screen. Its specs aren’t through the roof, but for college, a lot of students don’t need a ton of pwoer, they need something that’s great for productivity.
Helpful Ways to Take Notes: Rocketbook
Rocketbooks are really interesting. While they look like normal notebooks, these are actually reusable smart notebooks. Students can write their notes and then scan them into their phone and computer easily with the Rocketbook app. Review Geek, our sister site, gave the Rocketbook Wave a try, and they came away pleased.
Not only does the Rocketbook save on paper, but it makes it much easier to organize notes and have what’s needed come test time. Rocketbooks aren’t too expensive either, with an MSRP of $34, so it makes for a great gift that doesn’t hurt the wallet.
Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook
Take notes and scan them into your phone and computer easily! The Rocketbook is a great inexpensive gift for students.
A Waterproof, Portable Bluetooth Speaker: JBL Flip 5
Bluetooth speakers used to have a bad reputation for their poor connectivity and disappointing sound quality, but you can now get a great quality speaker for a great price. Bluetooth speakers are ideal for students, too, as they tend to sync easily to phones, and are small and portable, making them easy to use in dorm rooms and parties alike.
JBL has some of the best quality Bluetooth speakers, and while many of its products will be a solid pick, the JBL Flip 5 is the most versatile of the bunch. This portable, waterproof speaker lasts for up to twelve hours, can be linked with other JBL speakers for even better audio, and comes in a bunch of different colors, so you can find one that matches your giftee’s style.
JBL Flip 5
The JBL Flip 5 is a waterproof Bluetooth speaker with great looks, sound, and battery life. It's a great gift for just about anyone, and it's small enough that it works great in the limited space of a dorm room.
A Way to Charge Devices On The Go: Anker PowerCore
Technology is great, but if the battery runs out in the middle of the day, then most electronics turn into an expensive paperweight! Portable chargers aren’t something often thought about, but they are essential to school life if power outlets are in short supply throughout the school.
When it comes to a charger, there are two directions you can go for buying one. First, you can go all out and grab a charger like the Omni 20+. While expensive, the charger holds plenty of power in it and has an AC outlet that lets your student charge laptops and other bigger electronics too. It’s super handy, even if the Omni requires an investment.
The other direction is with something small and compact, so it’s easy to throw into a backpack and have no matter where the location. In that case, the Anker PowerCore is a good bet. This small portable charger still has a fair amount of power to it, but it can easily sit in the bottom or pocket of a backpack until it’s needed. The Powercare is perfect to carry throughout the school year!
This small portable charger can easily slip into a backpack or purse and be there when it's needed most.
The Omni 20+, while expensive, holds a lot of charging juice in it, and even has an AC plug so everything can be charged.
A Way To Keep Track of Important Items: Tile Starter Pack
Is your giftee constantly losing their phone or keys? A Bluetooth tracker will be a lifesaver. Attach a tracker to a keyring or slip one in a wallet, and when an item’s lost, pop open the app to find it. How exactly it works depends on the tracker, but generally, the tracker will make a noise when it’s nearby, or you can find it on a map if you left it in class. Better yet, if it’s the phone that’s missing, using a Bluetooth tracker can make the phone ring, so the purchase works both ways.
While there are a variety of Bluetooth trackers on the market, we recommend the Tile Starter Pack, as it gives someone everything they need to track the most important stuff. If you’re interested in what other trackers are available, check out our best Bluetooth trackers roundup!
Tile Starter Pack
The Tile Start Pack has one Tile Mate to put on a keychain and a Tile Slim to put in a wallet. It'll be much harder to lose stuff with this!
A Portable Projector for Movie Nights: ELEPHAS Movie Projector
A projector seems like a strange gift, but think about it: Have you ever been to a movie night with a bunch of friends, and you’re all trying to watch what’s happening on a 27-inch TV? Not ideal, right? It’s so much better to project what you’re watching on a nearby wall, and a portable projector is cheaper than you’d think.
The ELEPHAS Movie Projector will work great for students, and only costs around $100. It can mirror the content on a phone or tablet and easily project it, and it’ll look good in a dark room! Just make sure to get a streaming device to go with it, as the mirroring won’t work with streaming services without it. It’s a strange little oddity, but otherwise, it’s a great little electronic.
This mini projector’s image quality can’t stand up to the big-name brands, but the ELEPHAS Move Projector is also small and doesn’t cost several hundred dollars. For your high-school or college student, it’s perfect.
ELEPHAS Movie Projector
This projector is small and easy to use, making it great for movie nights and parties. It's just really neat!
A Streaming Device for Easy Binge Watches: Amazon Fire Stick 4K
Many dorm rooms and common rooms will have a television, but it’s not likely it’ll be an up-to-date model. Even if it is a smart TV, students should not want to put their streaming login information on a shared television. That’s where a streaming device comes in!
A streaming device can be plugged into a TV’s HDMI slot, and then your giftee has access to all their accounts and shows. There are all sorts of different devices, but we recommend a streaming stick as they’re more compact and easier to store. The Fire TV Stick 4K is only $50 and works wonderfully in a school setting. If you’re interested in more streaming devices, though, make sure to check out our best streaming devices roundup!
Fire TV Stick 4K
It's questionable whether a student dorm room will have a 4K TV, but at just $50, you'll get a competent streaming stick that's future-proofed and easy to use.
A Robot Vacuum To Keep The Dorm Clean: eufy RoboVac 11S
The last thing any college student wants to do after a hard day or week at school is clean. A Roomba can clean the floors while they’re out every day, and they can return to a room with nice, clean floors. It’s simply one less thing for them to worry about!
While Roombas are typically the standard for robot vacuums, we recommend the eufy RoboVac 11S for college students. It saves a little money by having a battery with a runtime of only about 100 minutes—but that’s more than enough time to vacuum a small dorm room. Seeing as it’ll be used throughout the school year, the price is more than right.
eufy RoboVac 11S
This smart robot vacuum will keep your student's dorm room clean while they're away in class. It's one less thing on their minds!
Other Great Gift Ideas: Benichi Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Sometimes, the student already has the tech! If you’re struggling to think of something that may help out your giftee in the technology department, maybe some of these ideas can help them protect and organize what they already have:
Matein's backpack options look sleek, and they have tons of compartments to store laptops, phones, books, and more. There's even a place to plug a portable charger and external USB to charge without opening the bag up! It's great for school and travel.
BAGSMART Electronic Organizer Bag
It's a nightmare keeping track of wires in the best of times, it's even worse when the phone is dying and the charger cable is nowhere to be found! This organizer bag is an inexpensive solution that will keep all the important wires in one place.
Benichi Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Most students are going to be looking at screens all day, every day. Blue light blocking glasses help to ensure that natural melatonin production isn't interrupted from electronic screens. Maybe you should get a pair for yourself, too!