Farewell to summer hijinks, hello backpacks, smart pens, tablets and dorm life feng shui. Yes, the days are getting shorter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun assembling a back-to-school arsenal of stylish gadgets.
Here’s TIME’s list of recommended e-readers, cameras, photo printers, handheld game systems and more to make any academic year complete. All prices listed are MSRP. (And don’t miss our picks for the best back-to-school laptops and tablets.)
- Here’s How Effective the Original Vaccines Are Against Omicron
- The Promise—And Possible Perils—of Editing What We Say Online
- How Trump Survived Decades of Legal Trouble: Deny, Deflect, Delay, and Don't Put Anything in Writing
- Flint Is Still Shaken by its Water Crisis—and Residents Are Experiencing Long-Term Mental-Health Issues
- A Beer Shortage Is Brewing. A Volcano Is Partly to Blame
- How Fasting Can—and Can't—Improve Gut Health
- Cities Keep Enforcing Curfews for Teens, Despite Evidence They Don't Stop Crime
- Joe Manchin’s Red Tape Reform Could Supercharge Renewable Energy in the U.S.
- Column: We Should Talk More About What a Brilliant Actor Marilyn Monroe Was
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
There’s nothing as back-busting as the first week of class book-buying ritual, when you have to lug dozens of books from the campus store back to your dorm room. Forget the heavy lifting and pick up a Kindle Paperwhite, which can store all the books you’ll need for the semester at a mere 7-ish ounces. With highlighting and note-taking features, the Paperwhite is a great study buddy, too.
Whether at the gym or on your way to class, Apple’s AirPod wireless earbuds are reliable, comfortable and offer more than adequate audio fidelity for casual listening. There’s no need to dig into your iPhone’s settings menu to check whether they’re connected, because the AirPods automatically sync with your phone as soon as you pop open their case. They’re a breeze to use, too, since they can detect whether they’re in your ear and pause audio accordingly.
Buy now: Apple AirPods, $160, Apple
Belkin SurgePlus USB Swivel Charger
Everyone needs extra plugs, and surge protection can be a gadget-saver in case of split-second brownouts (minor dips in power) or unexpected electricity spikes. Belkin’s cordless SurgePlus USB Swivel Charger adds up to a cost-sensible mix of both with USB perks in the bargain. It offers 918 joules of device protection (you generally want above 600), two powered USB charge ports (2.1 AMP combined) for tablets or smartphones, a 360-degree rotatable plug with four lockable positions, plus it’s small enough to drop in a tote for on-the-go plug expansion and device safeguarding.
Canon EOS M6
It used to be that in order to take DSLR-quality photos, you needed to lug around a bulky camera. That’s no longer the case, thanks to the rise of high-end “mirrorless” alternatives like the Canon EOS M6. Sporting a 24-megapixel sensor, dual pixel autofocus and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the M6 can deliver photos that’ll blow your Instagram followers away, then comfortably disappear into a backpack or purse.
Buy now: Canon EOS M6, $900, Amazon
HP Sprocket Photo Printer
Smartphones may be replacing point-and-shoot cameras, but that doesn’t mean printed images are obsolete. Photo printers like the HP Sprocket turn your smartphone’s snaps into tangible glossies for decorating your dorm room or hanging on a fridge. HP’s Sprocket is light and portable enough to toss in your bag, and you can peel the back off to turn your photo into a sticker as well.
Logitech Slim Folio iPad Keyboard Case
If you use your iPad to take notes, you’ll probably want a good keyboard case. Logitech’s Slim Folio is a great option for those who own a 2017-issue iPad, because it comes with a row of iOS keyboard shortcuts for features like Siri and search, and its replaceable coin cell battery should last up to four years. If you’re rocking the much larger iPad Pro, consider Logitech’s Create Backlit Keyboard Case—it’s less cramped than Apple’s official accessory, and works with the iPad’s Smart Connector, so you don’t have to go through the Bluetooth pairing process.
Mophie Powerstation Mini
Whether you’re using your phone to film video for a project or listen to Spotify at the library, you can never have enough power. Mophie’s Powerstation Mini packs an additional 3,000 mAh battery, which is the size of the battery found in smartphones like the Galaxy S8. That should be more than enough power to get you through the day, and it’s slim enough to discreetly stash in a backpack or purse.
New Nintendo 2DS XL
The New Nintendo 2DS XL (see TIME’s review) offers everything the New 3DS XL does for less—minus a dimension. If you’ve yet to tinker with a 3DS, the New 2DS XL is arguably the hardware in its best light, unencumbered by a feature it was never clear the handheld needed. If you want a games gizmo to fiddle with between classes that’s smaller than the Nintendo Switch, sports a vast library of acclaimed and deep games, and that has controls the envy of any smartphone, the New Nintendo 2DS XL is mobile gaming’s gold standard.
Buy now: New Nintendo 2DS XL, $150, Amazon
The only problem with Nintendo’s hybrid TV-handheld game system (see TIME’s review) is that it’s impossible to find five months out. If you’re able to beat those odds (or willing to pay scalper prices), there’s never been a better way to play serious games on-the-go or launch school-time smackdowns with friends. Drop the Switch in its cradle and it’s on your TV. Pull it out and it’s in your hands. Snap the removable controllers off its sides, pop the rear kickstand, and it’s on a table. With its stable of superlative already-out games, plus a new sandbox Super Mario in October, it’s the most exciting console of 2017, bar none.
Buy now: Nintendo Switch, $300, Amazon
Nite Ize Flashflight LED Light-Up Flying Disc
Keeping a frisbee around your dorm room can be the quickest way to make new friends. But ordinary discs are useless once the sun goes down. Not so with Nite Ize’s Flashflight, which uses LED lights to keep the fun going well after dark. Just watch out for ankle-destroying holes in the ground.
Roku Streaming Stick
Between Apple, Amazon, Roku and Google, there are plenty of options if you want to cut the cord. But Roku’s streaming stick is affordable, dead simple to use and offers a wide variety of channels. It plugs into your TV’s HDMI port and works with a remote control, meaning you won’t have to keep your smartphone nearby in order to stream content as you would with a Chromecast.
Buy now: Roku Streaming Stick, $40, Amazon
Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim
Working for weeks on a final paper only to lose it to a computer malfunction can be devastating. Stave off that grim possibility by backing up your data early and often. Backup drives like the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim 2TB (there’s also a slightly less expensive 1TB alternative) are especially handy for multimedia projects with file sizes too big to easily store in the cloud. We’re looking at you, video majors.
TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp
Plug expansions for wall outlets are handy, but what if you want to charge your smartphone or tablet on a dorm room desk? TaoTronics’ sleek desk lamp offers bright, flicker-free illumination, plus a USB port that lets you keep a device topped up without mucking around with floor-level cabling. Better yet, the lamp has touch controls and five color modes (from white to warm yellow) as well as dimming with seven brightness levels.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom
After a long week of hitting the books, it’s great to chill out on the campus quad, soaking up the sun with some of your favorite tunes. The UE Wonderboom is a great way to enjoy your music while you’re out and about, complete with a clip that’ll attach to your backpack or purse. It’s also great for outdoor pursuits, given that it’s waterproof, buoyant and shock-resistant.
Victorinox Luggage Altmont 3.0 Slimline Laptop Backpack
It’s easy to find biggish backpacks for schlepping books and school supplies, but hard to find slimline ones nearly as capacious. Victorinox’s stylish Altmont 3.0 slimline laptop series lets you jam up to a 15.6-inch laptop into a discrete sleeve, then offers a second mid-compartment for stowing books, cable bags and other miscellany. A third nearly-as-big compartment on the front can be quick-accessed with two full-length zippers—great for storing painkillers, hand sanitizer, eye drops and whatever else you need to get through the school day grind.