No matter where you live, if you are a student, I assume the academic year is in full swing and you are already starting to get bored. That feels like an appropriate time for a list of things you should own to help you go through school / university.
#1: Big Ultrawide Monitor
I know the list starts out expensive, but don’t worry, it’s gonna get better. The reason why it is my #1 pick is because this is by far the single most asked about product out of my entire setup. Now, let me make an excuse for spending so much money on a monitor. This is an investment. A display like this should easily last you through all the years at University. Plus, it comes in extremely handy. I cannot even express how useful it is to have an external monitor, and this sort of UltraWide in particular.
It just makes working with a lot of stuff manageable. Like, for example, you can fit 4 entire A4 pages in Word side-by-side. (In 100% scale.)
No? Do you get materials in PowerPoint? Let’s put a PowerPoint window on one half of the screen, so it is still possible to comfortably type up notes on the other half of the screen.
And I could go on like this for a very long time, but I think you get the point. Not to mention, movies shot in the wide-screen cinema format look amazing on a display of this size and resolution. Definitely cooler than a boring old TV.
#2: Bluetooth Music
Stepping it down in terms of price a bit.
Not everybody finds this absolutely “essential”, but for me, music is one of the ways of making my studying (or morning commute) a bit more bearable. And in the age of “jack-less” smartphones, you might as well go wireless.
I have these bright green JBL Synchros Reflect earbuds. They are not the newest, but are perfectly fine for everyday stuff. Also, this is a bit more difficult to say in general, because everybody is different, but they stay in my ears very well, even when doing sports like running…
If you are not too keen on earbuds, or just want better sound quality / comfort, try looking around for some “proper” over-the-ear headphones. If you like a lot of base, these Sony MDR-XB950BT are absolutely amazing. The main feature is the “Base Boost”, making the base go from pronounced to head rattling. The ear cups are huge, but that means that your ears have plenty of space. The battery lasts about 24 h on a single charge, and even if it runs out, you can still use them as regular wired headphones.
Also, a Bluetooth speaker is a very good alternative to high-quality music in your room. I would skip the absolutely cheapest speakers, because those provide only a marginally better sound than decent laptop speakers. I use this Beoplay A1 (by Bang & Olufsen). When I first unboxed it and listened to it, I regretted not buying it earlier. It does have all the expected features, like water-resistance, sturdy design, decent battery life, stable Bluetooth connectivity, but most importantly, it sounds amazing. That cannot be really put onto a spec-sheet and is difficult to explain in a video, but trust me, it is good. It isn’t probably the most “accurate” speaker. I would define the sound characteristic as “playful”. Strong base, clear mids, and crisp vocals, which do not keep fighting each other.
As a cheaper and more rugged alternative, there is also the UE Boom 2.
#3: NZXT Puck
So now you have your amazing new headphones, but you don’t have a place for them… Meet the Puck, a magnetic headphone holder. OK, it’s not designed exclusively for headphones. It works great for storing VR headsets as well, but I suppose that’s something out of budget for most students. It also doubles as a cable organizer, when you split it in half, enabling you to keep your desktop clear of any random cables.
#4: AUKEY LED Lamp
Your dorm most likely came with some sort of a small desktop lamp, but mine looked very ancient. However, a nice lamp can brighten up your room, literally.
Therefore, I chucked out the old one and bought a new one, by Anker. All the controls are on the front touch panel. It is possible to adjust the brightness and a feature I use daily is the timer, so the lamp turns off on its own after I climb into the bed.
On the back, there is also a USB port, suitable for charging a phone or a tablet.
#5: Anker Multi-USB Charger
Speaking of charging, most of you probably own more than one device which needs regular charging, right? I keep this Anker charger with 4 regular USB ports and 1 USB-C port, hidden underneath the sofa with a couple of cables plugged in to easily recharge my gadgets.
Not really much more than that, it just works as it should…
#6: Xiaomi USB-C Power Bank
However, you are also going to need power when on the go. There is a wide variety of power banks on Amazon, but again, I would be very cautious about buying the cheapest one. You do not want a cheap Chinese battery to explode into your face…
Instead, spend a bit of extra on a more expensive one, which won’t only be safer, but also better built, and offer more features. I went with this Xiaomi Power Bank Pro in particular because it charges through the newer (and better) USB-C connector and automatically stops supplying power when a connected device reaches 100% battery.
#COOLBUTNOTNECESSARY: Amazon Echo Dot (Alexa)
This is a very optional one, but a “smart speaker” will make your dorm that much cooler. The Echo Dot is not the only option, but I am recommending it, because it is the only one I know of which can connect to a public Wi-Fi network (useful for connecting to Halls Wi-Fi), but if you are living in a private flat with a “normal” Wi-Fi router, your options are much broader.
For example, here in the UK, the set of skills for Alexa is much narrower than in the US, and Google Assistant does a better job of understanding the meaning of more complex questions, so I would go with Google Home or the recently announced Google Home mini. The Google devices also support streaming music from free Spotify accounts, whereas all Echo speakers require the paid premium membership.
#BONUS: Free Stuff from Your University
Last, but not least, do not forget to take advantage of apps / services provided by the university. Each one is different, but most offer at least a free Office 365 subscription. Do your homework, read up on all the stuff which is offered and make sure you know how to take full advantage of it.
Just as a motivation, I get free Office 365, OneDrive storage, a Windows 10 license, and plenty of engineering software required for my course (otherwise worth thousands of pounds).
Also, there are many student discounts in both, on-line and regular retail stores, so if you are already paying let’s say for Spotify, take the time to apply the discount, because in this case, 50% off can save you quite a bit of cash in the long run…
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