Computers / Buying Guide

Back to School Cool: Turbo-Charge Your Dorm Room

If you’re going away to boarding school or college, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in a small-sized dormitory room, probably with a roommate, and definitely without your parent or guardian around. You need to make some smart choices regarding the equipment you have with you. You need to make some serious choices. You need to make some fun choices. No pressure.

But there are things you might not have even considered adding to your fall repertoire for school. We picked out five basic items that are must-haves, and will make being so far from home a little easier.

An All-in-One Computer

An all-in-one serves two purposes: it frees up space and it serves as a multimedia entertainment center. You can stream movies and music, and even bring in TV channels through a streaming stick. Here’s a bonus—this all-in-one, the MSI Gaming 24GE 2QE-016US 23.6" LED Gaming All-in-One PC, has one of the best processors (an Intel® Core™ i7), a dedicated graphics card for serious gaming (NVIDIA GEForce 960M with 2GB of RAM), and 12GB of RAM. As a standard desktop, this thing already blows some workstations away, so getting work done on this is a no-brainer. But if you want to add a little entertainment to your long nights of studying, this all-in-one pulls double duty. A 23.6" Full HD 1920 x 1080 multitouch screen just makes the pot sweeter.

ASUS RT86U Router

If you’re going to have a lot going on—an all-in-one PC, smartphones, wireless hard drives—you want one of the best routers to handle all that traffic. The ASUS RT-AC68U Dual-Band Wireless-AC1900 Gigabit Router is one of the best, with the ability to handle dual-band traffic using the 802.11 ac protocol (backwards compatible with 802.11 a/b/g/n), five Ethernet ports to hardwire your most important peripherals, and three antennas to help spread the signal. A good, dependable router will ease any communication breakdowns between your devices. Communication breakdowns with your professors are up to you to settle.

Streaming Media

Getting movies and music to you is now simpler than ever before. Most desktops and laptops have apps that will stream Netflix and Hulu and many other services. HBO Go is everywhere. But getting a dedicated streaming stick will open up your viewing possibilities even more. We like the Roku Streaming Stick. It’s compact, it plugs into any HDMI port on your TV or All-in-One computer, and it features dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity (perfect for crowded campuses where the 2.4 GHz band is more crowded than the cafeteria). You have instant access to more than 1,000 channels, which run the gamut from fascinating to freaky. Another plus: you can take this from room to room in an instant, and still enjoy the full functionality of streaming all your movies, and you can stream movies and music directly from your network-connected server or hard drive.

Xbox One Gaming Console

All work and no play make Jack a danger to others, so loosen up a bit and get your game on. The Xbox One is our choice because it has a host of features that aren’t found anywhere else, like Xbox SmartGlass (which turns a mobile device into a secondary screen for your Xbox experience) and Windows 10 connectivity. Now you can start a game on the Xbox, and when your roommate wants to watch your TV, you can continue the game on any Windows 10 laptop or tablet. Also neat—the ability to stream movies and music from a network-connected server and the ability to hook up a huge external hard drive to store movies and music.

You Need Your Own Personal Cloud

Why would you want your own personal cloud server in your dorm room? Actually, if you think a server requires rack mounting and an IT staff, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the WD MyCloud series. Our choice is the 6TB WD MyCloud Mirror, which adds the benefit of massive storage backup and protection of your data by copying it to one of the two included disks. Once connected to your router, you can access all of your files from anywhere with an Internet connection. Out on the quad and want to watch a movie? Stream it from the MyCloud Mirror Drive. Want to share your class work with a friend while in class? Give them access and they can view or download documents from your own personal cloud. The days of saying your dog ate your homework have passed. With a personal cloud, your digital data is always with you.

So there you have it—five items that will totally turbo-charge your game room. Now your home away from home may be more fun than home, without all that delicious home cooking and someone to do your laundry. That’s a huge drawback, in fact.