Essential Computer Gear for New College Students

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Essential Computer Gear for New College Students

Fall is nearly upon us, which means many recent high school grads will soon be heading off to college. To help incoming freshmen thrive during their first year on campus, we’ve put together a list of useful computer tech we think will benefit them in and outside of the classroom.

Essential: Laptop

A good, reliable laptop is arguably the most important piece of computer gear a student can bring with them to college. Regardless of their field of study, students need a laptop that offers solid battery life and enough processing power to tackle their coursework. A hi-res panel and solid GPU aren’t bad ideas either, because they’ll allow students to unwind at the end of the day with some AAA gaming or streaming their favorite anime.

Now, the best laptop for you will obviously depend on your area of study. If you are looking for a nice, basic laptop, there is a ton of relatively inexpensive options available. We are particularly fond of the  ASUS Chromebook CX1 for its reliability and performance.

ASUS Chromebook CX1
ASUS Chromebook CX1

This practical laptop features a 1.1 GHz Intel® Celeron® N4500 dual-core processor with 4GB of LPDDR4X memory and 64GB of eMMC storage. It can easily load all the college essentials through Google Workspace or apps from the Google Play Store. Overall, the Chromebook CX1 is a great option for first-year students looking to hit the ground running.

You may already have your sights set on a creative or business discipline where a basic laptop might not cut it. You may be interested in gaming and will need a laptop that can support work and play. With so many variables to consider, we recommend exploring your options to find the best fit.

Optional: Webcam

While classes are mostly in-person these days, webcams still offer plenty of benefit for college students—especially those who need (or prefer) better visual performance than what a laptop, phone, or tablet can deliver. They are also handy for students who enjoy gaming and streaming with friends.

If you decide that a dedicated webcam is something you want to invest in, we recommend the StreamCam Webcam from Logitech. The StreamCam is pricier than other high-def webcams, but it returns a lot of value, especially for students who want something that’s easy to use, has a ton of cool features, and, most importantly, delivers truly gorgeous HD image quality. Plus, its cool little design makes it one of the most aesthetically pleasing webcams we’ve ever seen—especially in white.

Logitech StreamCam Full HD Webcam
Logitech StreamCam Full HD Webcam

Essential: Portable Storage

When prepping for college, it’s easy to remember big ticket items like a new laptop or graphics tablet. However, we sometimes overlook the smaller, simpler items that are equally important. Take, for example, portable storage solutions. While your laptop or graphics tablet might include a certain amount of built-in storage, it’s essential you back up all your important files on a separate drive.

There is a wide range of portable storage options that will serve the majority of students well, but one type in particular we favor for grads interested in photography, videography, or other areas of content creation are CFexpress memory cards.

There are plenty of CFexpress cards you can choose from, but one lineup we happily endorse comes from ProGrade Digital. The brand has multiple options, but its Gold card is solid, with sustained write speeds of 300 MB/s or greater (600-1000 MB/s for anything smaller than 256GB) and maximum read speed of up to 1600 MB/s. Sabrent’s Rocket and Sandisk’s Extreme Pro cards are other great CFexpress options for similar reasons.

SanDisk 128GB Extreme PRO CFexpress Card
SanDisk 128GB Extreme PRO CFexpress Card

If you are working with memory cards, you are also going to need a card reader. We like OWC’s Atlas Dual CFexpress Card Reader, which can read CFexpress and SD cards, thanks to its dual slots. The reader boasts fast transfer speeds up to 1032 MB/s and is broadly compatible with a USB-C interface, so it’s a great gadget to have if you are pursuing a creative field.

You might also consider purchasing an external hard drive or SSD. For students who are pursuing photography or videography, we recommend Exascend’s Gecko External SSD, which can mount directly on cameras via its integrated hot shoe. LaCie’s Rugged External Hard Drive is another great all-purpose option for nearly any student. Both storage solutions are rugged enough to withstand the rough-and-tumble of college life, so you can’t go wrong with either one.

LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive
LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive

Optional: External Monitor

Depending on the size of your laptop and area of study, you might benefit from an external monitor. Like laptops, monitors are diverse and numerous, but you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to get a good one.

You might consider a solid all-purpose monitor like Dell's P2422H, or Acer’s ED320Q for gaming. Creative students might invest in a color-critical monitor, ensuring their hard work is color accurate and rendered as precisely as possible.

Dell P2422H 23.8"
Dell P2422H 23.8"

Color-critical monitors can be quite expensive, but there are plenty of sub 1k options that will do the trick—at least at the beginning of your academic career. For students on a budget, the ASUS PA248QV is a great monitor for creative disciplines. It covers 100% of the sRGB and Rec.709 color gamuts and has handy shortcuts for making quick color-gamut adjustments.

ASUS ProArt Display PA248QV 24.1"
ASUS ProArt Display PA248QV 24.1"

You might also consider BenQ’s PD2706UA. For a steeper price, you get wider color space coverage with 95% P3, 99% sRGB, and 99% Rec. 709 gamuts. You can also enjoy the convenience of the included hotkey puck, and the comfort of the included adjustable arm stand.

Of course, you can gain the comforts of a monitor arm by purchasing one separately. We are fans of Ergotron’s LX Monitor Arm for this purpose. 

Have we missed an essential piece of computer gear? What was your favorite computer accessory in college? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

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