Earlier this week, we looked at the key gadgets you need to remember for your dorm room. Your computer, however, is so important when you’re away from home that it begs to have a whole list of accessories all for itself. And it’ll take you more than a mouse and a couple of cheap speakers to get you through the year. To be fully prepared for the school year ahead, you want to get these peripherals before you sit down to your first class:
External Hard Drive
If you want to watch all your favourite movies, have your massive collection of photos and all of your music, it’s probably time to get that external hard drive. With storage now in the terabytes, you’ll be able to store every file you ever use or download while at university, if you buy the right drive. Western Digital and Seagate are two of the most well-known hard drive companies, and both offer their products in a range of storage sizes and form factors. I’ve personally used a WD MyBook for years without a problem, and it works well for both Mac and PC. You can also back up your media wirelessly with the Seagate Wireless Plus drive, which can even stream media to your tablet or smartphone.
Unless you want to stand in line at the library for every paper you write, it’s a good idea to invest in a printer. Choose something that will fit in a small space, and having Bluetooth print capabilities will save you the headache of dealing with troublesome cords. Some, like the tiny PlanOn PrintStick, will even print from your Android or BlackBerry smartphone (as well as from your computer). Or, you can go bigger and get an all-in-one that will let you scan, photocopy and even fax, if you ever still need to fax anyone. The Epson Expression Home XP-410 and Lexmark Interact S605 are good options.
Now that USB keys have come down in price so much, you can practically buy them by the dozen. They also come in an amazing array of designs, and in plenty of sizes, too, so you won’t be starved for choice. These little devices are extremely practical, as you’ll probably need to transfer files between your computer and a school computer, or give a file to a friend. They range in size from 1GB (or smaller!) to 64GB (and even bigger, if you want to get crazy). For forgetful students, check out these USB bracelets, that will prevent you from leaving the USB keys behind after using them in a computer lab. If you’re looking for purely style, you can find your favourite pop culture character in the lineup of Mimoco flash drives.
While certainly not mandatory, if you’re going to be spending a lot of time working on your laptop, you may want to bring along an external monitor so you have the option for a bigger screen when you’re working (or watching movies, or playing games) in your room. You can pick up a good monitor for less than $400; the ASUS PA 248Q and the Dell UltraSharp U2412M are two 24” widescreen LED monitors that are well reviewed, and should serve you well beyond your years at school.
You can keep your mobile devices full of juice all day long with some strategic extra power. There are now numerous options for portable charging, from the small ones like this Power Flask from Wayfair.com, to the Powerbag, available through its website. Figure out which devices you’ll want to have charged up and look for a power solution that will last for as long as you’re out, and that’s compatible with all your mobile devices.
Update: It appears that the Powerbag may soon be discontinued, but the company is focusing on its portable charging products under the myCharge brand.
Nothing is worse than showing up at school, only to realize you can’t use some of your devices because you don’t have the right cables. Before you go, do an inventory of the peripherals and devices you’ll be using and make a list of what cords you’ll need. A basic list will include a USB cord for your mobile device(s), an Ethernet cable to connect online (even if your school supplies one, it may not be of the best quality), an HDMI cable (for connecting an external monitor) and a Firewire cord (for fast transfer of files between computers or from an external hard drive). You can find a lot of these cords on the cheap through online retailers such as Monoprice.com; at a lot of the big box electronics stores, you’ll be paying significantly more in markup.
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