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Back-to-school dorm essentials

Here's the tech you need to trick out your dorm room.


Brianne Garrett

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Philips Hue Starter Kit
1 of 27 CNET

Philips Hue Starter Kit

Set your dorm apart with all the colors of the rainbow with Philips Hue mood lighting. For $200 you'll get a starter kit (with three bulbs and a hub). Your dorm room may not be very big, but it's still pretty cool to be able to control the lighting with your voice, using Siri or Alexa.

2 of 27 iLumi

iLumi Bluetooth LED bulb

Having trouble waking up in the morning or going to bed at night? For $50 each, these iLumi bulbs can help you adjust to every time of day, with customized sunrises and sunsets and even sync color changes to the beat of music (to impress your party guests). And because they use Bluetooth, they're good for smaller dorms or areas where you don't have good Wi-Fi coverage.

3 of 27 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Nanoleaf Bloom

Everyone knows a dorm room acts as a multi-functional space and the jigsaw-inspired Nanoleaf Bloom bulb accommodates every occasion. The $40 bulb can dim your dorm room without the need for a dimmer. Once it reaches full brightness, you simply flip the switch off and on to lock in your desired light level. 

4 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

TCL P Series Roku TV (2017)

TCL's Roku TV line is one of the best television options for college students. Not only can you use it to "Netflix and chill," you can also access pretty much any video app you could want -- Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Now, YouTube, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV, and much more. The 2017 32-incher for $169 on Amazon is a great deal for starters, and the 55-inch P Series for $600 is a solid buy, too.

5 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku Streaming Stick

It may be tiny, but the Roku Streaming Stick does big things. For just $50, the super fast device is one the cheapest options for streaming video from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and much more. The app that lets you use your phone as a remote -- and it also lets you stream the show's audio track straight to your phone's headphones, for watching TV without disturbing your roommate.

6 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple TV

For students who already have iPads, iPhones and content on iTunes and Apple Music, it's worth stepping up to an AppleTV. In addition to Siri voice search, the Apple TV has the best on-screen interface and a full selection of streaming apps -- including Amazon Prime, coming later this year

7 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Chromecast Audio

Don't throw out that old stereo or boom box just yet: Chromecast Audio can turn any of these music players into Wi-Fi-enabled wireless audio, with multiroom support and Google Home control to boot. It streams any audio from Android devices, and works with major ones from iPhones, including Google Play Music, YouTube, Spotify and Pandora. And it does it all for $35, too.

8 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sonos Play:1

The $200 Sonos Play:1 is the perfect sized speaker for your dorm room -- but it packs sound that may have your neighbors banging on your wall, especially when paired with a second Play:1 speaker. The Wi-Fi speaker is controlled by any Android device or iPhone, and it's compatible with nearly all major music services.

9 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

UE Wonderboom

If you want to impress all your hallmates with your shower-singing skills, the $100 UE Wonderboom has your back. The compact speaker is a fully waterproof Bluetooth speaker that boasts good battery life and solid sound for its compact size.

10 of 27 Chris Monroe/CNET

Amazon Echo Dot

If you're looking for the cheapest way to add Amazon's Alexa digital assistant to the dorm, this is it. In addition to answering some of those pesky homework questions ("Alexa, what's the capital of Uzbekistan?"), the $50 Echo Dot can be used to reorder supplies from Amazon, too. The built-in speaker isn't great, but you can connect it to better speakers via wired or Bluetooth connections. 

11 of 27 James Martin/CNET

Amazon Tap

Prefer a portable version of Alexa? The $130 Amazon Tap has a built-in rechargeable battery, so you can take it down the hall to your friend's room. And it doubles as a Bluetooth speaker, too. 

12 of 27 Josh Miller/CNET

Xbox One S

This refined Xbox is 40 percent smaller than its original, with a much sleeker design. It also has an updated controller that works with other Bluetooth devices and can display 4K and HDR video from streaming services and Ultra HD Blu-rays. But if you're lucky enough to have a 4K TV in your dorm, you might want to wait for the One X coming out in November.

13 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

PlayStation 4 Slim

The PS4 Pro is overkill if you don't have a 4K TV. So why not get the PS4 Slim instead? It plays all the same great games, and doubles as a Blu-ray player and streaming video box, too. Just make sure your academic performance doesn't suffer.

14 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Plantronics BackBeat 500

Having a roommate can get overwhelming, but these headphones can help you live in your own world for a little while. This bluetooth headphone, priced at $80, is both comfortable and nicely designed with an 18-hour battery life for those all-nighters in the dorm. 

15 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

MacBook (2017)

Apple's newest 12-inch MacBook is an ideal laptop for every student on-the-go. This everyday computer maintains its slim and sleek design that's perfect for traveling from your room to class and everything in between, and it now features an improved keyboard mechanism and a faster processor. There's still only one USB-C port, though, so be sure to also pack a dongle.

16 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung Chromebook Pro

The Samsung Chromebook Pro may not be as impressive as Apple's MacBook line, but for students on a budget -- and deeply enmeshed in the Google ecosystem -- it does the job for less than half the price. For about $500, the Chromebook Pro delivers a touchscreen, a built-in stylus -- and the ability to run Android apps, too.

17 of 27 James Martin/CNET

iPad Pro (2017)

The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro might just become your new best friend. The multi-functional device offers upgraded drawing, video, and photo features, and a bigger, still-compact display. And it's going to get even better once iOS 11 arrives later this year.

18 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)

The new $800 Microsoft Surface Pro has an upgraded kickstand that's even more flexible, so you can comfortably read, watch, and sketch at a slightly lower angle -- ideal for relaxing in your dorm. The only bummer here is that the Surface Pen stylus now joins the keyboard as a separately sold add-on.

19 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Lenovo Miix 510

The Lenovo Miix 510 is very similar to the Microsoft Surface Pro, but it's cheaper -- starting at $570. Unlike the Surface, that includes the backlit keyboard cover, too -- great for those late homework nights. Lenovo's Active Pen will cost you extra, though.

20 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Logitech K380 Multi Device Keyboard

There's no doubt that the Logitech Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard is a smart buy, capable of toggling between your smartphone, tablet and computer at the touch of a button. This $30 wireless keyboard offers up to 2 years of battery life on AAA batteries. 

21 of 27 Josh Miller/CNET

Google Wifi

If you've got off-campus housing, Google Wifi is the best way to cover the entire house. The mesh system blankets the whole residence, giving you top-notch wireless coverage throughout. Get one, two or three units, depending on how much coverage you need.

22 of 27 SanDisk

Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim Portable External Hard Drive

Computer crashes in college are an absolute horror -- but you can rest easy knowing your projects are safe with this backup external hard drive. The Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim is both compact and portable to easily take to and from classes. With storage of 1TB and up, you'll have plenty of space for photos, music and video, too.

23 of 27 Colin McDonald/CNET

Hoover Linx Stick Vacuum

A small dorm room can accumulate messes pretty quickly, but the Hoover Linx Stick Vacuum can help keep this in check. Starting at $110, this cordless stick vacuum offers a suction-only option (for hardwood dorm room floors) and brush roll (if your room has carpet). The handle also reclines low enough to get under your bed and other furniture. 

24 of 27 CNET

Apple Watch Series 2

Water athletes will especially love the new Apple Watch Series 2, which adds a waterproof function that allows you to go up to 50 meters in fresh or salt water. The upgraded watch is priced higher than previous model -- at $370 -- but there's also a new GPS feature and a much brighter display. (Go for the cheaper Series 1 if you don't need those features.)

25 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Fitbit Alta HR

At $130, the Fitbit Alta HR undercuts the price of the Apple Watch, but doesn't scrimp on features. It tracks your heart-rate, steps and calories burned, while handling basic notifications from your phone. And the 7-day battery life means you don't have to charge it every night, either. 

26 of 27 Amazon

Amazon Basics HDMI cable

Whatever you're connecting to your dorm TV -- a streaming box, Blu-ray player, game console or laptop -- you'll need an HDMI cable to do it. And at just $7 for a 6-footer, you can go wrong with AmazonBasics cables. 

27 of 27 Igloo

Igloo FR320 Mini Fridge

A dorm room wouldn't be complete without a fridge to store all your food and drink essentials. With its reversible door, built-in can dispenser and freezer compartment, and adjustable thermostat, the Igloo FR320 Mini Fridge gets the job done nicely. It's about $150 on Amazon.

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