Summertime is drawing to a close and it's time to head back to school. But it can be something you look forward to rather than dread, with a range of cool tech gadgets at your disposal to make your study life a little better. All these budget-friendly finds are under $100 and I've personally tested and vetted all these items to make sure they are worth your hard-earned cash.
When inspiration strikes, but your laptop isn't within reach, pull out this foldable Bluetooth keyboard. It's compatible with iOS, Android and PC, and only slightly wider than a phone like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, so it's super-portable. This keyboard feels natural to type on and is only just shy of a full QWERTY size, so it feels natural to type on without too much effort. It also comes with a separate phone or tablet stand so you can keep your device upright while typing away. The rechargeable battery lasts for 48 hours.
This six-in-one portable desk converts from writing pad, to a tablet or laptop holder with three different layouts. But it doesn't stop there, it also flips into a mini standing desk or a lap desk you can use while working from bed (or the couch). It holds up to 44 pounds, so it will definitely be strong enough for even your heaviest tech items or a big stack of books. There are built-in magnets so each configuration locks sturdily into place, plus a carrying pouch. Sure, it's not super-cheap at $90, but it's worth it for how quickly and easily it makes almost any surface turn into a desk.
By now you know that you really should be backing up your data, so an external drive is a must-have for anyone with digital files. The Samsung T7 Touch portable SSD has a built-in fingerprint scanner to authenticate, so no prying eyes can see your files. This version is a 500GB capacity but there are 1TB versions for a little more. It's convenient because of its size, flexibility (works on PC, Mac and Android) and supports USB 3.2 for fast data transfers.
Never run out of paper again with the Rocketbook Core reusable notebook and Pilot pen. Write away to your heart's content, then open the companion Rocketbook app on your phone. Snap the page with your device's camera then email it to yourself or upload to Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, Slack, One Note and more to keep your notes safe.
Then when you're ready to jump from calculus to history class, just wipe the ink away with some water on the included soft cloth. Wait for the pages to dry and you can reuse the notebook again and again.
Speaking of paper, sometimes there's just no getting around the real deal. You can still be a little more eco-conscious with this staple-free stapler to secure all your important pages together. I had no idea this existed until a few weeks ago and it is honestly game-changing. No more hunting for staples, just collect your pages and this device punches a small hole to tie them all together.
There are many smart lamps on Amazon, but the reason I chose this version from Govee is because it has 16 million colors, button controls at the top and app support. You can choose from an incredible array of lighting styles to make the light look like a retro lava lamp, or wake you up with a sunrise effect to ease into your day. It also comes with adjustable color temperatures for white light, which is great if you want it to keep you company from day to night.
There's also a microphone built in to sync the light effects from music playing nearby, and it offers Alexa and Google Assistant voice control support.
A back-to-school list would not be complete without headphones, but these are specifically for kids. The Buddyphones Cosmos Plus headphones come in a range of colors and designs but more importantly are volume-limiting, with three different levels at 75, 85 and 94dB so can go in between different age groups from toddlers to teens. They also have active noise canceling like more expensive headphones targeted to adults. The battery lasts 24 hours on a charge and you can use them without any power left in the headphones.
Sound quality is surprisingly good for the price and the noise canceling is really good for the money. Sure, they won't replace your Sony XM5s or AirPods Max, but they will grow with your kids from toddlers to teenage years with a hard carrying case, audio cable and detachable boom mic.
Sometimes, you just have to get away from the screen and there's no more important time to do that than at night. The Morphee meditation device looks like a steampunk clock, but it's actually a low-tech way to ease yourself or your kid into sleep. Turn the first dial to select a mode like music, nature sounds or guided meditation. The second dial chooses from one of eight sessions and the last dial is for the duration (8-20 minutes).
It comes with a built-in speaker plus a 3.5mm audio jack for headphones, with a choice of male or female voice to lull you into better snooze.