clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
All the best backpacks, laptops, tablets, and wearables for the new school year.
The Verge

Filed under:

The Verge’s 2022 back-to-school gift guide

Our favorite laptops, bags, and gadgets for students

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

As quickly as it arrived, summer vacation is drawing to a close. A new school year is right around the corner, and while the learning landscape has transformed rather drastically over the past couple of years, many aspects have remained unchanged. Having the right supplies, for instance, can make a world of difference for new students, especially if they’re looking to recharge between lessons or better manage their hefty course load.

If you’re at a loss as to what you should gift the student in your life, we’ve collected some slick bits of technology that are perfect for pupils returning to the classroom — virtual or otherwise. Whether they’re entering the throes of high school or diving into the larger academic-industrial complex, there are plenty of staples on our list that everyone will love. These picks aren’t just for students, either; the latest Kindle Paperwhite, the Nintendo Switch Lite, and Apple’s AirPods Pro are all great gifts that anyone can appreciate.

Note: if you were hoping for a larger selection of laptop picks, we also have guides outlining the best Chromebooks and the best laptops for students.

Price Range

Under $20 $20 to $50 $50 to $150 $150 to $400 $400+

Moleskine Classic Notebook

A tried-and-true staple of any student, Moleskine notebooks are a great way to jot down homework assignments, love poems, or really anything that comes to mind. These soft-cover notebooks are available in a wide variety of sizes and colors, making them a great way to keep track of your thoughts before you inevitably post them on the internet for all the world to see. Price: ~$17 to $21

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is one of the easiest ways to ensure you always have access to your favorite streaming apps. The handy device is no bigger than a pack of gum, yet it supports 4K HDR content along with Dolby Vision and Apple's AirPlay 2, which makes it easy to play content from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. The best feature, however, is that it remembers all of your login info, so you don't have to bug your friend for their Netflix password for the fifth time. Price: ~$39-$50

Logitech C920s

The Logitech C920s is a compact and inexpensive way to drastically improve your Zoom game. While the built-in cameras on laptops have improved, many models still only support recording at 720p, whereas the C920s is capable of capturing 1080p footage at 30 frames per second. It also includes a pair of built-in mics, so you won’t be forced to constantly repeat yourself. Price: $69.99

Nintendo Switch Lite

The Nintendo Switch Lite is like a portable antidote for boredom. The handheld console is a more compact version of the standard Switch model (without detachable controllers), yet it can still tackle nearly all of the same games and comes in a number of pastel colorways. The console's paltry 32GB of storage isn't much, sure, but you can easily expand it with a microSD card. Price: $200

Apple iPhone 13

Aesthetically, Apple's iPhone 13 isn't all that different from the iPhone 12, but the array of improvements under the hood makes it the default upgrade for most Apple users. Like the more expensive 13 Pro and Max, the base model comes with better cameras, a bigger battery, and more base storage than previous iterations. Plus, it remains one of the best-looking mobile devices on the market... even with the notch. Price: $799+

Black + Decker Dustbuster

Don't be the kind of person that never cleans. Thanks to its cordless design and interchangeable tools, the Black + Decker Dustbuster is an efficient and cost-effective solution for keeping your side of the dorm room relatively tidy. It's great for getting rid of all sorts of debris from a variety of surfaces, and while it may struggle with larger spaces, having one around is never a bad idea. Price: ~$40

Apple AirTag (four-pack)

Losing track of your stuff no longer has to be an unpleasant fact of life thanks to Apple's AirTags. These relatively inexpensive, quarter-sized location trackers can be attached to or stashed in just about anything you need to keep tabs on, and they run on a replaceable battery that can last over a year. They also make use of Apple's extensive Find My network and work with Siri, meaning you can ping Apple's virtual assistant instead of your mom when you lose your keys. Price: $99

L.L. Bean Boat and Tote

In a post-plastic landscape, a solid tote bag is practically a necessity. Luckily, this fashionable and durable option from L.L. Bean is available in a variety of sizes and colors, all of which can be monogrammed for a personal touch. The canvas satchel is built to last and is rated to carry up to 500 pounds, 250 Yorkshire terriers, or 2.5 psychology textbooks — whichever comes first. Price: $34.95

Anker 735 Charger

The Anker 735 Charger might be the last charger you'll ever need. The handy 65W device includes a pair of USB-C ports and a USB-A port, allowing you to juice up to three devices simultaneously. What's more, the charger is capable of dynamically adjusting the wattage it provides to a given device thanks to Anker's IQ charging tech, which lets the adapter top off everything from headphones to laptops without losing efficiency. Price: ~$59.95

Echo Show 5 (second-gen)

Amazon's second-gen Echo Show 5 is one of the most convenient things you can place on your nightstand. The Alexa-equipped hub can provide quick answers to simple questions, tell you the weather, keep you posted on current events, and get you out of bed in the morning. You can even tap the top of the device to snooze the alarm, which, let's be honest, is going to happen a lot. Price: $44.99

Vornado VFAN Mini Classic

The Vornado VFAN Mini Classic is a modestly sized, vintage-inspired desk fan that can keep you cool when you find yourself burning the midnight oil — an inevitability when AP Calculus comes into play. The two-speed fan is also made almost entirely out of aluminum and comes in one of several colors, rendering it both stylish and durable. Price: $39.99

Apple Watch SE

The Apple Watch SE is a sensible addition to Apple's wearables lineup, and while it may not offer the same suite of health tracking features as newer models like the Series 7, the budget-friendly offering still provides most of the functionality we've come to expect in a premium smartwatch. It's fast, reliable, and — unlike the newer models — won't set you back $400. Price: $279.99+

Fujifilm Instax Mini 11

The Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 is the kind of camera that makes it fun to snap photos again. The retro-inspired shooter is great for capturing life's precious moments and for immortalizing them in a way only physical photos can. The point-and-shoot camera even touts a built-in selfie mirror, so you can create wallet-sized photos to document any occasion or embarrassment (even your own). Price: ~$78 to $80

Casio A168WEMB-1BVT

Digital is the new vintage — well, at least with this stylish watch from Casio. It may not pack a blood oxygen monitor, an SpO2 sensor, or any of the exciting tech that comes in a smartwatch, but its classic design makes it an excellent accent piece that pairs with just about any outfit. Plus, as an added bonus, you never have to worry about charging it halfway through the day. Price: $69.95

Apple iPad Mini (2021)

If you need a smaller tablet for more than just reading, the 2021 iPad Mini is a superb choice. At 8.3 inches, the redesigned slate is bigger than previous models, and, unlike Apple's entry-level iPad, it uses USB-C like a modern device should. It's also compatible with Apple's latest generation of peripherals, including the second-gen Apple Pencil that charges while magnetically docked to the side of the tablet. Price: $499.99+

Kindle Paperwhite (2021)

Reading a paperback certainly has its charms, but have you actually ever tried to move your summer reading list? Investing in an e-reader like the Kindle Paperwhite is an easy way to consolidate your literature into a slate that's smaller (and lighter) than most pulp fiction available off the shelf. Amazon's latest Paperwhite boasts a larger 6.8-inch screen, too, along with USB-C support and enough battery life to make it through the entirety of Dickens' catalog with ease. Price: $139.99+

MacBook Air (2020)

Although the MacBook Air recently received a makeover and an upgrade by way of Apple's new M2 chip, we still recommend the M1 configuration given its more affordable price point. Unless you need to flex on everyone, the 2020 model remains a go-to for anyone who is in the market for a powerful and lightweight laptop, especially since it offers similar performance and battery life to the M2 model. Price: $899+

Anker 313 Wireless Charger

The Anker 313 is a device that works just as intended. The simple stand is an excellent Qi-compatible charger that's powered via Micro USB, which is perfect if you want to wirelessly charge your phone while viewing notifications at a glance. It's an effective and inexpensive solution for topping off your phone overnight, but bear in mind that it doesn't come with a power brick and maxes out at 10W charging speeds. Price: $19.99

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

A good pair of noise-canceling earbuds like the Galaxy Buds Pro can be an absolute lifesaver, particularly when it comes to commuting or communal living. More than a year after launch, they remain a solid pair of true wireless earbuds for Samsung users, namely due to how well they strike a balance between sound quality, active noise cancellation, and comfort. And who doesn't like IPX7 water and sweat resistance? Price: ~$156 to $180

Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack

The Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack uses a timeless and durable design composed of nylon and leather, which should allow it to withstand the heaviest of course loads. The interior of the backpack also features several smaller compartments to keep things organized as well as a fleece-lined laptop sleeve that can easily accommodate 15-inch laptops. Price: ~$80

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is one of our favorite models, making it a terrific choice for students who need a functional and budget-conscious laptop. While the aesthetics don't offer much in the way of curb appeal, the Spin 713 remains something of a gold standard, with a terrific 3:2 display, a good keyboard, and the kind of robust port selection rarely seen on a Chromebook. Price: $524.99

Black + Decker Drill and Home Tool Kit

This modest tool kit from Black + Decker brings together a cordless drill, an adjustable wrench, and a number of other basic tools. It certainly won't give you the means to build the Parthenon, but it will allow you to tackle minor home or dormitory projects with confidence. Moreover, all of the tools included in the nylon carrying case are remarkably durable, making them more likely to go missing before they quit on you. Price: $79

Apple AirPods Pro

There's a reason many Verge writers and editors use Apple's iconic wireless earbuds while working from home and commuting. The AirPods Pro offer terrific noise cancellation and deep integration with iOS, not to mention a transparency mode that lets ambient sounds in, meaning you won't have to worry about traffic as much while blasting Lizzo on your ride to campus. Price: $179.99

Logitech Signature M650

Trackpads are okay, but investing in a compact mouse like the Logitech Signature M650 can make your life a whole lot easier. This ambidextrous mouse sports a comfortable, ergonomic design and is available in a slew of colors. The wireless M650 can run for up to 24 months on a single AA battery, too, and can be paired with a variety of devices either via Bluetooth or the included 2.4Ghz wireless dongle. Price: $39.99

PinkBee Flower Bouquet

PinkBee's floral arrangements showcase all the colors of a classic flower bouquet but with none of the added guilt that comes with letting them die. Each Lego-like kit consists of 975 individual pieces, which can be put together and adjusted to fit a variety of different vases or containers. Whether you're into tulips or hydrangea, it's a nice way to add a touch of vibrancy to any dorm room. Price: $33.99

Samsung Galaxy S22

The S22 is the latest model in Samsung's lauded Galaxy lineup, one that hosts a number of noteworthy improvements over its last-gen predecessor. The excellent Android phone boasts a bright, 6.1-inch display and sturdy build quality along with a camera array that's as impressive as the phone's overall performance. Price: $699.99+

Yeti Rambler (18-ounce)

The Yeti Rambler is a simple and effective thermos that keeps the hot stuff hot and the cold stuff cold. The container's stainless steel body is dishwasher-safe and available in an array of attractive colors, yet the best part is that its double-walled construction ensures it doesn't sweat all over the place when you fill it with an icy beverage. Price: $30

Sharpie S-Gel Pens

Sharpie's basic sets of colored gel pens make for a buttery smooth writing experience. We get that very few people take physical notes these days — it's a lost art, really — but for anyone who is an obsessive journaler or just enjoys the tactile experience of putting pen to paper, a pack of these medium-point pens is sure to come in handy. Price: $5.59

Dell XPS 15

The Dell XPS lineup is a great option for Windows users that need an incredibly powerful laptop for multitasking and content creation. This 15-inch configuration pairs a GeForce RTX 3050 Ti with an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, providing exceptional performance in a variety of scenarios. Price: $1,424.99

Mr. Coffee Coffee Maker

Mr. Coffee's Coffee Maker is practically the textbook definition of a coffee maker and is a necessity for the college bound. The 12-cup kitchen appliance has remained a steadfast beacon of simplicity in an increasingly complicated landscape of coffee machines, one that requires little maintenance and benefits from effortless operation. Push a button, make coffee — it's as simple as that. Price: ~$20 to $26

Correction July 22nd, 1:55PM ET: An earlier version of this story stated that the battery life of the Logitech M650 was 24 hours. The M650 can last up to 24 months on a single AA battery and the table has been updated to reflect that. We regret the error.

Verge Deals

Arlo’s wire-free video doorbell with smart alerts and a siren is on sale for $149

Verge Deals

Here are the best tablet deals right now

Verge Deals

The best deals on Nintendo Switch games right now

View all stories in Verge Deals