Best student gadgets and tech essentials to take to university in 2023
Whether you're going in as a Fresher, or heading into your final year, you need this guide to the top gadgets and tech essentials for university students. We've got everything from laptop recommendations to temperature-controlled mugs.
We know that university can seem like a scary place. Suddenly, you take this leap from spending every school day with the same 30 people, to being surrounded by thousands of unknown faces. You're expected to be completely independent and self-sufficient, but also stick to the university's rules and schedule. It's a big change, and one you probably feel like you're making alone.
But you're not. Here at RadioTimes.com, we're committed to making sure you feel as prepared as possible when taking this next step in your life. Which is why we've put together this guide to the top essential gadgets you'll need at university.
We've listed 14 electronics that we believe will not only help you get by at university, but also make your student-life better. From the basics like laptops and tablets, to the things we wish we'd had at uni, like smart mugs, this list has it all. We've also taken the time to answer key questions like "what gadgets are best for online classes?" and "what software should you use".
So, good luck, take a deep breath, and don't worry, it's not as scary as it looks.
Did you know that students get six month's free Amazon Prime? Find out all about this and more in the best Amazon Prime offers.
- What electronics should you buy?
- What are the best gadgets for online classes?
- Best gadgets for students at a glance
- Best gadgets for university students to buy
- What software should you buy?
First and foremost, you'll need a laptop. University is 90% note taking and essay writing so you'll want something light and fast that you can carry around campus with you. You can also buy a tablet with a magnetic keyboard or even a pen, so you can actually hand-write notes during lectures.
As a priority, you'll also want to buy a few devices that make studying on the go easier, like a portable battery pack or an external hard drive. Plus, it's worth looking at smart watches, because suddenly managing your time without the help of a school timetable or your parents yelling at you is not as easy as it looks.
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Then, of course, there's the gadgets that make the social part of uni better, like Bluetooth speakers, TV streaming sticks and bedroom lighting. Although these may seem less important on A-Level results day, you'll be kicking yourself for not having them when Fresher's Week rolls around.
To help, we've got recommendations for each of these items below, but there's also plenty of alternatives out there if they don't quite fit.
With plenty of classes remaining online these days, you'll to need to make sure your laptop has a decent web cam and microphone. Most laptops will come with a camera built in, but if not, or you've got a PC, you'll need to buy one separately. Webcams can cost as little as £21.99 and can be bought at stores like Argos or Currys, the same goes for microphones.
You're also going to want to invest in a good pair headphones so that, if your halls are a bit too loud or you've decided to work on campus, your online lectures will go on undisturbed by excess noise.
Lastly, you'll need to have a strong Wi-Fi connection. Below we've recommended a good Wi-Fi extender but it helps if you've got good internet in the first place. Pay particular attention to upload and download speeds, as sending off those last-minute assignments can get very stressful if the Wi-Fi's not on your side.
- Apple Music student subscription, £5.99
- Belkin Portable Power Bank, £19.99
- Tile UK Trackers, from £19.99
- Anker Bluetooth Speaker, £31.99 £22.99
- TP-Link Wi-Fi Range Extender, £33.99
- Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite, £34.99
- HP Deskjet All-in-One Wireless Printer, £39.99
- Seagate 2TB External Hard Drive, £66.99
- Phillips Hue Ambience lighting, from £79.99
- Ember temperature control travel mug, £149.95
- Bose QuietComfort Noise-Cancelling headphones, £189.95
- Samsung Galaxy Watch6, £289 £260.10
- Amazon Kindle Scribe eReader, £329
- Huawei MatePad Paper Tablet, £449.99
- Lenovo Yoga 7i 2-in-1 Laptop, £899 £799
Lenovo Yoga 7i 2-in-1 Laptop
Forget everything else, if you're going to university then you're going to need a decent laptop. As a priority, you'll want one that's lightweight, to help you carry it around campus, with good battery life, for those long hours in the library, and with a decent amount of storage space, to keep up with the never-ending string of assignments.
With this in mind, we recommend the Lenovo Yoga 7i – a 2-in-1 device which doubles as both laptop and tablet. First released in 2022, this gadget comes with 256GB/8GB RAM and up to 11 hours of battery life. Best of all, it's now available at Currys for £100 less.
Lenovo Yoga 7i 2-in-1 Laptop | £899 £799 (save £100 or 11%) at Currys
For more choices, check out the best laptop offers for this month.
Samsung Galaxy Watch6
Smartwatches are crucial to modern university life. Not only do you suddenly have to manage your own time, but you've also got to take responsibility for your health and nutrition. Enter the Samsung Galaxy Watch6. This device is 18 per cent faster than the previous Samsung smartwatches and is able to monitor your heartrate and fitness with over 90 workouts to choose from. Plus, it's got a customisable display so you can discretely check your messages during lectures (not that we'd recommend that!).
This watch was recently unveiled at the Samsung Unpacked event and you can read all about it in out Samsung Galaxy Watch6 release page. It's now available for pre-order and students with a valid Unidays ID can get 10% off.
Samsung Galaxy Watch6 | £289 £260.10 (save £28.90 or 10%) at Samsung
Anker Bluetooth Speaker
Let's get this party started with the Anker Soundcore Bluetooth speaker, priced at just £22.99. But don't for a second think the Anker's low price means lower quality, because this slick speaker boasts clear stereo sound, a 66ft Bluetooth range and up to 24 hours of battery life. Trust us, this beauty is sure to liven up any pres and it's waterproof so you're safe from spillages.
Anker Bluetooth Speaker | £31.99 £22.99 (save £9 or 28%) at Amazon
Ember temperature control mug
Here at RadioTimes.com we don't subscribe to the school of thought that every object has to be "smart," but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate innovations like this one. Ember has created the world's first temperature-controlled mugs. Designed for your home or office, these smart mugs, cups and travel flasks allow you to set the exact temperature of your drink and will keep that temperature for as long as you want. You simply have to download the Ember app and set the temperature with your smartphone – perfect for those long study nights.
Ember Mug² | £149.95 at Ember
Bose QuietComfort Noise-Cancelling headphones
If you're going into halls, do not, we repeat, do not overlook the importance of noise-cancelling headphones. When September comes you'll be living with at least six new people who will do everything from play football against your door to singing opera at 4am (both real experiences). But you can guarantee yourself a good night's sleep with these Bose over-ear headphones which come with six external mics to measure and cancel noise. Plus, they have Bluetooth capabilities so you can relax in peace with a playlist or an audiobook.
Bose QuietComfort Noise-Cancelling headphones | £189.95 at Currys
For the best listening experience, take a look at the best Apple Music offers.
HP Deskjet All-in-One Wireless Printer
Most uni assignments are submitted online these days, but that doesn't mean you won't need a printer. So, rather than paying to use the university's big industrial printers, you can make just one payment of £39.99 and get unlimited use of this HP Deskjet all-in-one. Another smart device, this printer can be controlled from your phone and has all printing, scanning and copying functions.
HP Deskjet All-in-One Wireless Printer | £39.99 at John Lewis
Seagate 2TB External Hard Drive
Keep your files safe with this Seagate 2TB external hard drive, which has a USB lead and up to 5 Gbps. We know it comes with a scary price tag, but an external hard drive is crucial for your peace of mind when it comes to juggling assignments – especially dissertations.
Seagate 2TB External Hard Drive | £66.99 at Currys
Huawei MatePad Paper Tablet
If you'd rather write your notes than type them, then you might want to try a Paper Tablet, like this Huawei MatePad. This device has a full 10.3-inch display that folds into two, and comes with a 2nd generation M-pencil with 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, meaning it actually feels like you're writing on paper. The tablet also has a tonne of reading resources and study-related apps and 64 GB of storage.
Huawei MatePad Paper Tablet | £449.99 at Huawei
These handy little gizmos are tile trackers, which can be attached to any keyring, wallet or treasured device. They come in four shapes: Pro, Mate, Slim and Sticker, and can help you find your items no matter how far away they are. With the Tile app (which is compatible with Android and iPhone), you can check where your device is and can even sound an alarm if you're struggling to find it.
Tile Trackers | £19.99 at Tile UK
Belkin Portable Power Bank
Although study halls and student unions tend to have an abundance of plug sockets, not every seat will have one. So, to keep you charged up during the long university days, you'll need this Belkin portable power bank. This 10,000 mAh gadget has three USB ports and provides 40 extra hours of battery life.
Belkin Portable Power Bank | £19.99 at Argos
Amazon Kindle Scribe eReader
This one is for all the English and humanities students out there, we know the pain of having to lug a dozen text books up a hill on the way to an 9am lecture, so don't make our mistake. Instead, invest in the Amazon Kind Scribe, which can keep hundreds of novels, text books and essays all in one place. The Kindle Scribe comes with a magnetic pen which allows you to take notes and annotate while reading, plus it's got a built-in back light so you can use it late into the night.
Amazon Kindle Scribe eReader | £329 at Currys
We've got more discounts in the best Kindle offers.
TP-Link Wi-Fi Range Extender
When you're in a shared uni house with anywhere between one and ten other students, the Wi-Fi situation can get a bit strained. So it's best you go splitsy's on a Wi-Fi extender like this Tp-Link one from Currys. It works with all Wi-Fi routers and can boost your connection anywhere in the house.
Tp-Link Wi-Fi Range Extender | £33.99 at Currys
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite
You can have the best movie nights with the Amazon Fire TV Stick, which allows you to access Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime and more, all in one place. The cheapest of these streaming devices is the Fire Stick Lite, starting at £34.99, but you can find out all about the rest of them in our Amazon Fire Stick deals page. But ultimately, all you need to know is that once this baby is plugged into your TV, you'll have hundreds of shows and movies at your fingertips.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite | £34.99 at Amazon
Phillips Hue Ambience lighting
Philips Hue has designed the ultimate smart lights, which can be adjusted for mood, TV watching and even synced to the beat of your music. Want a chilled out evening with your new friends? You could pick the soft Tokyo lighting. Or would you rather a bright party atmosphere? Simply pair the lights to your phone with Bluetooth. The lights can come as a small portable accent light, a tall floor lamp, or a light strip you can tape anywhere around your room.
Phillips Hue Ambience lighting | £79.99 at Phillips Hue
Apple Music student subscription
Students can get one month free of Apple Music and then pay just £5.99 a month for up to 48 months. Compared to the usual cost of £10.99 for individuals, this is a great saving. Plus, you'll get free access to Apple TV+.
For more savings, check out the best Apple Music offers.
Apple Music Student subscription | £5.99 a month at Apple
Ultimately, the software you use at university will depend on the nature of your degree. If you’re taking on a design-heavy course, you might need to look into photo editing or graphics software like Photoshop. Or, if you’re planning to spend your days knee-deep in numbers, you’ll definitely need a Spreadsheet programme like Excel or Google Sheets.
However, there are basics that every uni student will end up using. At the very least you’ll need Microsoft Word (or its equivalents) for your endless pages of lecture notes. And with every degree –whether you like it or not – there comes a bit of groupwork, in which case you’ll need PowerPoint.
Below we’ve outlined a few software companies that are bound to come in handy when you’re studying. Here’s a closer look:
You probably know what Microsoft’s all about by now; a stalwart of computers that’s been around for nearly 50 years and the home of apps like Word, PowerPoint, Excel and (if you went to a British primary school you’ll have a soft spot for this one) Publisher.
Nowadays, all of these apps (minus Publisher) are collectively known as Microsoft 365. By subscribing to this service, you’ll have your own Microsoft account which gives you unlimited access to Word, PowerPoint and Excel. It also has One Drive for Cloud Storage, Outlook for emails, Clipchamp for video editing and much more.
The basic Microsoft package for one person costs £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year. With this, you’ll be able to use the apps across five separate devices and will have access to 1TB of cloud storage. However, if you’re planning to share Microsoft with others, their Family package has the best value at £79.99. With this, you get a total of 6TB of storage and up to six people can use it across five devices each.
Again, you probably already know that Google now has its own equivalent to Microsoft. Simply open a Gmail account, and you can have access to a Google Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets and more. Plus a real perk of apps like Google Docs is that other people can live edit a document at the same time as you – great for group work!
The best thing about the Google apps is that they’re free. However, if you want to take it a step further you can always invest in Google Workspace. This software is designed with businesses in mind and will link all of your work and communications together into one collaborative space.
The price of Google Workspace starts at £5 a month and will give you a custom and secure email, 30 GB pooled storage, 100-participant video meetings, Security and management controls. These plans can then increase to £10 and £15 a month for more perks and storage.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Adobe Creative Cloud is the next step up from the basic notetaking and data collecting apps. In fact, the clue’s in the name – it’s for creators.
The software is home to several designing and editing apps such as Photoshop, InDesign and Premiere Pro. With these apps, you can work on everything from games to graphics, making it the perfect investment for the more artistic degrees.
Overall, Adobe has over 20 Creative Cloud apps across seven categories: Photo, Graphic/Design, Video, Illustration, Acrobat and PDF, 3D and AR, and Social Media. If you know exactly which category you fall into then, great news, you can buy each app individually.
Prices vary between each programme with the lowest being £4.98 a month for InCopy (which allows you to make text edits and layout changes while designers work on the same document) and the highest being £23.99 a month for Adobe Stock (which gives you access to millions of Adobe stock images).
Or, if you want a bit of everything, you can save money by paying £51.98 a month for the whole Creative Cloud. This gives you access to all apps, as well as 100 GB of cloud storage and step-by-step tutorials. Still not sure? Well you can get a seven day free-trial now and try it out.
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