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The top 5 tech gadgets college students really want

Student tech devices

As summer winds down and college students ponder the return to classes, it’s time to consider what to bring to school this fall. No surprise, trendy tech gadgets often tops the list. CNBC has assembled a brief guide to the hottest choices.

However, buyer (that’s you, parents) beware: If you snatch up everything on this list, it could set you back some big bucks. To knock down the cost, always ask if you can get a student discount. Apple offers education pricing, Amazon Prime membership for students is half-price and the online giant is frequently offering deals. If you’re purchasing these items through a traditional electronics store, such as Best Buy or Radio Shack, check if they offer student discounts.

1. Wearable tech

Say goodbye to the old alarm clock. Students want an up-to-date way to keep track of classes, clubs, extracurricular activities and social events. Wearable tech, like the AppleWatch, can help you stay on top of your agenda with calendar alerts, reminders and email notifications — and it’s a lot more discreet to peek down at your watch in class than at your phone, which an eagle-eyed professor can spot a mile away. Meanwhile, a fitness tracker, like the Fitbit, can be a great way to fight off the “Freshmen Fifteen.” The Fitbit ranges from $60 to $250; the Apple Watch will set you back $250 to well over $1,000.

A runner wearing a Fitbit.

Source: Fitbit
A runner wearing a Fitbit.

2. Noise-canceling, wireless headphones

Noise-canceling headphones can help you study in a loud, crowded space or drown out that annoying roommate, who insists on playing the “Hamilton” soundtrack on repeat. Wireless headphones have also gained popularity ever since Apple ditched the headphone jack on the iPhone 7. Student-athletes can especially benefit from wireless earphones. No more having to hold your phone in your hand while jogging, or wear one of those uncomfortable and geeky-looking arm bands. And you don’t have to worry about ripping your earbuds out every time you do a crunch or a back squat. Some brands we like are Beats, JLab, Sennheiser, Bose and audio-technica. The average price range for wireless, noise-canceling headphones is $80 to $300 depending on sound quality.

A pair of Beats by Dr. Dre Solo wireless headphones sit on display next to a new iPhone 7 smartphone.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A pair of Beats by Dr. Dre Solo wireless headphones sit on display next to a new iPhone 7 smartphone.

3. Wireless speakers

If you’re ever planning on hosting friends in your dorm or apartment, you need to be able to supply the music with a good speaker. Going wireless is a no-brainer because the speaker is portable and you don’t have to keep your phone or computer plugged into it. iHome, Logitech and JBL are all good options. Some JBL speakers are even waterproof — great for students in the South or California who frequent beach or pool parties. Wireless speakers range from $35 to $150.

JBL Pulse

Source: JBL
JBL Pulse

4. Portable phone charger

There’s nothing more annoying than running out of battery mid-text in a conversation. So consider buying a portable phone charger, or a phone case with a built-in charger. Moshi’s IonBank is a stylish option, with its faux “vegan” leather covering. You also can’t go wrong with RAVPower, Jackery or Anker. These portable chargers, starting at around $20, are among the cheapest gadgets on the list.

RavPower portable charger.

Source: RavPower
RavPower portable charger.

5. TV streaming sticks

No cable? No problem. Cut the cord and stream your TV through a pocket-sized, plug-and-play streaming stick that connects to your TV. The Amazon Fire stick and the Roku streaming stick are widely considered to be the best options. But beware: These devices usually cannot connect to your computers, only a TV or monitor. If you’re having trouble watching live TV from your computer, just plug in your parents’ cable account information (completely legal) into any network’s site to watch live TV. The Amazon and Roku streaming sticks sell for $40.

Source: Consumer Reports
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