So, you’ve got your college kid a brand new laptop, and they’re all set to conquer the academic world. Well, not so fast. As any computer user knows, plenty of extra accessories should complement a new PC to make it more useful, efficient, or just plain comfy. And since your student is going to be spending a lot of time on that computer, either at work or play, it’s a good idea to make sure they’re well-equipped to use it to the fullest.
We’ve rounded up the best affordable add-ons for a dorm room laptop setup, each one under $100 at the time of writing. We’re talking obvious stuff like a mouse, keyboard, and speakers, as well as some less-obvious extras, like a secondary monitor for long work sessions and a big mouse pad that doubles as a ramen shield. Mix and match what your new student needs to make the ultimate frugal laptop setup.
A perfect laptop mouse: Logitech Mx Anywhere 2S — $46
Long work sessions absolutely demand a mouse, and for laptops, you won’t find a better option than Logitech’s MX Anywhere line. Normally, it’s pretty pricey, but this slightly older MX Anywhere 2S is just $46. It’s lightweight but powerful, with a comfortable sculpted shape, super-smooth scrolling, and it can easily fit in a pocket or bag. Bluetooth and 2.4GHz options let you switch between devices easily, and best of all, it’ll last for 70 days on a single charge.
Laptop keyboards are serviceable, but when it’s time to really buckle down and get some serious writing done, you need a dedicated keyboard. For those on a budget and/or short on space, PCWorld’s go-to pick is the G.Skill KM250 at just $40. It has tons of extras like RGB lighting and a rotary volume dial, plus high-quality switches and keycaps, and even built-in foam dampening to keep roommate disturbances to a minimum. You can read our review here.
A productivity-boosting monitor: Sceptre R1500 — $90
The great thing about using a monitor with a laptop is that you can get a dual-screen setup right away, giving you a bigger desktop space and less eye strain. Finding a decent monitor for under a hundred bucks is tough, but this Sceptre R1500 model for just $90 fits the bill, with a 24-inch 1080p panel and an easy HDMI connection. It even has a slight curve for a bit of style, and an extra HDMI port can handle a game console, too.
Your student is going to need a mouse pad, or else their desk will look like a scoured field after a semester or two. And let’s be honest: They’re going to be eating and drinking at their desk constantly. So, why not solve two problems at once with this massive 36-inch wide Corsair desk mat for $30, which works as both a mousepad and a waterproof, stain-resistant tablecloth? It’s even washable, with a stitched edge to keep it from fraying.
Speakers for jamming out: Creative Pebble V3 — $35
Laptop speakers leave a lot to be desired, so for better music and movies, set your student up with these space-saving Creative Pebble speakers for $35. A USB connection makes it easy to set them up with a laptop, and extra Bluetooth means they can stream audio right from a phone or tablet too. They don’t even need a power cord. 16 watts won’t exactly rattle the windows, but it’s perfect for a dorm or bedroom.
Headphones for jamming out, quietly: Anker Soundcore Q20i — $60
Of course, speakers aren’t always a practical option. These active noise cancellation cans will help your student focus on a lecture or music, whether they’re in the dorm room or outside on a busy quad. With a portable fold-flat design, easy USB-C charging, and up to 60 hours of battery life, they’re a perfect companion for a laptop just about anywhere. Normally headphones with active noise cancellation tech are super pricey, but the Anker Soundcore Q20i is just $60.
A desk lamp for late nights: Melifo Monitor Light — $39
Your student’s dorm desk might have limited space available, which is why this Melifo USB monitor lamp for $39 is a perfect fit. It shines right on the workspace without getting in your eyes or reflecting off the screen, and features color temperature adjustments to reduce eyestrain. This model even includes a handy wireless controller.
A charger to keep everything running: UGreen 65W — $35
The charger that comes with your student’s laptop is probably a heavy brick that only charges one thing at a time. Replace it with this $35 UGreen gallium nitride USB-C charger, and they can charge their laptop, phone, and headphones all at the same time. Plus it’s tiny and folds down, perfect for throwing in a backpack for those extended times away from the dorm.
Tying it all together: Anker 7-in-1 USB-C Hub — $32
It’s essential for your student’s laptop setup to be both powerful and portable. Throw in this Anker 7-in-1 USB-C hub for $32, and they can connect every wired item on this list — monitor, keyboard, speakers, plus a flash drive and a camera card — with just one cable. That makes it easy to disconnect the laptop and head to class.
Michael is a former graphic designer who's been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.