Great Laptop Accessories for Your Dorm Room
You have your laptop and all your other supplies for school--but don’t forget all the accessories you’ll need to make working and playing on your laptop more comfortable and productive. From laptop backpacks to USB lights, here are the laptop accessories you’ll want to add to your shopping list.
If you don’t have a carrying case for your laptop yet, consider a backpack with a compartment designed to hold your notebook safely, such as the Swiss Gear ScanSmart backpack ($120). This bag is comfortable to carry and checkpoint-friendly, so it can help you speed through airport security--a boon for out-of-state college students.
Most laptop touchpads aren’t comfortable to use for long periods of time, making a wireless mouse an essential accessory. The diminutive Logitech Wireless Mouse M305 ($40) is easy to take along everywhere, yet comfortable and accurate for use as your main mouse.
Laptop Cable Lock
It’s smart to secure your laptop whenever you have to leave it unattended, such as in the library or even in your dorm room. The Kensington ComboSaver Portable Notebook Computer Lock ($29) has a self-coiling cable for easy portability, and it allows you to set your own combination.
External Hard Drive
You’ll create and accumulate an incredible amount of data over the course of your college career. A student’s worst nightmare is losing any of it (especially at the last minute right before a project is due). Back up your course materials, project work, photos, music, and more with an external hard drive. The Western Digital My Passport Essential comes in a couple of capacities; the 1TB version is $130, and the 750GB one is $120. Each drive offers both high-speed USB 3.0 connectivity and the older USB 2.0. You also get password protection and encryption, as well as an automatic-backup feature.
USB Flash Drive
For sharing project materials with a team, making presentations in class, and countless other storage uses, USB flash drives are great accessories--and they’re cheap. For instance, you can pick up a 16GB SanDisk USB Flash drive for about $20 on Amazon.
Most campuses and dorms have wireless networks, but you’ll probably run into instances where you’ll need an ethernet cable. The Global Wireless retractable ethernet cable, which you can find for about $4, will take up very little space in your bag.
You can never have enough USB ports. A hub such as the Plugable USB 2.0 10-Port Hub ($35) provides easy expansion for all of your USB peripherals, and can help tame some of the cable clutter on your dorm-room desk.
Surge Protector and Power Strip
Dorm rooms never have enough outlets. Where will you plug in all of your electronics? You need a power strip that accommodates bulky power adapters. The Kensington SmartSockets circular power strip and surge protector ($60) will keep your gear juiced up.
Laptop Cooling Pad
Most laptops get so hot that you need a cooling pad--not just for comfortably using the laptop on your lap but also for extending the notebook’s lifespan and preventing overheating. The Targus Lap Chill Mat ($48) uses two USB-powered fans to get your laptop to chill out. Your legs may appreciate the cooling pad’s soft exterior.
All-in-One Wireless Printer
A compact printer that can also handle scanning and copying is a great convenience in a dorm room. Some models, such as the $80 Canon Pixma MP495, are also easy on the wallet. The MP495 has built-in Wi-Fi, too.
Most laptop speakers are notorious for their terrible sound quality. Audiophiles may prefer a complete 5.1 surround-sound system; more convenient, however, is a compact speaker designed for laptops, such as the Logitech USB Laptop Speaker Z305 ($60). Just plug it in to boost your laptop’s audio quality in your dorm room or out in the quad.
You can’t study all the time. Turn your laptop into a TV--and even record programs directly to your hard drive--with a TV-tuner/video-recorder card such as the Hauppauge WinTV HVR-1500 ($150). Plug the card into your laptop’s ExpressCard slot to access cable TV or live HDTV at up to 1080i resolution.
A second monitor might seem extravagant (yes, your laptop already has a display), but investing in one can dramatically improve your productivity, allowing you to conduct research on one screen while typing in the other, for example. You can buy a 21.5-inch monitor (with HD 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution) such as the Dell ST2220L for less than $160.
Instead of plugging and unplugging all of your peripherals and accessories every time you enter or leave your room with your laptop, use a port replicator or docking station and make it a one-cord operation. The Plugable USB 2.0 Universal Laptop Docking Station ($130) has ports for your speakers, an ethernet cord, four USB accessories, and an external monitor (truly the most annoying connection to keep unplugging and replugging).
External Number Pad
If you’re thinking of majoring in finance or another numbers-intensive specialty, and your laptop lacks a number pad, buy an external one. The Logitech Wireless Number Pad N305 ($40) uses the same tiny receiver that works with Logitech mice and other devices, saving some USB ports. The large keys will have you entering numbers swiftly, too.
You can use your tablet, e-reader, or smartphone as an accessory for your laptop by propping it up in a stand and using it as a second screen. iOS users can grab the iDisplay app for iPad and iPhone ($5) to turn their mobile device into a second monitor for a Mac or a Windows PC. And the $30 Belkin Flip Blade Stand shown here works with iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Samsung Galaxy, and various other phones, tablets, and e-readers.
College life often means studying and computing late at night. For easier typing in the dark without disturbing your roommate, the inexpensive Portable USB LED Flexible Work Light for Laptops/Notebooks ($15) can be your trusty companion during an all-nighter.