Laptops are fantastic devices for college students, keeping their academic and personal lives organized and portable, ready to bring to the library for a group project, into bed for some relaxing TV watching, or to class for interactive lessons and note-taking. With a few affordable accessories, parents can help students unlock all types of new functionality with their laptops, making both work and play a little easier (which goes a long way in the stressful, syllabus-filled world of the college student). Here are five great ideas for laptop-themed gifts this holiday season:
External hard drives: turn a student into a master of media
With large solid-state drives becoming the norm on most laptops, there’s plenty of storage available already for students to work on projects, save digital textbooks, and scour the web. But there are uses for laptops outside the classroom – and for the media-loving student, an external hard drive (like a Seagate from Quill) is an easy way to store all the music, photos, and videos one desires, without having to worry about them filling up a laptop or getting lost on DVD’s and CD’s stashed around the dorm room. And now, many of these external hard drives are small and portable, which makes them easy to bring to the library to share large files or keep a good studying play list close – and often for less than $150.
Help them stream and share with Apple TV, Google Chromecast, or others
So now a student has tons of media on their laptop and hard drive, and need a way to get it on a TV to share with friends on a Friday night: enter the plethora of streaming devices at Office Depot and numerous online retailers. Devices like the Boxee Box, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast allow for easy access to movies, photos, videos, playlists, and the like on a television, with nothing but a few clicks of the mouse to get it all running. With many people going completely digital with their film collections, a streaming device is often more valuable than buying a Blu-Ray player (and usually, around the same price or less) and maintaining a collection of fragile discs.
Trade-in old devices and earn rewards
Just get a new computer to replace the old rickety one in your dorm room? Then head over to Staples and get credit for your old laptop when buying a new one, earning a discount up to $100 on your old, trusty device – a little holiday gift to help offset the cost of a new computer. Not only will it save time trying to sell old, sometimes-barely functional laptops on Craigslist (where every inquiry seems to contain the phrase “will you take less?”), but since they recycle old products, it also eliminates any possible environmental impact of throwing it out.
A second monitor makes homework more efficient
The most frustrating part of working a project for a college student on a laptop is virtual real estate: managing multiple programs, tabs, and documents at a time can turn everything into a confusing, cluttered experience – often turning short projects into time-consuming hunts for the right screen or sub-menu. Having a second screen doesn’t need to be fancy (a refurbished monitor from Quill is a fantastic, affordable option): the idea is to spread the workspace out a bit, saving students from extra eye strain and stress from searching through tabs and screens trying to find the right workplace. A second screen allows for more efficient multi-tasking and sprawling paper research – it’s a thoroughly underrated accessory for students to use with their laptops, despite all modern products featuring numerous ways to connect them (or in the case of a Mac, using an Apple TV wirelessly).
Protect your investment with a laptop case or backpack
A laptop for college is an investment in one’s education, a tool that helps a student do everything from homework to professional networking. And like any tool, it needs a home: keeping a laptop protected in a specially-designed case or backpack is imperative to keeping it safe. Luckily, retailers like Staples carry durable solutions from Swiss Gear and others, versatile backpacks that will snugly keep a laptop safe, and provide plenty of extra space for textbooks, tablets, notebooks, and the random little things everyone carries around on a daily basis.