It’s back to school season, and that means you now have a good excuse to buy that new laptop or smartphone to help you through your studies. This list, with options from several different price brackets for each category, is everything we recommend for those looking to update their tech gear…
Whether you need a laptop for actually getting some real work done, a backpack to carry it in, or a new phone for listening to music and taking photos with friends, there are plenty of great Google- and Android-related products on the market to help both make your school year productive and help you relax.
Below you’ll find all of our picks for the best smartphones, backpacks, laptops, portable batteries, headphones, media streaming device, and even some school supplies — all aimed at the student who might be partial to the green robot. Only using Google products would be tough, so there might be a couple exceptions.
TYLT Pro Powerbag Travel Backpack
The TYLT Pro Powerbag is a favorite of several 9to5Google writers. If you want a backpack with pockets galore, a premium build quality, and enough space to carry all of your textbooks and more, this bag is for you. The tradeoff is that the Pro Powerbag is on the bulkier side, but the storage space makes up for it.
Now before you look at the price tag, it’s worth noting that this isn’t just a backpack. In addition to being a high-quality pack that can hold everything you own, TYLT includes one of its 20,100 mAh battery packs built directly into the design. With it, you can charge up to three devices at a time so you never need to worry about running out of juice while at school.
Purchase the TYLT Pro Powerbag Travel Backpack for $150 shipped.
Yorepek Slim Laptop Backpack
If the price and or the size of the TYLT bag is just too much for you, then this backpack might be a good alternative. The Yorepek Slim Laptop bag features a much thinner design that still has enough pockets to carry up to a 15-inch laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone or two. Its best feature though is a USB pass-through that allows you to plug a battery pack into the inside of the bag and then charge a device externally without the need to run a cable through a zipper.
Purchase the Yorepek Slim Laptop Backpack for $28 shipped.
Samsung Chromebook Pro
Right now, the best Chromebook that we recommend is the Samsung Chromebook Pro. This 2-in-1 laptop features a 2400×1600 IPS touchscreen display, two USB-C ports, some of the best specs found in a Chromebook, and a stylus, perfect for those who prefer to write their notes.
If you’re on the fence, we also have an article listing five reasons why you should buy the Samsung Chromebook Pro that you should check out.
Purchase the Samsung Chromebook Pro for $548 shipped.
Asus Chromebook Flip C302
If you’re looking for a premium Chromebook that costs a little less than the Samsung, then you should check out the Asus Flip C302. It features a metallic build, similar port options, almost identical specs, but it’s only available with a 1080p display.
You can read our full review of the Asus Chromebook Flip C302 if you would like to learn more about this 2-in-1.
Purchase the Asus Chromebook Flip C302 for $470 shipped.
Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook
The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook is about a year old now but comes with one of the best keyboards you will ever find on a laptop — depending on your preference, of course. Unfortunately, its specs are lacking compared to the above Chromebooks, but for its price point, it gets the basic word processing and limited web surfing done.
Purchase the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook for $224 shipped.
Apple 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
Now if you need something a little more powerful, there is of course the wide selection of MacBooks from Apple. This one, a 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, is a bit pricier but is a more traditional laptop for those who need to install applications, run more than just a web browser, and need a lot more power.
Purchase the Apple 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for $1,698 shipped.
Microsoft Surface Laptop
For those who prefer to use Windows, this Microsoft Surface Laptop is the top-of-the-line machine for those who want to have great performance, a long battery life, and an incredibly premium build quality. While it does come running Windows 10 S, you can upgrade to 10 Pro for free, making it so that you can download and install apps outside of the Windows App Store.
While there is a cheaper model of the Surface Laptop available, this $1,250 option with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage is the build that I would recommend to most people as the internals are not user replaceable.
Purchase the Microsoft Surface Laptop for $1,250 shipped.
Google Pixel/Pixel XL
Despite almost being a year old, the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are still some of the best Android smartphones on the market. Built by Google, the Pixels are the first to receive upgrades to the latest version of Android, something that can typically take months on devices from other OEMs.
Thanks to a back to school sale taking place on Google’s website, the Pixel and Pixel XL are currently up to $200 off.
Purchase the Google Pixel/Pixel for $524 and $569.
Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ Unlocked 64GB
If you want something a little newer and more premium-looking, then the Samsung Galaxy S8 might be better. Featuring a “bezel-less” curved glass display, the S8 not only stands out from the crowd but is also running top-of-the-line specs.
Although the handset was priced at over $700 at launch, the S8 has seen massive price drops in the last couple of months, with some sales taking over $200 off the several-month-old smartphone.
OnePlus is known for its “Flagship Killer” motto and selling high-performance smartphones for low prices. This year, the company changed this up slightly by raising the price of its latest flagship, the OnePlus 5, and adding a second camera on the back of the device. Although it has a 1080p display, it is still a 9to5Google favorite.
Purchase the OnePlus 5 Unlocked from $480.
Moto G5 Plus
If you’re on a tight budget but still want a near-stock Android smartphone, look no further than the Moto G5 Plus. For $300, you’re getting mid-tier specs with fantastic battery life and performance that equals some flagship-level smartphones.
Purchase the Moto G5 Plus for $299 shipped.
While not necessarily made for a backpack, the Google Chromecast is the cheapest and arguably the best way to make any television a smart TV. By just plugging this dongle into any HDMI port, you can Cast content from almost any app on virtually any phone, tablet, or computer to the big screen.
Purchase the Chromecast for $35.
Nvidia Shield TV
If you want something more versatile, check out the Nvidia Shield TV. Updated earlier this year, the Shield TV brings the entire Android TV experience to your television. While you can still Cast content to the Sheild TV, Android TV allows you to scroll through streaming applications and select specific content to watch using a remote. Additionally, the Sheild TV makes for a great budget gaming console, capable of playing games from the Play Store.
Purchase the Nvidia Shield TV for $200 shipped.
The TYLT Flipstick shakes things up — it’s not just a small lipstick-style battery. While it only packs 3,350 mAh, it’s a step up from similar-sized items with its built-in USB-C cable. So if you’re carrying this around, you can use it to either charge your device fully one time or plug it into a wall outlet and charge your handset as if it were just a standard cable.
Purchase the TYLT Flipstick for $40 shipped.
Anker PowerCore 10000
The Anker PowerCore 10000 is a more traditional looking battery pack that holds more juice than the Flipstick. The tradeoff is that the PowerCore is physically larger and takes up more space in your backpack. It benefits from having Anker’s PowerIQ and VoltageBoost to provide the quickest charge possible.
Purchase the Anker PowerCore 10000 for $26 shipped.
Anker PowerCore+ 20100
The PowerCore+ 20100 is almost identical to the above PowerCore 1000 except for three things: a larger battery (which means a larger physical size), a second USB port for charging devices, and the ability to charge via USB-C. This last feature makes it so that you can charge the battery pack much faster. Additionally, it also uses Anker’s PowerIQ and VoltageBoost technology.
Purchase the Anker PowerCore+ 20100 for $66 shipped.
AKG Wired Headphones
Although more smartphones are getting rid of the headphone jack, it’s always good to have a pair of wired earbuds around in case you want to listen to music from your laptop. For $20 you’re getting a decent pair of headphones that sound good and aren’t likely to fall apart after several uses.
Purchase the AKG Wired Headphones for $20 shipped.
The Jaybird Freedom are some of the best Bluetooth earbuds available on the market. Not only do they sound great, but they also have a long battery life, are easy to pair with multiple devices, and come with multiple sized ear hooks and accessories to make for the perfect fit. While on the pricier side, the Freedoms are well worth the money.
Purchase the Jaybird Freedom for $127 shipped.
Bose QuietComfort 35
The Bose QuietComfort 35 is the holy grail of over-ear Bluetooth headphones and will set you back a pretty penny if you choose to buy them. These noise canceling headphones not only sounds amazing but the ear cups are so soft that it is easy to wear these all day long.
Purchase the Bose QuietComfort 35 for $350 shipped.
Anker SoundCore Bluetooth Speaker
Anker, the company best known for making battery packs, released this dual-driver speaker not too long ago, and for $30, it isn’t half bad. While meant to mainly be paired to a smartphone over Bluetooth, it can also be connected through a 3.5mm AUX cable. The oversized buttons on top of the speaker make it easy to control media, but you will have to live with Anker’s logo consuming most of the front of the device.
Purchase the Anker SoundCore Bluetooth Speaker for $30 shipped.
JBL Flip 3 Splashproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker
If you’re looking for something a little more rugged, check out the JBL Flip 3. It too can connect to devices over Bluetooth or its AUX port but what sets it apart is its sturdy build. While not meant for major drops, the Flip 3 is splash resistant. So you shouldn’t take this into the pool with you, but it shouldn’t be damaged if left out in the rain.
Sandisk Ultra 64GB Dual Drive (USB-A and C)
These days you never know if a laptop will have USB Type-A or Type-C ports. Thankfully, with the Sandisk Ultra Dual Drive, this will not be a problem as it can plug into either. Additionally, as most Android smartphones feature a USB-C port, you can use this to move files to and from your smartphone.
Samsung T3 Portable SSD – 500GB
If a flash drive doesn’t offer enough storage for you, then the next step up is something like the Samsung T3 Portable SSD. This drive can store up to 500GB of files including photos, videos, documents, and more. The best part is that its single USB-C port allows it to get power from the computer that it’s plugged into as well as incredibly fast transfer speeds.
Purchase the Samsung T3 Portable SSD – 500GB for $183 shipped.
Alpine microfiber cloth with pouch
If you have ever touched any type of electronic device you know how horrible fingerprints and grime make them look and feel. This Alpine microfiber cloth is a great addition to any backpack and helps with that problem. As it has a built-in pouch, the cloth can be attached or thrown into any bag and taken out for a quick wipe-down of your tech.
Purchase the Alpine microfiber cloth with pouch for $9 shipped.
Anker USB Type-C Cable
If you’re in need of a standard, certified USB Type-C cord, look no further than Anker’s collection of cables. Available in the bright red colored cloth as seen above, you will always be able to see the cord deep inside your backpack. If you’re in need of something other than USB-C, don’t worry because Anker has you covered with cables made for Lightning, microUSB, and more.
Purchase the Anker USB Type-C Cable for $10 shipped.
Nomad Ultra Rugged Universal Cable
The Nomad Ultra Rugged is a well-built and insulated cable that is an all in one for all of your basic smartphone needs. Featuring a built-in cable tie, this USB cable can be used with USB-C, microUSB, and Lightning devices, depending on which attachment you have setup.
Purchase the Nomad Ultra Rugged Universal Cable for $35 shipped.
Chafon 6 in 1 Multi USB Charge Cable
If you’re someone who carries around multiple devices at once that all use different connectors (who doesn’t fit this description in 2017?), check out the Chafron 6 in 1. Not only does this cable feature two microUSB plugs but also a USB Type-C, Lightning, and even mini USB.
Purchase the Chafon 6 in 1 Multi USB Charge Cable for $9 shipped.
Logitech MX Anywhere 2S Wireless Mouse
As far as wireless mice are concerned, Logitech makes the best. If you need a mouse that is small and can easily be used anywhere you go, the MX Anywhere 2S is for you. It works over Bluetooth or using the company’s wireless dongle. Its best aspect is that every button on the mouse can be configured by the user to do whatever they like.
Purchase the Logitech MX Anywhere 2S Wireless Mouse for $71 shipped.
Rocketbook Wave Smart Notebook
As this is a back to school guide, it was necessary to mention some actual pen and paper supplies. This is the Rocketbook Wave Smart Notebook. Unlike other notebooks that you write in all school year and then toss out, this notebook allows you to simply pop it into the microwave with a glass of water placed on top and erase everything written inside. Of course, the catch is that only text written using the company’s erasable ink will disappear, but it’s still cool.
Purchase the Rocketbook Wave Smart Notebook for $27 shipped.
Wacom Bamboo Spark Smart Folio
If you’re someone who prefers to write all of your notes out by hand but still keep a digital copy, then the Wacom Bamboo Spark is perfect for you. Using the company’s notebook and pen, your notes are automatically copied over to an app on your phone or tablet. Additionally, hand written text can be automatically changed to a typed format.
Purchase the Wacom Bamboo Spark Smart Folio for $50 shipped.
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