It’s back to school season, and if you’re heading to university in September then you’re likely to need to spend part of your summer hunting down all the gear you’ll need for surviving your course and living independently.
To help make the whole ordeal as painless as possible, we’ve compiled the Ultimate University Survival Guide. It includes every gadget you’ll need for the years ahead, whether that’s a student laptop for blitzing through essays, an iron for annihilating creases, or a coffee machine to get you through those late-night study sessions. Plus, with the back to school sales period kicking off, there are some incredible deals to be had making your investment all the more worth it.
Dell XPS 13
The best all-rounder laptop
The Dell XPS 13 is our top recommended student laptop for those needing a portable for bashing out essays, filling spreadsheets – and streaming video once that assignment has been handed in, of course. With a sleek and lightweight form, this 13-inch laptop is easy to fling in a bag and won’t trouble your back, even if you’ve been lugging it around campus all day.
The Dell XPS 13 hits a great middle-ground, boasting superior performance and design against cheaper laptops, while undercutting the cost of portables optimised for photo and video editing. Prices start at £939.
- Read our full Dell XPS 13 review
Acer Chromebook 514
Best budget laptop
We all know about the headache of bank-depleting rent and student loans, so it’s totally understandable that spending £1000 on a laptop may not marry with your budget. The good news is that the Acer Chromebook 514 is perfectly capable of web browsing and word processing via software such as Google Docs, and comes in at only £370.
Chromebooks may have a history of being cheap and tacky, but the Acer Chromebook 514 boasts an impressive metal chassis and 15GB worth of free Google Drive space so you can safely store all of your essays and coursework in the cloud. This isn’t the fastest laptop on the market, but it will happily keep chugging along if you stick to the basics.
- Read our full Acer Chromebook 514 review
Best laptop for creatives
If your university course will involve lots of intensive media work, whether that be video editing, animation or 3D modelling, you’ll need a laptop that offers super-strong GPU performance. The MacBook Pro is our current number one laptop for such tasks, with Apple’s app-based macOS designed with creatives in mind.
You could buy a new MacBook Pro for £1299, but we recommend considering the more expensive models, too, if your budget will stretch. These models double the storage to 512GB, boost the performance and increase the number of Thunderbolt 3 ports – handy, if you intend to use a secondary monitor.
- Read our full MacBook Pro review
Wacom MobileStudio Pro
Best laptop for design and graphics students
The MacBook Pro may be powerful enough to edit photos and video, but it isn’t ideal for actually creating media content. The Wacom MobileStudio Pro is one of the best graphics tablets on the market, allowing you to doodle and sketch on a 13-inch display that can see resolutions maxed out at an ultra-impressive 4K.
You can purchase a refurbished model of the Wacom MobileStudio Pro for £1400, which is far cheaper than paying out for an original. And don’t be put off by the fact that this device launched a couple of years ago; it’s still easily powerful enough to meet the demands of a modern student.
- Read our full Wacom MobileStudio Pro review
Acer Nitro 5
Best laptop for gamers
Unless you’re actually enrolled on a game design degree, there probably isn’t any educational reason to buy a gaming laptop. That said, the Acer Nitro 5 is so affordable that you’ll be able to justify its purchase in the knowledge that not only will you be able to pump out numerous essays with this portable, it will also help you wind down with some video game action.
For around £1000, you can buy the Nitro 5 with GTX 1650 or 1660 Ti GPU inside, which offers enough of a GPU punch to play the majority of AAA games at a respectable frame rate in 1080p. Of course, there are compromises when opting for a gaming laptop: such models are noticeably heavy and battery life is poor. But if you’re an avid gamer who won’t be put off by such issues, then the Nitro 5 is a fantastic machine for university.
- Read our full Acer Nitro 5 review
Best kitchen gadgets
Morphy Richards 108010 Vetro
Forget the laptop or your smartphone, the kettle is the most essential gadget you can take with you to university. The Morphy Richards 108010 Vetro is one of our top-pick kettles – not only does it boil water speedily, it lights up blue once ready, which looks fantastic.
At just £45 this kettle is good value, especially since it will be the envy of all your uni mates. It’s important to make good impressions after all.
- Read our full Morphy Richards 108010 Vetro review
Bosch Tassimo My Way
Best coffee machine
While most coffee machines swear by the rule “their way or the highway”, the Bosch Tassimo My Way offers a great deal more flexibility. It still only works with Bosch’s barcoded T-discs – which is no problem for Costa coffee fans – but it can be setup to your preferences with regards to temperature, accepted cup size and coffee strength all customisable. What’s more, you won’t need to adjust the settings every time you brew a cuppa, since the Bosch Tassimo can save up to four variations.
For all the features and the quality of coffee it offers, the £80 price is an absolute bargain – especially since those hits of caffeine will be essential for late-night revising.
- Read our full Bosch Tassimo My Way review
Tefal Toast n’ Egg
If you’re like us, you’re going to be rushing out of bed to make it to lectures on time following a heavy night of tequila slammers. That’s no excuse to miss out on breakfast, though. The Tefal Toast n’ Egg at least reduces the time it takes to make breakfast, since it not only toasts your bread but cooks your egg simultaneously, too.
While the Tefal Toast n’ Egg is mediocre at toasting, with its small slots struggling to evenly brown large slices of bread, its egg cooking skills are surprisingly impressive. Whether you like your eggs boiled, poached or scrambled, the Tefal Toast n’ Egg will deliver.
Currently available for £54 at Currys, this represents great value. We gave it a 9 out of 10 rating where we reviewed it back in 2016.
- Read our full Tefal Toast n’ Egg review
Best cleaning gadgets
Ecovacs Deebot N79S
Best robot vacuum cleaner
With all the partying, social clubs and – let’s not forget – studying, there’s little time to dedicate to household chores. For this reason, it might be an idea to opt for a robot vacuum cleaner to take care of such duties for you. The Ecovacs Deebot N79S is one of the cheapest automated dust suckers in the business, and offers great cleaning skills on both carpets and hard floors.
Priced competitively for a robot vacuum cleaner, it lacks some of the smarter navigation features. Nevertheless, with support for Amazon Alexa and its quality app, the Ecovacs Deebot N79S is a worthy investment for lazy clean-freak students.
- Read our full Ecovacs Deebot N79S review
Russell Hobbs Powersteam Ultra 3100w
Think you’d get away with not ironing your clothes for the entire duration of university? You could, but if you’d like to eradicate creases for at least those special occasions, then we recommend the Russell Hobbs Powersteam Ultra 3100w.
This fast-heating steam iron has a massive 350ml water tank, boasting a powerful 210g Steam Shot that should smooth out those creases in no time at all. It even has a Self-Clean mode and can be equipped with an anti-scale cartridge. The only real negative about this £30 iron is the fact it recommends you use distilled water – but in return you get a stonking performance.
- Read our full Russell Hobbs Powersteam Ultra 3100w review
Hotpoint ActiveCare NT M11 82XB
Best tumble dryer
Maintaining a clean and dry wardrobe at uni can be a challenge – there are ups and downs to taking your mother with you. You’ll either be partaking in frequent, costly trips to the launderette, or be forced to hang your wet clothes up around the house, resulting in an ever-lingering smell of damp. The Hotpoint ActiveCare NT M11 82XB comes to the rescue, offering quality drying at an affordable price.
The Hotpoint ActiveCare NT M11 82XB Heat Pump tumble dryer has an 8kg capacity and an abundance of programmes and options. Importantly, this dryer is also cheap to run, especially on Cottons Eco mode, which should prevent your energy bill spiralling. While it does cost £399.99, you should be able to recoup the cost by charging all your friends and flatmates to use it.
- Read our full Hotpoint ActiveCare NT M11 82XB review
Best smart home gadgets
Amazon Echo Dot
Best smart speaker
The Amazon Echo Dot is the first purchase you need to turn your student digs into an automated palace. At £49.99 it’s affordable for students, too – you don’t even need any extra accessories for basic tasks. The Dot can step in as an alarm clock, can take charge and read out your busy schedule, and give you news and weather briefings for the day.
You could go for the slightly more expensive Amazon Echo instead, but the only upgrade you’ll get with that taller cylinder is a few more microphones and a beefier speaker to play music. That said, the Echo Dot is still perfectly adequate at blaring out your party playlist.
- Read our full Amazon Echo Dot review
Philips Hue Smart Bulb Starter Kit
Best smart bulbs
Just to warn you, student houses tend to be deadly cold in the winter. While these Philips Hue smart bulbs certainly won’t make your room any warmer, they will let you turn off the lights from the comfort of your bed, so you never have to leave the warm embrace of your duvet.
Not only will you be able to turn off the lights via your smartphone, you can also link them up to an Amazon Echo – switching off the lights with your voice never stops feeling magical. At £48, this starter kit isn’t cheap, but these bulbs are more durable than your average units, so you certainly get value for money.
- Read our full Philips Hue review
TP-Link HS100 Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug
Best smart plug
If you already have a smart speaker, then a smart plug is almost essential. The TP-Link HS100 Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug allows Alexa and Google Assistant to control the power input for any plugged-in device. This means you’ll be able to turn your TV, heater or lamp off via voice command, which is straight up Harry Potter-like sorcery.
The TP-Link option here is one of the more budget-friendly options available at £19.99, but it still rocks a slew of cool features including turning the plug on or off at a set time. It also supports IFTTT, so the TP-Link HS100 Kasa has many more super-cool tricks with which you can wow your new friends.
- Read our best Smart Plugs 2019 list
Best entertainment gadgets
Amazon Kindle (2019)
An Amazon Kindle isn’t just useful for reading your favourite fiction stories; you can load it with all your textbooks, too, to avoid your bag feeling like you’re carrying around a set of dumbbells. This is the cheapest option in Amazon’s e-reader lineup, with the Paperwhite offering waterproofing and Audible support at a slightly higher price.
If you’re on a strict budget heading into university then the standard Amazon Kindle will serve you very well indeed, costing just £69.99, especially now it’s been treated to a front light with the 10th generation version.
- Read our Amazon Kindle (2019) review
Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote
Best streaming stick
Chances are, if you have a TV in your student house then it will be a super-cheap model from Argos. It may well be a smart TV with the capability to run apps such as Netflix, but the interface will almost definitely be so terrible to navigate that you’ll end up giving up on Stranger Things and settling for Emmerdale instead.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is one of our top recommended steaming sticks, offering app support for the likes of Netflix, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and YouTube. What’s more, Alexa is living inside the remote control, so you can simply tell her the name of the movie you fancy watching instead of fiddling with the buttons.
- Read our full Amazon Fire Stick review
Best portable games device
One aspect of university life that you may not have considered is the amount of time you’ll spend on trains, journeying between university and your parents’ home. The Nintendo Switch is the perfect device to prevent yourself getting brain-numbingly bored, boasting excellent titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Super Smash Bros Ultimate.
The Nintendo Switch is also perfect for multiplayer action when hooked up to a television via the bundled dock. Is there any better ice-breaker for new flat mates than playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe? And if you find the £280 price too steep, the cheaper Nintendo Switch Lite will become available at a more affordable £200 in September.
- Read our full Nintendo Switch review