Back to school: Student gifts, essentials for under $50

Starting a new semester or beginning college can be tough, but the essentials and gifts associated with it don't have to be expensive.
1 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Google Chromecast

An immediate hit with consumers -- and sold out in many stores -- Google's Chromecast dongle is a great gadget for students to own.

The dongle is a dirt-cheap way to stream media to your TV from a number of devices. Chromecast is cross-platform enabled, and so is compatible with the iOS operating system, Android, Windows and Mac. Once plugged in, you have to install the Chromecast application before streaming PC and mobile content including Google Play/TV, YouTube, Netflix and potentially services like Pandora in the future. 

Price: $35

Via: Amazon


2 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet


High-tech or plain annoying, an alarm clock is a necessity of life for the average student. Clocky was my saviour and bane through college -- as difficult as I find it to get up, I found myself suddenly flying out of bed moments instinctively before the alarm began, which sends the clock in flight to zoom across the room and zip around until you catch it. 

I eventually caught it and threw it across the room in a rage, so the only improvement I would make on lesser models is a shell tougher than plastic. 

Price: $34.42

Via: Amazon

3 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Reef Men's Fanning Sandal

Available in a range of colors from black to green, these sandals don't look like anything special -- except they have the one tool 99 percent of students need at some point -- a bottle opener.

Hidden within the sole, while your student is running around in sandals or has taken a quick backpacking jaunt, they will never be far away from this crucial item.

Price: $29.99 - $99.95 

Via: Amazon

4 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

USB bottle opener combo

A Swiss Army Knife of useful tools, this 8GB USB flash drive provides a backup for coursework -- as well as a way to open your beer once the essay is finished. 

Price: $14.99

Via: Think Geek

5 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

HDMI to DVI Cable

As simple as it seems, a HDMI to DVI cable is a cheap but useful gift to give a student, allowing them to hook up devices including laptops and TVs to watch movies with their dormmates.  

Price: $1 - $10

Via: Amazon

6 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Empty Bottle with Cork USB Drive

When you're rushing up to the library in a panic to print out the essay due for submission in less than an hour, a portable USB thumb drive is a handy tool for a student to possess. There are thousands on the market, but I like this unusual design -- perfect for sticking on a desk so you don't lose it so easily. 

The USB drive is available in 4GB, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB versions. 

Price: $19.99 - $36.99

Via: USB Geek

7 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Hand painted canvas iPhone 5 cases

With designs ranging from Edvard Munch's "The Scream" to Van Gogh's "Starry Night," these hand painted iPhone 5 cases are a sure bet for an arty student. Each lightweight, fabric cover is partially handpainted -- so the design sticks out, but they will not scratch or wear down easily. 

Price: £29.99 ($46)

Via: Firebox

8 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Anker Astro E4 external battery pack

Running out of juice after you've forgotten to charge your mobile device can be an utter nuisance -- and sometimes puts real kinks in your daily plans. To combat this problem, buy your student an external battery pack they can use in emergencies.

The Anker charger can charge most smartphones up to six times (with a capacity of 13000mAh) and can provide a majority charge to an iPad. Dual USB ports mean you can charge more than one device at the same time, and LED lights warn you of the charger's remaining capacity.

The Anker is compatible with many devices; including the iPhone 5 -- although you'll need to buy the Lightning Cable -- iPad, iPod, Samsung Galaxy devices, HTC smartphones, the Google Nexus 4 and 7 and LG products. 

Price: $45.99 (currently on sale: Usual price $119.99)

Via: Amazon

9 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Juice Buddy

If a full charging pack is more than you need, consider "Juice Buddy" -- a lightweight, travel-friendly charger for mobile devices.

It's small enough to fit on your keychain, and you can charge one device at a time through a USB port. The Juice Buddy is compatible with all Apple devices, including the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. 

Price: $24.95

Via: Arriba Design

10 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Sony ICDBX132 BX Series 2GB Voice Recorder

When students first appear for their lecture, a common sight is the deposit of dictaphones on the professor's desk. Not only useful to check your notes and for revision purposes, a dictaphone can also be used to give you an audial record of your own notes.

Sony's ICDBX132 BX series 2GB voice recorder is a good bet for a decent price -- and comes with 16 hours of battery life and built-in speakers. 

Price: £29.99 ($46)

Via: Amazon

11 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Seagate GoFlex Slim 320GB external hard drive for Mac

An external hard drive is a popular choice to back up essays, coursework, photos and music. Desktop and portable variants have flooded the market, ranging from storage options of 250GB to 1.5TB. The Seagate GoFlex Slim 320GB external hard drive is a reasonably priced option for a slim, small drive to back up work. 

Price: $49.99

Via: Amazon

12 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Fisheye Pro lens

If your student is a fan of photography but doesn't have a DSLR -- and is therefore not able to buy different lenses for a camera body -- the Fisheye Pro lens is a fun way to give smartphone photos the warped "fisheye" look. Once snapped on to a mobile device with a magnetic ring, you're set.

The lens, also available as part of a kit, is compatible with Blackberry, HTC, iPad, iPhone, LG, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung mobile devices, among others. 

Price: £32.99 ($50)

Via: Firebox

13 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Seven Port USB 3.0 Hub

If you need a few extra USB ports when connecting a PC, tablet or smart TV to media, a USB hub is a great choice. 

This particular hub comes equipped with seven ports, supports USB 3.0 SuperSpeed, Plug-and-Play function and a transfer rate up to 5Gbps.

Price: $32.00

Via: USB Geek

14 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Double Power - D7015 7-inch tablet

Many students want a tablet to replace bulkier laptops while on the move, but sometimes its simply not possible to fork out for an iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab. However, for basic functionality and Internet access in a lightweight casing, there are a number of cheaper options on the market -- such as the D7015 7-inch tablet. It's a little more than $50, but about as cheap as you can get for a tablet at the moment -- and comes with enough basic functions to keep a student happy.

The tablet has 4GB storage space, a processing speed of 1.2GHz, 512mb memory, one SD slot, a front-facing webcam and runs on Android. If you want to go slightly upmarket, consider a Google Nexus

See also: Back to School: Smartphones under $100

Price: $69.98

Via: Best Buy

15 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

iPhone 5 Polycarbonate Wallet

Theft is not the only peril a student's mobile device will face during years of study -- accidentally being dropped or thrown in a rage is also a possibility. Going beyond protection, you can buy covers such as the iPhone 5 polycarbonate wallet so your student can keep money, credit cards and I.D. in the same place as their mobile -- and so hopefully there will be less chance of these important items being lost or mislaid. 

Price: $34.95

Via: hammacher.com

16 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard

The AmazonBasics keyboard is a Bluetooth-enabled accessory for use with the iPad, iPhone and iPad Mini. The connection is cable-free, comes with a stand for your mobile device and requires 2 AAA batteries. 

Price: $29.99

Via: Amazon

17 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Pivot power mini

Students tend to have a plethora of devices, but not necessarily enough outlets to use and charge them all. As part of a 'starting college' package, you may want to consider buying a plug and USB combo -- such as the Pivot power mini. 

Once plugged into an outlet, the Pivot provides the user with two standard outlets and two USB ports. 

Price: $29.99

Via: Think Geek

18 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

USB cup warmer

A cute concept from IWOOT, this gadget plugs into your PC or USB-enabled device and keeps the coffee warm while you work on your essay. 

Price: £9.99 ($15)


19 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Creative Live! webcam

Going to college and using Skype to keep in contact with friends and family doesn't mean you have to invest in a high-end webcam. But if you want something a little better than your PC's default camera, you might want to consider buying a product like the Creative Live! webcam -- which is capable of HD 720p chats, snapping 5.7-megapixel photos and playback of up to 30 frames per second.

Price: £31.49 ($48)

Via: Ebuyer

20 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

LED Reading Book Light

Although we often rely on our Kindles, E-readers and tablets for reading material, many college libraries only offer physical copies of books. As part of a college starter kit, a cheap LED reading light which can be clipped on to books is likely to be a useful addition. 

Price: £2.99 ($5)

Via: Play.com

21 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Touch-screen gloves

Once winter beckons and you're forced to trudge to class through icy winds and low temperatures, a pair of gloves is a necessity. But if you need to check your smartphone, it's difficult to control your mobile device with traditional gloves -- so why not buy gloves specifically designed with touchscreen devices in mind? 

Price: £4.95 ($7.60)

Via: Play.com

22 of 22 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Smartfinder Single Key Finder

Losing your keys isn't simply a student-based problem -- we all do it. But if you connect a key finder to your belongings, by using a remote control transmitter and radio signal, you'll be able to detect those missing items thanks to an alarm on the receiver.

The Smartfinder Single Key Finder works for up to 25 meters. 

Price: £11.99 ($19)


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