13 Back-to-School Tech Essentials for 2021


It’s hard for today’s kids to fully comprehend that their parents grew up in ye olden days before cellphones and personal computers were as much a priority on the back-to-school shopping lists as a box of new No. 2 pencils. Today, gearing up for fall is all about stocking up on tech buys. So whether you’re getting gadgets for learning, for playing or for both, there’s something awesome for your student in the list below. 

Check out our hand-picked 13 best tech buys for kids of all ages! And check out all of this year’s best back-to-school deals.

A Chromebook That Can Handle It All: Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 (13-inch) 

Image: Amazon.com

So much is done via Google docs and other virtual classroom management tools that this zippy Lenovo Chromebook should suit the needs of a vast majority of students. Plus, it’s comparatively lightweight at under 3 pounds and more affordable than the typical laptop, too. This well-reviewed Chromebook (Wirecutter raves it has “one of the best keyboards.. seen on a Chromebook in years”) does it all, nimbly converting from a laptop to tablet to tent. PCMag touts its “physical flexibility, generous connectivity options, and premium design features.” Plus, it features a battery that lasts up to 10 hours (although that’s in ideal situations). A total bargain! 

Price: $339.99 at Amazon 

A Ring Light For Remote Activities: Digipower Color Clip-On Selfie Ring Light

urban outfitters ring light
Image: Urban Outfitters

Yes, classes are looking to be primarily in-person this school year, but there may be remote days, group projects done after-hours or meetings with teachers that happen virtually. For those occasions, and for selfies, too, students can brighten things up with a ring light that comes in 18 different color modes and that clips onto a phone, tablet or laptop. 

Price: $10 at Urban Outfitters

An Android Phone That Doesn’t Skimp On Quality: Google Pixel 4a 

Google Pixel 4a Best Buy
Image: Best Buy

When I interviewed a tech pro for an article about kids and phones, he suggested that parents skip top-of-the-line cell phones for their children, pointing out, “If you wouldn’t hand your kid $1,000 to put in their pocket to take on the school bus, why would you buy them a phone that costs that much?” Instead, get a budget phone and the insurance! Happily for your child, today’s best affordable phones, like the Google Pixel 4a, are still amazing pieces of tech that can handle whatever they demand of it. The phone is fast; takes crisp, clear photos; has a decent battery life; and is smaller than some of the massive phones on the market, making it easy to use with one hand. 

Price: $299.99 at Best Buy 

An Apple iPhone Under $400: iPhone SE 

iPhone Se
Image: Apple.com

There’s nothing second-rate about Apple’s budget phone, a remodeled version of the original SE. It takes quality photos and video, offers touch ID (which some people prefer to the facial recognition login), and is water resistant to protect from splashes and spills. It comes in black, white and red and pairs seamlessly with all the other Apple products in your household. 

Price: $399 and up at Apple

Budget Wireless Earbuds: JLab GO Air True Wireless Earbuds

JLab GO Air True Wireless Earbuds Target
Image: Target.com

Good, clear sound, three different-sized tips for the best fit and an under-$30 price tag. If you want wireless earbuds without spending a lot, JLab’s affordable ones are perfect. (For the splurg-ier pick, Apple AirPods Pro are fantastic and popular.) 

Price: $29.99 at Target

Over-The-Ear Bluetooth Headphones If They Hate Earbuds: Tribit XFree Go Bluetooth Headphones

Tribit XFree Go Bluetooth Headphones Amazon
Image: Amazon.com

Some kids dislike the feeling of earbuds and prefer the feel of an over-the-ear fit instead. Tribit bluetooth headphones charge fast, feel soft and gentle against their ears and have decent noise-cancelling capability. Though they’re bigger than earbuds, these are only 8 ounces, portable, and easy to fold and store in the included case. They charge fast, too — just 10 minutes gives four hours of sound, and they charge fully in two hours and then run for 24 hours. 

Price: $29.99 at Amazon 

The Best Earbuds For Athletes: Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro

orange beats earbuds over the ear
Image: Best Buy

Many people — myself included — found earlier-generation wireless earbuds annoying. They were uncomfortable to wear and slipped out of our ears too easily. The newest earbuds are a completely different animal. The Powerbeats Pro, for example, are designed for active users, with a customizable, adjustable fit and ear hooks for extra stability. Plus, they’re sweat- and water-resistant so they won’t go sliding out. Of course music sounds fantastic on these, and the earbuds have volume and track controls, so you don’t have to stop and fidget. If they’re running low on charge but want to work out, no worries — just five minutes of charging time gives them an hour and a half of playback, and fully charged, they will play music for up to nine hours. 

Price: $249.99 at Best Buy 

A Versatile Gaming Console For All Ages: Nintendo Switch 

Nintendo Switch Best Buy
Image: Best Buy

A pick that should please the whole household, the Nintendo Switch has become Nintendo’s second-biggest selling console of all time, and is closing in on first place. Kids can play together in person or virtually, play games alone, dock their Switch and play on the TV, or pop it out and take it to a friend’s house. (In October, Nintendo Switch OLED model will be available, but it doesn’t sound like it will be such a radical upgrade that you have to wait for it.) Now we just need to wait for the sequel to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Price: $299.99 at Best Buy 

An Alarm Clock With A Charging Station: USCCE Digital Alarm Clock Radio

USCCE Digital Alarm Clock Radio Amazon
Image: Amazon.com

Phones are distracting, especially at bedtime or in the middle of the night, so instead, have them use an alarm clock for a lower-tech solution to waking up. This alarm clock has adjustable brightness so middle-of-the-night rousing doesn’t turn into a full-on wake-up call, plus it has a thermometer, dual alarms in case they’ve got a roommate and a weekend option. Choose from beeps, birds or a buzzer to rise, or a radio. The alarm rises in volume instead of blasting them awake. It has two USB ports to charge devices and comes in a faux wood finish or solid black. 

Price: $26.99 at Amazon 

A Portable Charger Just In Case: Anker Portable Charger

Anker Portable Charger Amazon
Image: Amazon.com

This is a slim charger, useful for traveling or commuting that’s a fan favorite on Amazon, with more than 25,000 ratings and an overall 4.7- out of 5-star rating. 

Price: $16.99 at Amazon 

A Durable Tablet For Younger Kids: Fire HD 10 Kids tablet

Fire 10 Amazon tablet
Image: Amazon.com

There are tons of perks that come with Amazon’s affordable tablet, designed for kids ages 3 to 7, but the single best one is the peace of mind it offers, with a two-year guarantee: If it breaks, Amazon will replace it for free. It also comes bundled with one free year of Amazon Kids+, giving kids access to kid-friendly games, videos, apps and audiobooks. The parental controls are easy to set up, and the table itself has a sturdy feel and a grippy, kid-friendly case, so it won’t slip out of little hands. 

Price: $199.99 at Amazon 

A State-Of-The-Art Teeth Whitening Kit: CO. by Colgate SuperNova Rechargeable At-Home Teeth Whitening Kit 

ulta tooth whitening kit
Image: Ulta

If your college student’s back-to-school plans also include a little beautifying, CO. by Colgate’s teeth whitening kit uses an LED device to maximize the impact of the hydrogen peroxide serum (which experts say is the best ingredient for tackling surface stains for dentist-level teeth whitening at home). Using this just 10 minutes a day for 10 days gives users noticeably whiter teeth. Ulta reviewers give this set high marks for its efficacy and ease of use, and for not causing the same degree of tooth sensitivity that many whitening formulas give. 

Price: $129 at Ulta 

An Entertaining Educational Toy: Snap Circuits Discover Coding STEM Learning Toy

Snap Circuts Discover Coding
Image: Macy’s

Snap Circuits makes enjoyable learning kits for all ages and abilities — this cool STEM set teaches kids how fun it is to learn about circuitry and coding, and to actually make things, such as lights and sounds, work all by themselves. 

Price: $60.88 at Macy’s

Read more: 15 Backpacks and Bookbags for All Ages

The post 13 Back-to-School Tech Essentials for 2021 appeared first on The Real Deal by RetailMeNot.

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