Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

Life isn't a Supermarket Sweep: You can't just grab every back-to-school gadget in the weekly circular. College-bound kids have to conserve cash for important things like pizza and beer, err textbooks. Cut through the marketing crap and snatch the essentials.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU NEED

Value-Priced Laptop
If you were thinking about getting a desktop, STOP. Laptops are the perfect library or couch companion and even the best laptops on the market have come down in price. Apple's MacBook is one of the best laptops for students, and if you want the nice unibody aluminum one, you can pick it up refurbished for $900. If you opt for Windows instead, this Dell Inspiron 15 is solid for as low as $500. Take it from Prof. Dealzmodo, you don't have to be scared of buying refurbs, as long as it's through the manufacturers themselves.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU NEED

All-in-One Printer
You'd think in this day and age you'd be able to email your papers, but lots of college professors still require you hand in your masterpieces on dead trees. An all-in-one printer gives you the vital copy and scan functions, too, so there's no point in buying a single-function printer. The Canon MX860 (on sale for $160 on Amazon) packs wireless printing and prints on both sides of the page. The $100 HP PhotoSmart C4680 focuses on your photos, with its LCD screen and fast color-printing times.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU NEED

iPod Dock/Alarm Clock
Waking up for class to your music rather than a crappy local radio station is going to be way easier on you (and your hangover). Winner of the eight way iPod Dock Battlemodo, the $200 JBL OnStage 400p is one of the best-sounding choices, though it doesn't have its own clock-radio built in, so you'll have to set your iPod or iPhone. Looking for something a tad cheaper? Try the $130 Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere 2. If you are really worried that an iPod alarm won't wake you, try the iLuv iMM153. Its sound quality might not be on par with the above docks, but its vibrating ring will actually shake the bed.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU NEED

Point-and-Shoot Camera
Believe me, one day you'll want to remember the "best years of your life" in something better than the grainy blurry shots you get from your cellphone. Today's cheapest point-and-shoots let you capture stunning still pictures and quality video, too, in case your bud does something College Humor worthy. The 12-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 will cost you about $200 and shoots 720p video with a 4x zoom. Canon's $180 PowerShot SD1200IS will give you great still shooting performance for the money, and its 640x480 video is good enough for YouTube videos. Don't forget a big SD card—8GB or so.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU NEED

Gaming Console
Making friends in college is way easier when you can lure them into your room for a RB jam session. A game console can also serve as DVD player, music jukebox and streaming media receiver, so there's a lot of value in one box. Understanding that dorm rooms are cramped, Sony's new PS3 Slim is smaller than the original and cheaper with its $299 price tag. And with 120GB of space you'll have more than enough room for storing movies and music. And if you want something even more affordable and can hold out for a few more weeks, the Xbox 360's price is rumored to drop. No matter what system you choose, make sure to grab extra controllers.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU NEED

Headphones
Whether you are trying to block out the sounds of your roommate's squeaking bed or the non-whispering library voices, a good pair of headphones is a must. While a pair of noise canceling headphones will run up the bill, Shure's $99 SE115s isolate background noise really well with rubber or foam, not expensive circuitry. If you're trying to keep it on the cheap but can't stand free-with-purchase earbuds, Altec Lansing's Backbeat Plus for $50 aren't too shabby.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU NEED

HD Monitor or Cheap HDTV
If you have that all-powerful game console, you'll need something to hook it up to. Many kids split up the responsibility with a roommate, a good friend—or a spendy parent. One buys the console, the other buys a display. We recommend either a larger monitor, like Dell's 24" S2409W with HDMI input. Or you could go with a budget 32" HDTV. It may not have the best picture, but this 32-inch 720p Insignia is a great deal at $380. (Don't waste money on 1080p TVs if the screen isn't at least 40".)

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU NEED

Mini Fridge
Here is a gadget you don't see on Gizmodo every day (except maybe ones powered by USB), but a mini-fridge is a must-have for a dorm room. The Emerson 2-Door Compact Refrigerator has enough space in the fridge for leftover Easy Mac, and a separate freezer for keeping that non-freezing liquid and some hotpockets. The Haier fridge microwave combo also is a good bet for those that can't live without popcorn or instant soup.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU NEED

Notebook Bag
Picking a notebook bag can be more personal than picking what goes inside it. Not only do you want something protective but something that also sticks with your own style. Timbuk2 makes some of the best on the market, and though they will cost you north of $60, they are known for having a decent warranty policy—send in pics to see if your damage is covered—and random acts of consumer kindness. The Laptop Messenger is now $65.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU NEED

Reliable Cellphone The dorm room has a landline jack but you will never use it. Make sure you have a good cell on a carrier that gets service at your school. Though we'd love to say, "Buy an iPhone 3GS or Palm Pre," the fact is, they come with costly monthly plans. Depending on your budget, you may just want to go with one of the newest messaging phones from Samsung or LG—with an unlimited messaging bundle. (You may also want an iPod Touch running on Wi-Fi, so you don't miss out on the 99-cent apps.)

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU DON'T NEED

Laptop Lock Every retailer recommends you buy a laptop lock for your dorm room, but the reality is you will never use it. Now, we care about your laptop's safety, but the answer is being smart about where you leave it: Lock the door when you go out, have a friend watch it at the library or meal hall, etc. And for the insanely paranoid there is always this.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU DON'T NEED

Camcorder
Forget the Flip Mino, the Creative Vado or even the Kodak Zi8, since the functionality is essentially what you already have on a point-and-shoot. Unless you are a film student, you aren't going to be making documentaries. Just keep that still camera handy to catch drunken clips of girls crying or your friend puking.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU DON'T NEED

Bluetooth Headset
Unless you are majoring in douchebaggery, a Bluetooth headset should not be on your shopping list. It is nice that Motorola is lowering prices on some headsets for back-to-school, and those should be snapped up by drivers who need them in the car. But if you are walking and talking, you can hold the phone up to your ear. If you are in your room, crank up the speakerphone. Seriously, having a headset in your ear all the time is no way to make friends.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU DON'T NEED

Ebook Reader
Devices like the Kindle DX are fun, and Sony's new affordable readers are looking nice too, but for a student heading off to college, ebook readers are still an unneeded expense. Digital textbooks just aren't widely available yet, so you'll still have to buy a backbreaking amount of old-world books. Plus, what are you going to do when you accidentally drop it in class and it shatters? So try and ignore the hype this year, and maybe next year, McGraw-Hill, Prentice Hall and the like will come through for you.

Back to School Tech: 10 Things You Need, 5 Things You Definitely Don't

WHAT YOU DON'T NEED

Anything Too Expensive, or Not Rugged Enough Mark my words, what doesn't get stolen will surely be barfed on.