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  • How We Tested

  • Apple MacBook Air (2020)

  • Mophie PowerStation PD

  • Samsung C24F390

  • Sony WH-1000XM4

  • Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones

  • Amazon Echo (Fourth Generation)

  • Apple iPad Air (2020)

  • Roku Ultra (2020)

  • Eufy Robovac 11S

  • Anker Soundcore 2

  • Apple Watch Series 6

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Tech Products for Back-to-School of 2021

  1. Best Laptop

    Apple MacBook Air (2020)

    Pros

    • Jaw-dropping battery life

    • Incredible performance

    • Iconic build quality

    Cons

    • Poor port selection

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Wireless Headphones

    Sony WH-1000XM4

    Pros

    • Excellent audio quality

    • Top-notch noise cancelling

    • All day comfort

    Cons

    • Effective operation has a learning curve

    Skip to the full review below

How We Tested

Every product in this lineup has been physically tested by Reviewed tech experts. We've gathered these from our roundups of the best products, so the expertise of editors, staff writers, and contributors is represented in this article. We can confidently recommend these as the very best back-to-school tech products you can buy right now.


A closed MacBook Air resting on a table next to an iPhone
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The M1 Air's premium build, blazing speeds, and reasonable price make it the obvious choice for most people.

Best Laptop
Apple MacBook Air (2020)

With almost thirteen hours of battery life, a record-breaking M1 processor, and an incredibly smooth trackpad and keyboard, it should be no surprise that the MacBook Air M1 takes the top spot for students. Unless you need Windows 10 for your classes, the MacBook Air is the perfect laptop to pull all-nighters writing essays and streaming high-resolution video.

In addition to astonishingly fast speeds, the MacBook air stands out for its battery life. Our battery test always pulls less hours from the laptops than they claim to give, so we expected the claimed 15-hour battery life to turn into nine hours. Instead, we got over almost 13 hours, which is just one hour shy of the M1 MacBook Pro 13. Even without that extra hour, we went days without charging the MacBook Air despite using it during work hours. This laptop can stay awake for almost as long as you can.

Pros

  • Jaw-dropping battery life

  • Incredible performance

  • Iconic build quality

Cons

  • Poor port selection

A close-up showing the Mohpie's USB-C and USB-A ports.
Credit: Reviewed / Richard Baguley

The PowerStation PD's USB-C and USB-A ports make it highly adaptable.

Best Portable Battery Pack
Mophie PowerStation PD

It’s no secret that students attending in-person classes rely heavily on their smartphones throughout the day, which is why a portable battery pack is extremely useful to keep their devices charged up.

At just over 4 x 2 x 0.9 inches, the Mophie PowerStation PD is a small battery but, with its 6700 mAh capacity, it packs a punch. This juice can be output through its USB-C or USB-A port, which delivers 18 and 14 Watts, respectively. This is an ideal battery pack for power users during the workweek, or for keeping your smartphone powered up throughout a cross-country flight.

Pros

  • Compact

  • Fast charge times

Cons

  • No built-in charging cables

The Samsung monitor resting on a desk showing a stock Windows wallpaper.
Credit: Reviewed/Matthew S. Smith
Best Computer Monitor Under $200
Samsung C24F390

Using a second monitor won’t make school work go twice as fast, but it will certainly help students be more efficient. The Samsung C24F390 wins our nod thanks to its image quality, which clearly beats most monitors in its class thanks to the contrast ratio of its Vertical Alignment display panel. This monitor can display deep, inky black levels in scenes where most budget monitors only show a hazy, disappointing gray. Yet it’s also much brighter than competitors we tested in everyday use. You might not notice the C24F390’s advantage when editing a spreadsheet, but it’s obvious in movies and games, which look vibrant and crisp on its screen.

Pros

  • Great contrast ratio

  • Vibrant colors

  • Low Price

Cons

  • Flimsy stand only adjusts tilt

  • Low refresh rate

Related content

Credit: Reviewed

Sony's WH-1000XM4 are our favorite wireless headphones for their comfort, great sound, and excellent noise-canceling

Best Wireless Headphones
Sony WH-1000XM4

No matter where your student will be learning during the school year, a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones is a must, especially for those in noisy workspaces. Here at Reviewed, we’ve tested our fair share of the best wireless headphones over the years, and Sony's WH-1000XM4 is our top choice.

Combining excellent sound quality, all-day comfort, powerful noise-canceling, and a stylish design, the 1000XM4 is an outright win for students looking to focus on their work and jam out in the process. They connect both wired and wirelessly, and have an excellent, built-in mic that's great for video calls.

Can’t afford the Sony 1000XM4? Th WH-CH710N headphones, also from Sony, offer many of the same great features, including good sound and noise cancellation, in a much more affordable package.

Pros

  • Excellent audio quality

  • Top-notch noise cancelling

  • All day comfort

Cons

  • Effective operation has a learning curve

Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones
Credit: Reviewed / TJ Donegan

The Puro BT2200 headphones look good, sound great, are durable, are well-designed, and have effective volume limits.

Best Headphones for Kids
Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones

From classroom computer learning games to video chats with the whole class, kids also need a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones to get their work done. Out of the nine child-friendly headphones our editors tested, the Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones came out on top as the best headphones for kids, offering great sound and volume limiting to keep their hearing safe.

Though volume-limiting headphones are critical for protecting your child's hearing, the recommended max of 85dBA isn't very loud. These headphones help solve that by further cutting down ambient sound with noise cancellation.Headphones that cost around $100 (or higher) can be pricey for younger kids who are likely to forget them somewhere (or simply break them), but for an older kid wanting nicer headphones, these are worth the investment.

Pros

  • Cuts ambient noise with no technical issues

  • Safe for up to 8 hours

  • Tangle-free

Cons

  • Very expensive

Third-generation Echo on table with lamp and plant
Credit: Amazon

The third-generation Echo is the perfect blend of affordability and versatility.

Best Amazon Echo Smart Speaker
Amazon Echo (Fourth Generation)

Need a hands-free way for your child to easily keep track of their class schedule? The Amazon Echo is our recommendation for the best Echo smart speaker. This speaker is full of more than 100,000 Alexa skillslike calendar management and reminders that can help your student stay on task this semester.

Alexa can also help with homework, play games, set timers, and create more fun for kids. While every Echo smart speaker has access to the same Alexa skills and features, the fourth-generation Echo offers the best blend of quality, performance, and value.

The Echo has great sound quality, so your kids can listen to music while they study, thanks to Dolby audio, a 3-inch woofer, and a 0.8-inch tweeter. It also has auxiliary input and output as well as Bluetooth connectivity for streaming music from another device. You can also use it to make calls to your student if they’re away at college, or use it as an intercom system within your home.

For a smaller, more affordable Echo speaker, check out the Echo Dot (third-generation) or the Echo Dot Kid's Edition. For those who prefer Google Assistant, the Nest Mini is a compact, easy-to-use smart speaker option.

If you’re looking for a smart speaker for students that comes with both Google Assistant and Alexa, we’d point you to our favorite smart speaker, the Bose Home Speaker 300.

Pros

  • Aesthetically pleasing

  • Zigbee hub

  • Clear, relatively full sound

Cons

  • Distorts at top volume

A close-up of the iPad Air (2020) with the Magic Keyboard attached.
Credit: Reviewed/Christian de Looper

With premium design, incredible performance, and compatibility with the best tablet accessories on the market, the 2020 iPad Air is the best iPad for most students.

Best Tablet
Apple iPad Air (2020)

Every back-to-school tech setup needs a tablet that can do it all, and the Apple iPad Air (2020) is the best tablet for most of us. It may be a little more expensive than the entry-level iPad, but you'll be rewarded with an iPad Pro-level experience without the iPad Pro price tag. In our testing, the iPad Air performed better than almost any tablet ever, with the only match being Apple's latest Pro model. Like the Pro, the iPad Air is compatible with Apple’s Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil 2, both of which are accessories that help make the iPad Air a viable laptop replacement. That said, you don’t have to buy those accessories to get a lot from the device, considering it offers excellent performance, a great display, an intuitive operating system, and more.

For those looking for the ultimate tablet (and possibly a laptop replacement), we recommend stepping up to the iPad Pro 2021. While it’s not cheap, it’s the best tablet we've ever tested. It offers a speedy processor, killer design, and can be a workhorse for all sorts of projects—especially if you add Apple’s Magic Keyboard.

However, if you’re looking for a tablet made just for kids, we’d suggest the all-new Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition. Although we’re still testing the newer model, we loved the previous version because it’s easy to set up, simple to use, and comes with so many pre-installed apps and videos it would take some time for your child to grow tired of it.

Pros

  • Excellent build quality

  • Wide assortment of apps to choose from

  • Performs almost as well as more expensive iPad Air 3

Cons

  • Older processor

  • Base-level storage too low to be useful

The Roku Ultra offers everything we want in a streaming box for just $100.
Credit: Reviewed.com / TJ Donegan

The Roku Ultra offers everything we want in a streaming box for just $100.

Best Media Streaming Device
Roku Ultra (2020)

No dorm room would be complete without a way to watch every major streaming service. The Roku Ultra is our favorite streaming device because it offers access to virtually every streaming service you can think of. It also supports 4K content, comes with Roku’s most advanced remote, and has a button on the box that will force your remote to make a noise when inevitably it gets lost under the bed or behind the desk.

The remote comes with two personal shortcut buttons that can be assigned to whatever apps your student uses the most. It also offers voice control, quick access buttons, and a headphone jack so they can plug in and listen without disturbing others—perfect for late-night binge sessions after a full day of classes.

Pros

  • 4K content

  • Advanced remote control options

  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Nothing we could find

eufy 11s
Credit: Reviewed / Jonathan Chan

When we tested, the 11S picked up around 11.6 grams of dirt per run, more than what most iRobot models manage.

Best Value Robot Vacuum
Eufy Robovac 11S

This robot vacuum has dual purposes for parents and students. If your son or daughter is going off to college this fall, help them keep their space clean with the Eufy Robovac 11S, our favorite robot vacuum for the money. The Robovac can also be a lifesaver for caregivers and parents who need help keeping their home tidy when the kids are home all day due to distance learning.

This robot vacuum is quiet enough to use during Zoom or Google Hangouts calls with classmates, and it picks up plenty of dirt to keep the home or dorm fresh and clean.

Pros

  • Slim design allows it to clean more areas

  • Excellent dirt pickup

Cons

  • Can get caught on throw rugs

  • Clean cycles can last up to two hours

Anker Soundcore 2
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The very affordable, very practical Anker Soundcore 2 is one of the most valuable Bluetooth speakers on the market.

Best Portable Speaker Under $50
Anker Soundcore 2

The Anker Soundcore 2 will easily be a favorite back-to-school tech item for any student. It’s our favorite portable Bluetooth speaker as it offers solid sound, it’s super portable, and it comes in a variety of colors. It features a sturdy rectangular design with big, easy-to-push buttons and a very tightly sealed set of inputs for USB charging and a 3.5mm input. Between the low price point and the wide array of colors, it's a clear value pick as far as portable speakers go.

Pros

  • Easy, intuitive setup

  • Very portable

Cons

  • Just satisfactory sound quality

The Apple Watch Series 6, with a multicolor wallpaper on the screen, resting on a surface.
Credit: Reviewed/Christian de Looper
Best Smartwatch
Apple Watch Series 6

With a wide range of features, an understated design, and no major weaknesses the Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch you can buy. All of that plus a brilliant, intuitive interface make it an excellent choice for students. A wide array of free apps can help students stay active, study, track sleep, handle phone calls and messages, order food, and more, all controlled by elegant and intuitive software.

The Apple Watch comes in two case sizes (40mm and 44mm) and in a bunch of finishes and bands. Setup is a breeze, and the watch is a perfect partner for an iPhone. Since the Apple Watch Series 6 only pairs with iOS devices, we recommend Samsung's Galaxy Watch Active 2, for Android users. Similarly to the Apple Watch Series 6, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 can play music, make calls, send messages, track fitness insights, and more. If you're looking for a cheaper Apple Watch, we recommend the more affordable Apple Watch SE.

Pros

  • Bright, always-on display

  • Great fitness tracking and sensors

  • Smooth, intuitive performance

Cons

  • Battery still average

  • No Android support

Meet the tester

Reviewed Staff

Reviewed Staff

Contributors, Writers, Editors

@revieweddotcom

The Reviewed staff is based in the heart of Cambridge, MA. Backed by our knowledgeable writers and rigorous test labs, we're working hard to make sure you can make the right decisions about what to buy.

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