With the new academic year starting and Covid restrictions easing off, many of us are returning to school, college, or university. For those heading to university – straight out of school or returning for further studies like myself – it can take a while to adapt to the new environment, change of pace (especially if returning from employment), new responsibilities, and a degree of independence that you never rarely get a taste of in primary and secondary education.
No matter what degree you chose to do, there’s no avoiding the influence of technology in every profession. Whether you’re designing surveys or questionnaires, working with numerical data, modelling software, programming, art design, or simply writing up assignments, reports, or theses, there’s no escaping it. However, it’s not all about constant hard work. A bit of play goes a long way to avoiding burnout and potentially losing your passion for a subject.
As such, I’ve compiled this budget-oriented, back-to-university feature looking at some tech products that might be worth investing in (and might still be useful for parents) based on both my undergrad and postgrad experience. Regardless of if you’re still living out of home, stuck in a crowded postgrad office, have a workspace in a residence, or sharing a student house, these might improve your productivity and give you some space for yourself when you need a break.
AOC Gaming 24G2U Monitor
Most of you are going to need a notebook or desktop PC for work and entertainment during your studies. A budget gaming monitor, like the AOC Gaming 24G2U, is a good addition to this setup. Aside from the obvious benefits of the highly adjustable stand that allows for an ergonomic working position, larger HD or WQHD displays (from 24” upwards) offer a crisp image and enough screen space for multi-app work. It’s always easier to check your references when the paper is open alongside your assignment and it’s easier to assess and present data when you have the raw numbers alongside your graphing or modelling software.
While your notebook or PC may not be a gaming powerhouse, the high refresh rate and 1ms response time offered by these displays make for an incredibly smooth and responsive experience. Additionally, if you’re playing some less demanding free-to-play titles or indie games that can hit ≥60 fps, the variable refresh rate (VRR) support (48 – 144hz) allows you to disable v-sync and let the mitigate screen tearing while keeping the game feeling responsive. With multiple DisplayPort and HDMI inputs, a 3.5mm audio output, and a powered USB hub on some models, they’re also great for multiple devices (such as a gaming console or streaming box).
Corsair K60 RGB Pro Mechanical Keyboard
There are, apparently, people who enjoy using notebook chicklet-style keys and trackpads but those people are wrong and simply don’t know any better! If I had to choose between prioritising a mouse or keyboard, I’d go with the keyboard. There’s a good chance you’re going to be spending a lot of time writing up assignments, theses, or papers, so investing in a budget mechanical keyboard can ensure the simple act of typing is enjoyable.
Of the most established brands, the Corsair K60 RGB stands out as one of the best options when considering cost vs. quality. It doesn’t have many shortcut or macro keys (which may be an issue to some software users), but it has everything else you’d want from a quality mechanical keyboard: a brushed aluminium frame you could bludgeon someone with, sturdy keycaps of double-shot plastic, and a choice CHERRY’s budget mechanical switches.
That said, if you’re in a shared working space like a postgrad office, you may want to consider which keyswitches you pick. They can range from silent (boring), to soft (for the best auditory feedback), to loud and clacky (guaranteed to annoy those nearby). As a bonus, the Corsair K60 RGB is great for gaming and you can use the iCUE software to customise your RGB layout if that’s your thing.
Edifier TW1 PRO True Wireless Earbuds
A good headset is always a must for streaming, music, and online chat, but sometimes flexibility is just as important if you’re trying to shift your routine to living in a residence or student house. The Edifier TWS1 Pro earbuds (“True Wireless Stereo”) are a solid choice for those on a budget, with a focus on long battery life (~12 hours) and clear audio – particularly mid- to high-frequencies. Low-frequencies – think thumping bass – are less impressive but still better than most earbuds in this price range.
The Edifier TWS1 Pro earbuds excel thanks to their flexibility. The low latency Bluetooth v5.2 aptX connection allows you to pair the device with your PC, mobile, tablet, or gaming console. The crisp audio is perfect for reproducing voice and the microphone offers cVc 8.0 noise cancellation. This makes them great for hands-free calling and video calls, but also perfect for listening to podcasts and YouTube/Twitch vlog-style content. They’re also rugged and rated IP65 splash and sweatproof, making them a good choice for exercising.
PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus Bluetooth Controller
We’ve covered some tech that’s great for work, but now it’s time to consider play. Whether you’re sharing a TV with others in the household, commuting long distances, or just want to relax in bed and catch up with some gaming, the PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus Bluetooth Controller is perfect for turning your phone into a mobile gaming platform for console-streaming or cloud gaming. As an official “Designed for Xbox” product, you’re getting a decent replica of the Xbox gamepad, two mappable back buttons, an integrated 3000mAh rechargeable battery (to extend gamepad life or external device), and a detachable clip for mounting your phone. Should you find yourself running short on battery, it can even be connected by cable so you can continue playing.
It takes a bit of time to get used to the extra weight and balance of the PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus Bluetooth Controller, but the shape is almost identical to an original Xbox gamepad and it feels robust, with rubber back grips and textured thumbsticks, and clicky face buttons. The bumpers and triggers feel authentic, while the two mappable back buttons sit perfectly where your middle fingertip rests. I found them more intuitive than the paddles on the Xbox Elite gamepads and they’re perfect for functions like reloading in an FPS, letting you keep your thumb on the right thumbstick, tracking your target.
The PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus Bluetooth Controller can also be connected to tablets, PCs, VR sets, and smart TVs. The gamepad is compatible with most controller-enabled mobile games and supports most streaming services such as Xbox console streaming, Xbox Cloud Gaming, Steam streaming, and PlayStation Now. Of course, if you already have an Xbox console and gamepad, you could just pick up the MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip 2.0 for Xbox Wireless Controllers [https://www.amazon.co.uk/MOGA-Mobile-Gaming-Wireless-Controllers/dp/B08NYGD5G9], which provides a similar experience, albeit with the bonus of using an original gamepad. A good mobile signal or fast home WiFi is essential but, when it works, it feels incredible to simply pick and play whenever you have a break, with no dedicated hardware setup required.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Subscription
It might be obvious I was building up to this suggestion, but I can think of no other gaming service that offers such incredible value for £11/month, making it perfect for a high school or university student looking to game on a budget. You get a wide range of games, across multiple genres, from indie to “AAA”, on both PC and Xbox consoles. Better still, with university internet connections often much fast than home packages, you get Xbox Cloud Gaming support (country-dependent at the moment). Even without access to the cloud gaming feature, you can stream from a home console (I’ll throw in a bonus recommendation for the budget Xbox Series S) if you’ve got half-decent local Wi-Fi.
Whether you’re playing online, on the couch with mates, or looking for some quiet time by immersing yourself in a single-player game, there’s something for every situation on Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft published titles arrive day-one and stay on the service, while an impressive number of third-party titles rotate onto the service for a few months. For those looking to stretch their budget further or share costs, you can “game share” – with a trusted mate, ideally – giving them access to the subscription and all the perks it entails (the games library, online play, cloud streaming).
Want more news from the Tech world for Gaming Peripherals to Hardware Click Here