The best study-from-home essentials for students

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Engadget recommends a variety of laptops each year as part of our back-to-school guide. However, this is not enough for a productive learning environment. Whether you’re a stay-at-home student this year or returning to campus, you’ll benefit from a few extra essentials. A laptop stand is useful for preventing neck and arm pain, while a lumbar pillow provides lower back support. A pair of noise-cancelling headphones will do wonders for blocking out distractions, and an LED light will help relieve eye fatigue. From an external keyboard to a USB dock, we believe all of our suggestions below will result in a significantly improved setup for those long study sessions.

Soundance laptop stand

Soundance laptop stand

Engadget

While laptops are more convenient than desktops, using just your notebook for long periods of time is bad for your posture and can cause neck pain. For this reason, we strongly recommend getting a laptop stand. You can position your device so that the screen is at the right height. In general, your eye level should be one to two inches below the top of the display.

One of our team’s favorites is this one from Soundance, which can support laptops with 10″ to 15″ screens. It’s made of sturdy aluminum alloy and the surface that holds the laptop is rubberized, which prevents it from slipping. And thanks to a number of detachable components, it’s also one of the few stands that’s easily portable. You can disassemble and assemble it in minutes, making it suitable not only for your home desk but also for library use.

The Soundance elevates your laptop six inches above the desk, which should work just fine for most people. Also, the elevated design facilitates both better posture and ventilation for your laptop. There’s even enough space underneath to store your keyboard and mouse when not in use. If you want a height-adjustable stand, we recommend Rain Design’s iLevel 2. It’s not quite as portable and more expensive than the Soundance, but it’s a good option if you need a stand with more flexibility.

Buy Soundance Laptop Stand at Amazon – $40 Buy Rain Design iLevel 2 at Amazon – $65

Logitech K780 wireless keyboard for multiple devices

Logitech K780 wireless keyboard for multiple devices

Engadget

When you get a laptop stand, you definitely want an external keyboard with it. (You won’t be comfortable typing on your laptop while it’s docked in the stand.) We recommend a wireless model so you don’t have to worry about cables cluttering up your desk. Logitech’s line of Bluetooth keyboards is an Engadget favorite, and the K780 is one of the brand’s most versatile models. It’s a full-size keyboard with a number pad, but still feels slim and compact. The buttons are also responsive and comfortable, and you can pair them with up to three devices. There’s even a built-in mount if you want to use it with a smartphone or iPad.

Buy Logitech K780 at Amazon – $65

Logitech M525 wireless mouse

Logitech M525 wireless mouse

Engadget

In addition to the external keyboard, you should get a suitable wireless mouse. Logitech’s M525 is a great option thanks to its ergonomic design and affordable price. It’s small enough that it doesn’t take up much space on your desk, and it has an ambidextrous design that suits both right-handed and left-handed users. The precision scroll wheel has a tilt function that also allows side scrolling. However, we should note that this is not a Bluetooth mouse; You connect it to your computer via a USB receiver.

If you’d rather have the convenience of Bluetooth, consider the MX Anywhere 3. It features a 4,000 dpi track-anywhere sensor that works on most surfaces, even glass. However, the MX Anywhere 3 is much more expensive at $80 and doesn’t include the aforementioned tilting wheel. So keep that in mind.

Buy Logitech M525 at Amazon – $40 Buy MX Anywhere 3 at Amazon – $80

Purple back cushion

Purple back cushion

Will Lipman photography for Engadget

Long study sessions often mean sitting for long periods of time, which can lead to back pain. You could get a chair with better back support, but these can be expensive. Plus, if you live in a dorm, you probably don’t have a lot of furniture choices anyway. The next best option is a lumbar support pillow. I personally recommend the Purple Back Cushion because it has a soft lattice that’s malleable enough to conform to the contour of my spine. One of the features that sets it apart from other pillows is that it has hundreds of air channels, meaning you won’t get a sweaty back after sitting in a stuffy dorm room all day. It comes with a washable cushion cover and a built-in strap that allows you to attach it to most chairs.

Buy the purple back pillow on Amazon – $59

AFROG Multifunctional LED Desk Lamp with Wireless Charger

AFROG Multifunctional LED Desk Lamp with Wireless Charger

Engadget

Studying until the early hours becomes more difficult in poor lighting. Not only will you strain your eyes to see, but you’re more likely to climb into bed as the sun goes down and you get deeper into the night. A versatile desk lamp like this one from AFROG is essential as it easily illuminates your entire workspace. Also, this particular model has five color modes and seven levels of brightness, so you can customize it to your liking. The color modes are crucial as they allow you to change the temperature of the light so you don’t have to stick with harsh white light all the time when you don’t want to. We also like this model’s built-in wireless charger, which allows you to charge your phone while you study.

Buy AFROG Desk Lamp at Amazon – $40

Sony WH-CH710N Headphones

Sony WH-CH710N Headphones

Will Lipman photography for Engadget

A pair of noise-cancelling headphones are great for blocking out unwanted noise while studying, whether it’s from annoying siblings or a noisy roommate. You might be hesitant to buy one because you think noise-cancelling headphones are expensive, and for the most part, that’s right. Luckily, there are some budget options that aren’t terrible.

Take Sony’s WH-CH710N wireless cans for example. Engadget’s Billy Steele noted that it offers decent range and good clarity, nifty ANC, and dual noise sensors that can detect ambient noise. You can also switch to Ambient Sound mode when you need to quickly hear the world around you. They also offer an impressive 35-hour battery life, as well as USB-C fast charging that promises 60 minutes of playback on a 10-minute charge.

These headphones might look a little more basic than the higher-end XM5s, but Sony didn’t compromise on comfort here, thanks to adjustable sliders and soft oval earcups. They’re also a lot cheaper at $148 (and we’ve seen them for less), so you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.

Buy WH-CH710N at Amazon – $148

Fully Cora standing desk converter

Fully Cora standing desk converter

Fully

A good workspace is key when studying at home (or in your dorm room), and chances are your desk isn’t perfect, just suitable. One way to upgrade it is to add a standing desk converter like Fully’s Cora. It sits on your desk and allows you to stand and work whenever you want, which is much healthier for your body than sitting all day. The Cora is made from spill-resistant laminate and comes with non-slip pads so it won’t damage any surface you put it on. Plus, at $179, it’s a lot cheaper than buying an actual standing desk.

Buy Cora at Fully – $179

24-inch ViewSonic VA2456 MHD monitor

24-inch ViewSonic VA2456 MHD monitor

Engadget

Sometimes a laptop screen just isn’t big enough and an external monitor is needed so you can look your best. It’s useful for those who need more screen real estate for statistics and charts, Excel spreadsheets, editing photos or videos, or just looking through massive amounts of code.

However, monitors can be expensive. However, ViewSonic’s 24-inch VA2456-MHD offers impressive features for the price. While we haven’t reviewed it, it’s rated highly on Amazon and we’ve liked ViewSonic’s other monitors in the past, so we know the company has a solid track record when it comes to quality. The VA2456-MHD features HDMI, DisplayPort, and VGA connections, making it fairly versatile for a budget monitor. It also has 1080p resolution and an IPS panel for wide-angle viewing. Its three-sided frameless design is also elegant, an important feature for such a relatively large object. Finally, it has a blue light filter to minimize eye strain.

Buy a 24-inch ViewSonic monitor from Amazon – $190

Ironflask 32 oz sports water bottle

Ironflask 32 oz sports water bottle

Engadget

You need to stay hydrated as you rush around campus trying to get work done while trying to have a little fun every now and then. A water bottle like this one from Iron Flask makes it a lot easier to keep your favorite drink with you at all times. Its double-walled, vacuum-sealed design keeps cold liquids cold for 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 12 hours, plus it comes with three lids (straw, flip and stainless steel) so you can choose your favourite. We like the 32-ounce model because it’s big enough that you can fill it up in the morning and have enough water for a full day of classes and activities. However, the 32 ounces will not fit in a standard cup holder. So if you spend a lot of time in the car, go for the 22-ounce model or smaller.

Buy Iron Flask (32 oz) at Amazon – $24

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Russell Falcon

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