Mighty No. 9: Back to School Gadgets and Gear (2015)

Remember when folks had to walk two miles each day for an education and back-to-school gear just meant pencils, pens and notebooks? If you don’t, get outta my lawn, ya’ little whippersnappers.

Seriously, though, returning to the hallowed halls of education these days also means being able to gear up from a multitude of gadget options. Here’s a sampling of some portable electronics to consider as you put together your list of helpful gadgets and gear.

Ilumi Color Tunable LED Smartbulb

Ilumi LED Smartbulb
The Ilumi LED Smartbulb is a Bluetooth enabled white light that's programmable and also changes colors. Ilumi

You likey lots of purdy colors in your room? Ilumi’s LED smartbulb is a quick way to add some personality to your abode, whether it be natural white light when you’re studying or an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat-type deal during parties or happenings with the frands. The bulb is also Bluetooth-enabled, allowing you to control it via your phone app. You can even program it to turn on at a certain time for convenience or if you want to mess with your roommate’s head.

Cost: $90

Razer Firefly Mouse Mat

Razer Firefly LED Mouse Mat
The Razer Firefly hard mat distinguishes itself from other regular mouse pads with its LED style. Razer

Ooh, colors… Noticing a pattern here? If you’re like me and use your computer for gaming on top of browsing and writing, a nice mouse pad can go a long way. In addition to its excellent accuracy and large area of operation for wider range of motion, Razer’s Firefly also sports a cool color-changing effect on its edges thanks to full spectrum LED lighting. Admittedly, it’s a bit pricey for a mouse mat but it’s also a quick way to add a cool factor to a tiny dorm room or dingy apartment.

Cost: $60

Nyrius Aries Prime HDMI Transmitter and Receiver

Nyrius Aries Prime HDMI Transmitter and Reciever
The Nyrius Aries Prime lets you stream video and games from your computer or tablet to your television. Nyrius

Entertainment options are much more diverse these days compared to the era of just DVDs and television. With the advent of high-speed Internet, streaming media from sources such as Netflix, YouTube and other content sources account for a larger share of entertainment, especially among younger folk. Still there’s a lot to be said over consuming your media of choice via a big TV screen. One such device that makes it possible to stream content from your computer or laptop to your TV is Nyrius Aries Prime. The device comes with a transmitter for plugging into your computer’s HDMI port as well as a receiver that connects to your TV. In addition to streaming video content, the Aries Prime’s lag free connection also makes it possible to stream games if you prefer playing on a big screen. You can even stream content from your iPad provided you have the requisite adapter that allows an HDMI plug connection. Other streaming options include the Apple TV or, for a cheaper alternative, Google’s popular Chromecast.

Cost: $180

BlueDriver Car Scan Tool

Back when I was in college and super broke, my first car was a decades-old 1970 Honda Civic that smoked like a factory from the Industrial Age. Hey, what do you expect from a car that cost me just $300? These days, students likely use transport options with more advanced electronics but one thing that doesn’t change is how many students drive beater cars. If you’re one of those hapless folks, a diagnostics tool such as the Lemur BlueDriver can help you figure out what’s wrong with your car and hopefully reduce the chances of you being scammed by some dishonest mechanic. Just plug it into your car and voila, you’re good to go. Remember kids, knowledge is power.

Cost: $100 

Kodak Video Monitor CFH-V15

Kodak’s Video Monitor CFH-V15
Kodak’s CFH-V15 video monitor acts like your own little eye of Sauron at home minus the dark, emotional baggage. Kodak

As someone whose apartment was burgled when I was a college student, you can forgive me if I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to my stuff. If you’re the type who wants to be able to check what’s going on in your domestic domain while you’re out, the Kodak Video Monitor CFH-V15 provides a simple and easy-to-use option that lets you tap into your inner Sauron and see your room or apartment remotely via your iPhone, iPad or Android phone or tablet. I see you, mwhahaha. Plus it kinda looks Darth Vader-ish, which makes it even more cool.

Cost: $130

SMS Audio Star Wars Second Edition Headphones

SMS Audio Star Wars 2nd Edition R2-D2
SMS Audio's Star Wars Second Edition line adds four more variantsto the mix, including R2-D2. SMS Audio

Speaking of Star Wars stuff… lots of quiet, does your roommate demand? Then here’s an audio solution that even Yoda would likely approve of. SMS Audio’s second batch of Star Wars headphones dishes up some solid sound without disturbing other folks while adding a large helping of geek cred to your repertoire. At the very least, it can be a nifty conversation starter. Hoping for options that don’t quite make you look like an otaku? The V-Moda Crossfade M-100 is one of my personal favorites as a basshead while the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 is recommended for folks who like a more balanced audio profile.

Cost: $179.95

Sandisk Ultra Dual USB

Sandisk Ultra Dual USB Memory Stick
The Sandisk Ultra Dual USB Memory Stick works with computers and smartphones with a microUSB port. Sandisk

Even with the advent of the cloud, it’s still nice to have thumb drive to move and transfer files. Instead of getting justs a plain, boring USB drive, however, I recommend getting a dual USB drive that works with your computer and your smartphone of choice. Such drives make it easy to move files between, say, your phone and your laptop, for example, or even free up space on your phone in a pinch. You can even watch videos via the devices. The Sandisk Ultra Dual USB features both a standard USB plug plus a regular microUSB connector often used in Android phones. Otherwise, iPhone and iPad users can opt for the Sandisk iXpand or the Leef iBridge, which both feature Lightning connectors and can be especially handy for owners of lower-memory 16GB phones.

Cost: $20-50

FoldyLock Bike Lock

The FoldyLock is a heavy duty lock for securing your bicycle against thieves. FoldyLock

As someone who used to bike everyday to school and even got some stuff stolen from my bicycle while it was locked to a stand, I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to security. I’ve also seen all sorts of instances when conniving thieves have managed to bypass bike locks, which is why my philosophy is, you can never overdo it when it comes to securing your bicycle. This makes the serious-looking FoldyLock a great option in my eyes. At over three pounds, this sucker’s got heavy duty written all over it. Add a solid design and you’ve got the Fort Knox of bicycle locks right here.

Cost: $95

Ruban Laptop Security Cable Lock

Ruban Laptop Lock
The Ruban Universal Security Cable uses a four-dial lock to secure your laptop. Ruban

Yup, another theft deterrent suggested by yours truly. Hey, it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you, er, your stuff. Plus a laptop is a pretty high-ticket item so you definitely don’t want anybody making away with your precious computer from the library or coffee shop while nature calls. The Ruban lock feels nice and solid and also comes with a four-combination dial to deter burglars with fast fingers. Once fastened to your laptop’s lock port, you can secure the cable to something sturdy like say, a ship anchor, and be on your merry way. OK maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean.

Cost: $20

Want more gadget ideas? Hey, we've already got a sequel for you. Check out Part II of our Back to School Gadget and Gear Guide.