Buying Guides

10 Gifts for College Students You Hadn’t Thought Of

Dave LeClair 29-11-2016

When thinking about gifts for college students, you probably think of laptops, smartphones, or tablets — or similar gadgets. These are awesome gifts, and most students would love to have any of them. In fact, most students would enjoy them so much that they probably already have one of each!


So where’s that leave you? You want to get them a gift that’ll be useful (or at least, sensible) for their time in the dorm, but you want to skip one of the more obvious choices. Don’t worry, we’ll show you the way!

Mini PC Gifts for College Students

Having a PC hooked up to the TV is game-changer. A whole world of entertainment becomes available. In school, though, it really doesn’t make sense to run out and get a second expensive computer just to hook it up to a TV. That’s where mini PCs The Best Media Center Mini PC for Under $100 Media center PCs used to be impractical -- you needed to hook an expensive, full-size desktop to your TV. The mini-PC smashes down all barriers to entry, with small size and low-cost. Read More save the day. They let you browse the web and watch just about anything you want online (please, don’t ask your college student what they’re watching online; neither of you will enjoy the answer) for a fraction of the cost.

Whether you want a small stick PC, a slightly more powerful mini computer, or a Chromebox, these are three of the best models out there.

1. Azulle Byte Plus Fanless Mini Desktop PC (Sponsored Listing)

Byte Plus (Fanless Windows 10 Home (64 bit) Mini Desktop PC - Intel CherryTrail T3 Z8300 Quad-Core, 1.44 GHz (up to 1.84 GHz) 2GB RAM+32GB storage) Byte Plus (Fanless Windows 10 Home (64 bit) Mini Desktop PC - Intel CherryTrail T3 Z8300 Quad-Core, 1.44 GHz (up to 1.84 GHz) 2GB RAM+32GB storage) Buy Now On Amazon

If you want a mini PC with a little more under the hood, this is a fantastic one to look at. It comes with a solid Intel Cherry Trail T3 Z8300 1.44 GHz Quad-Core processor, 2 GB RAM, and 32 GB of storage. You can also get a model with 4 GB of RAM for $20 more, and quite honestly, I would recommend springing for the extra memory. Doubling the RAM makes a big difference in performance. We gave it a glowing review, so it’s definitely a good device.


Aside from the obvious benefit of increased power, getting a bigger computer like this offers more flexibility for ports. You get HDMI, VGA, two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, and an Ethernet port. With a smaller stick PC like the others we’ll check out, you get just one or two USB and HDMI ports, leaving you to use adapters to hook up additional devices.

2. Intel Compute Stick

Intel Compute Stick CS125 Computer with Intel Atom x5 Processor and Windows 10 (BOXSTK1AW32SC),Black Intel Compute Stick CS125 Computer with Intel Atom x5 Processor and Windows 10 (BOXSTK1AW32SC),Black Buy Now On Amazon $157.97

When it comes to stick PCs, the Intel Compute is the name that always seems to pop up. It’s just a good little device that’ll handle basic computing tasks, and most importantly, it’ll play whatever video content you throw at it. It’s a bit less powerful than larger mini PCs, coming with a Quad-Core Intel Atom x5-Z8300 Processor, 2 GB RAM, and 32 GB of memory.

The power difference is pretty small, but again, you’re limited on ports, with the Compute stick featuring only two USB 2.0 ports. Still, if space is an issue, this will make a great gift that’ll make it easy for your student to watch whatever they want.


3. ASUS Chromebox

ASUS CHROMEBOX-M004U Desktop ASUS CHROMEBOX-M004U Desktop Buy Now On Amazon

Now, the Chromebox ASUS Chromebox M075U Review and Giveaway Read More shakes things up a bit, using Chrome OS instead of Windows 10. Its specs are similar; it has a 1.4 GHz Intel Celeron processor, 2 GB RAM, and 16 GB of internal storage. It also has an SD card slot, which opens up lots of potential expansion.

The negative here is that your student won’t be able to run Windows apps — no Office 10 New Microsoft Office 2016 Features to Increase Productivity Microsoft Office 2016 receives new features all the time. They are available first to Office Insiders and Office 365 subscribers. We show you the best new Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook features and how to... Read More , no VLC, and so on. Anything that can be done in Chrome (or with Chrome apps), will work, but it is a bit limited.

Fitness Tracker Gifts for College Students

The freshman 15 is real. Going away to school will almost always mean gaining weight 5 Reasons Working With Computers Is Bad For You & How to Stay Healthy Working on the computer may sound like the most relaxed job in the world, but it's quite the contrary. It's very tough on your body, which is not used to this modern type of work.... Read More . For some students, they gain more than 15 pounds. At the very least, getting students a fitness tracker lets them see how lazy they’re being. Hopefully, seeing that the only steps they took were to and from class will motivate them to get out there and get some exercise. (That is if their aunts and uncles asking why they got so fat over the holiday break weren’t motivation enough.)


4. Garmin Vivosmart HR+

Garmin vívosmart HR+ Regular Fit Activity Tracker - Black Garmin vívosmart HR+ Regular Fit Activity Tracker - Black Buy Now On Amazon $124.18

When it comes to fitness trackers Is Your Fitness Tracker Putting Your Security At Risk? Is your fitness tracker secure? A technical report highlighted a series of serious security flaws in their designs, theoretically allowing potential attackers to intercept your personal data. What are the risks? Read More , this one is king. Every review, whether from professionals or buyers, seems to rate it positively. It has all the goodies — GPS tracking, running data, heart rate monitoring, and sleep tracking. It also comes with smart watch features, so your student can keep up with their texts, emails, and social media without pulling their phone out during class These 10 Distractions Are Crushing Your Productivity No one can escape the distractions of doom! Read More .

5. Fitbit Charge 2

Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate + Fitness Wristband, Black, Small (US Version), 1 Count Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate + Fitness Wristband, Black, Small (US Version), 1 Count Buy Now On Amazon $139.98

Over on the Fitbit Take Your Exercise Routine to the Next Level With Fitbit and IFTTT Here, we'll dig deeper into the many ways that Fitbit and IFTTT can work together to make your life better. Read More side of the equation, there’s the newer Charge 2, which has most of the same features as the Garmin, but it’s a bit cheaper. Choosing between the two is really going to come down to personal preference because there really isn’t one place in which one stands ahead of the other.


Game Console Gifts for College Students

A game console might seem counter to productivity for a student, and unless your kid is going to school to write about video games for (we’re actually hiring), it is. However, attending college is a social experience — and a tough one. Similar interests are a great way to bring people together, and video games can definitely be one of those interests.

I actually met my best friend in college because he had an Xbox 360 and I didn’t (this was launch time when they were impossible to find). His door was open; I walked in, got schooled at Tiger Woods, and we were friends from then on.

The point is, while video games certainly won’t help your student get more work done, they could help them make new friends, and that’s an important part of getting an education!

6. Xbox One S

Xbox One S 2TB Console - Launch Edition [Discontinued] Xbox One S 2TB Console - Launch Edition [Discontinued] Buy Now On Amazon $405.04

The Xbox One S is the newest console in the Xbox One line, featuring 4K upscaling and HDR. If you can find an original Xbox One, you might be able to save a few bucks, but the price difference on Amazon is basically nonexistent, so it just makes more sense to get the newer model, as it’ll be current longer and support new features should you get a new TV. Check out our review Xbox One S Gears of War 4 Limited Edition Review The big pitch behind the One S is support for 4K streaming and Blu-Ray, with HDR in games and movies. Can you tell the difference though, and is it worth the upgrade? Read More for all the information.

7. PS4 Pro

PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB Console PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB Console Buy Now On Amazon $449.99

With the PS4, you do actually have a choice to make, because the standard PS4 PS4 Pro & PS4 Slim: Are They Worth the Money? Sony has announced their new PS4 Pro and PS4 Slim! But are either of them worth the money? Here are all the details you need to know! Read More is $100 cheaper than the Pro. That’s because, unlike the Xbox One S, the PS4 Pro is actually more powerful than original. That means that even if you’re using a 1080p TV, games will still look better (or at least, they’re supposed to — there’s been some issues at launch).

Because we mentioned getting the console as a bridge to new friends, getting the newest one could make your student’s dorm a bit more desirable. Money doesn’t buy friendship, but it certainly can break the ice. Plus, you’re getting a more future-proof console with 4K and HDR Should You Buy an HDR 4K TV for Gaming? With console compatibility with 4K & HDR becoming more common, should you buy an HDR 4K television for gaming yet? Here's an overview of how HDR 4K TVs currently work with gaming. Read More , which is always nice.

8. Nintendo NES Classic

I almost feel bad including this because it’s basically impossible to find, but if you manage to get one, this is a perfect gift. It’s $60 for 30 original NES games Get the Most Money When Selling Your Retro Gaming Machines Retro gaming systems can be worth a lot of money if you know how to sell them. Follows these tips to get the most money for yours. Read More with classics like Castlevania, Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3, Contra, Excitebike, and plenty more. Depending on the age of the student, you might tickle their nostalgia bone from their later childhood, or you might introduce them to a new world of games they’ve never experienced.

Backpack Gifts for College Students

“But Dave,” I hear you screaming at your monitor, “you promised us gifts we hadn’t thought of. Isn’t a backpack a little on the nose?”

Sure, a regular backpack that just carries stuff around is. These bags do much more than tote intoxicants. (Oops! I mean books.) A great pack lets the college student in your life charge their devices and carry around their video games. (Oops again! I meant school supplies!)

9. Tylt Energi+ Backpack

When I first wrote about techie backpacks for students The Best Backpacks for Techie Students What are the best backpacks for techie students? Some backpacks include power banks and solar chargers. Others have space for gaming equipment. The best depends on your budget. We've got six of the best! Read More , this was my favorite, and nothing has changed. I still use mine just about every day. It comes with a battery backup to keep devices charged, and it has cool channels for running cables and headphones through. It’s just a really nice backpack that’ll carry all of your student’s stuff while protecting their laptop, tablet, and other electronic devices. Plus, there are some smaller, more concealed compartments for… stuff.

10. MOS Pack

MOS Pack, The Backpack You Plug In to Charge Everything, Granite,, laptop, tablet, and phone pockets with cable management MOS Pack, The Backpack You Plug In to Charge Everything, Granite,, laptop, tablet, and phone pockets with cable management Buy Now On Amazon


The MOS Pack is packed with more chargers and gadgets than you’d ever think you could want. If you want to get a backpack for your student that’ll truly get their attention, this one is worth a look.

Other Gifts for College Students

Before you run to your local department store and grab the college student in your life something they’ll never wear, get them something a little different! Not only are these gifts a bit outside the box, but they’re all actually useful (even if in some small way) to their university experience!

Do you have any odd ideas for gifts to give a college student, or will you just give the ones you know a pair of jeans that went out of style in 1996? Let us know in the comments!

Explore more about: Gift Guide, Students.

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