As a budding college student, you’re going to spend massive amounts of time at your desk. I know, I know, we’re not supposed to talk about that. I’m supposed to tell you about all the parties, the booze, the great friends you’ll make, the beautiful women you’ll meet. Between all that, though, is the very real fact that either you or your parents are paying big sums of money for you to get an education. So why not get one in style?
This edition of Pimp Your Dorm Room focuses on that haven of study (and perhaps the occasional video game), to help you create a space where you can get in, get your work done, and get on to the other parts of college there are to enjoy.
This one word is probably the single most important word for your studies over the next four years. You need a laptop. Forget the desktop gaming days, or maybe you can have both, but at the very least you should invest in a good laptop. I would highly recommend the new Macbook Pro.
Since lowering prices, Apple has made the Macbook Pro an affordable, entry-level machine that has enough power to last you a few years. The 13-inch model starts at $1199, but you can knock that down $100 with an education discount and even nab yourself a free iPod Touch. The operating system is robust, and OS X viruses are still few enough that you shouldn’t see too many problems in the near future. If this is your first Mac, you can even take a free course at a nearby Apple store to help you get acclimated. Simple features like the backlit keyboard and automatic screen dimming will come in particularly handy when your roommate wants to sleep and you need to get some things done.
Option: Microsoft Office – Office is still the standard on most campuses, and the software with which most people are familiar for word processing, spreadsheet work, and creating presentations. Wait until you’re on campus, though, before buying. MS runs some pretty nice deals on certain campuses that could save you hundreds.
Here’s an item I would again recommend for those times your roommate might be sleeping or someone’s hosting a loud party (one you’ll hopefully be a part of when you finish your work) and you need to finish a paper. Noise-canceling headphones are a godsend, allowing you to focus on your work without interruption and without annoying anyone else.
We just ran a review on the able planet Clear Harmony NC1000CH headphones, which sport some of the best noise reduction (18dB!) in the industry. Granted, they aren’t as high profile as something like a Bose Quiet Comfort, but they’re easily as good, better if you run out of batteries. Tiger Direct has them for $249.99. Trust me, they’re worth every penny. The NC1000CH comes with a case so you can store your phones safely while you’re away.
You could also consider Shure’s new over the ear headphones, the SRH840. These are the top of the line model for Shure’s newest endeavor. They feature a 5 Hz – 25 kHz frequency range and will run you $199 at most places. Noise-canceling is out, though, so I’d stick with the able planet’s, unless you want a different look.
You’ve spent a lot of money on your laptop, now it’s time to protect the thing. Please, if you do one thing from this guide, don’t skimp on your bag. You need that computer to last, so invest in some decent protection.
I’m a big fan of Booq bags. They are a little on the pricey side, but they’re functional, stylish, and offer excellent protection. The Booq Boa Nerve S is perfect for your lappy and a few books, plus plenty of pockets for your extra accessories. The bag includes a removable, padded laptop sleeve with a velcro close, so your most important piece of electronic equipment is safe, even on a short walk to the library. The bag will run you $129.95 straight from Booq. As a new model it doesn’t ship until August 10th. You may want to consider sending it to your dorm.
Portable Hard Drive
Portable is key, here, because chances are, you’ll want that thing with you at some point. Why struggle with a big drive when you could have something small, fast, and reliable for a fairly reasonable price? Remember, don’t just back up to this drive. Make some opticals from time to time and save yourself a little heartache down the road.
I’ve been relatively pleased with the Seagate FreeAgent Go. You can get a 500GB drive from almost anywhere for under $120. The physical drive is small, small enough to fit in your new Booq bag in fact, but fast enough to make a quick backup or transfer should you need to. Unless you’re one of those freaks with hundreds of gigs of music (and let’s be honest, those people are either freaks or they’re DJs), 500GB will be plenty of space for your basic college materials.
Consider a larger, less portable drive if you’re going to school for any type of serious digital photography, video editing, or music editing. Those files stack up fast, and you’ll want to have some extra space.
This is a much more personal recommendation than true commandment for the college student. I like a well-lit workspace, and again, I like to be conscientious of the people I live with. Get yourself a decent desk lamp and you can pull the occasional all-nighter without ruining your eyes or burning your hand every time you adjust the thing.
The Z-Bar Desk Lamp is the front runner for my tastes. It’s sleek, modern, and loaded with six ultra-bright LEDs for daytime use. Come nighttime, the Z-Bar sports a 4-level dimmer to bring the light down to appropriate levels. One of the biggest advantages of LEDs is that they run extremely cool, so you won’t be sweating as you try to make it through T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland at 4 in the morning. At $170 it’s a splurge. Most department stores have some sort of LED lamp or halogen selection that will be bright, but may run a little hot. If you have the cash, get a Z-Bar.
For myself, I’d nab one of these incredible Star Wars thumb drives. You might have a stylish bag, the best desk lamp on the hall, tout your Mac pride, or even be the most well prepared nerd in the event of a hard drive failure. Without some kitschy geek swag, though, you’re nothing. Show some pride. Indulge yourself.
Check back tomorrow for Pimp Your Dorm Room Part II: Entertainment. What dorm is complete without the sounds of Halo ringing down the halls?
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