10 student essentials to help you work and play

From laptops to dictaphones, organisation apps and even a game or two, here's all the tech any new student needs for university.

The schools have gone back, which means it’s universities’ turn next. If your children or grandchildren are heading off to uni for the first time, they’ll need a few things to help them cope on their own.

A decent laptop, a dictaphone for recording lectures and apps for getting organised, for example. Here we'll show you the best available. (They can supply their own paracetamol for the mornings after.)

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Work and play on one device: Microsoft Surface Book 2

Microsoft Surface Book 2

Does the modern student need a laptop or a tablet? This 15-inch device is both – its keyboard detaches for use in tablet mode, and it’s compatible with a stylus, so you can write on-screen as natural as anything. Perfect for scribbling notes or brainstorming ideas. Its 1TB hard drive has enough space for thousands of documents, not to mention films and music too, for when you need some downtime.

Around £2,900

Stay seen heading back from the library: Belkin Active Pro Backpack

Belkin Active Pro Backpack

Of course, you’ll need something to carry your shiny new laptop in. How about this backpack? It has a padded pocket to keep it safe, plus multiple storage pockets for pens, business cards, battery packs and more. It’s comfortable, thanks to the padded straps and back, and the reflective strips keep you visible for those late night treks back from the library. It has a water-resistant base too, to keep your belongings safe and dry should you put it down in the rain. Because this is Britain, after all.

Around £50

Focus on your studies: OmniFocus 3

Omnifocus 3

One of the greatest challenges university life brings is how to organise yourself. This app can help. It lets you create tasks and add tags to help organise yourself across projects. The Forecast view lets you see both tasks and your calendar events, so you know exactly what’s coming up in your day, and you can add tasks just by speaking. You’ll be prioritising like a pro in no time.

Free (for a trial, £39.99 for the Standard version, £59.99 for the Pro version)

Download it for iOS

Organise your to-do (and shopping) lists: Google Keep

Google Keep

If you fancy a completely free alternative to OmniFocus 3, check out Google Keep. It’s not quite as advanced, but it does let you create to do lists, colour code them and to ‘pin’ lists at the top of the page for easy reference. It’s simple to tick items off the list as you complete them, and you can add notes to Google Calendar, to remind you at a certain time or – and this is handy – when you reach a certain location. It’s also useful for shopping lists. Let's hope they consist of more than a Pot Noodle.


Download it for iOS, Android

Record your lectures word-for-word: Olympus DS-2500

Olympus DS-2500

This dictaphone charges by plugging into a USB port, either on a computer or a USB mains plug. That means no expensive batteries to keep replacing, and – as long as you’re organised and keep it juiced up – it won’t run out of battery at an inopportune moment. With this at your disposal, you’ll never miss a minute of a lecture.


Share lectures with absent friends: Dictaphone

Dictaphone app

Of course, if you don’t want a dedicated dictaphone, you could just use your phone to record your lectures. This app lets you share your recordings, which could well make you the most popular person on your course. And with your hands free to take notes, you can really take in the lecture, safe in the knowledge that every word is stored for posterity. Certainly beats trying to scribble down every word.


Download it for iOS, Android

Collaborate across projects: Evernote


Another app to help you get organised, Evernote lets you take notes and make to do lists, along with photos, images, web pages and even audio to bolster them. It even lets you scan documents too, which will be invaluable, especially if learning resources are scarce. If you’re working on a project, you can share notes with collaborators too, keeping everyone up to speed without having to be in the same room. We can taste that first-class degree already…


Download it for iOS, Android

Stop using your phone and knuckle down: Moment


Social networking is a great way of getting to know other people at university, but there comes a time to shut it down and get to work. And when that time comes, Moment is here to help. It tracks how much you use your phone or tablet, telling you which apps take up the most time. You can even set phone-free periods, during which if you try to use your phone, an annoying alarm will sound. Which is sure to deter anyone from using their phone in the library. The guaranteed way to get work done.


Download it for iOS

Digitise your documents: Scanner Pro

Scanner Pro

If you need to scan lecture notes, this is an invaluable addition to your smartphone arsenal. It detects borders, and corrects any distortion that may have occurred. The result? It looks like a pristine document, when actually it was a crumpled, dog-eared note at the bottom of your bag. It also removes shadows and corrects perspective for perfect legibility every time.


Download it for iOS

Relieve stress by shooting things: PUBG


This enormously popular battle royale game has lost none of its shine in the move to mobile. Because it’s not all work work work.


Download it for iOS, Android

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