The best student discounts we found for 2021

They say your college years are the best of your life. But they tend to leave out the part where you’re scrounging every dollar for textbooks, food and (if you’re lucky) the occasional weekend outing with friends. Money is tight when you’re a student, and that financial stress can be compounded by the reality of having to stay on top of your studies.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s student discounts. Many companies offer their products and services for less to those struggling through lectures, writing research papers and studying for finals. We’ve compiled a list of the best deals you can get on useful services, along with some things you’ll enjoy in your down time. Just keep in mind that most of these offers require you to prove your status as a student either by signing up with your .edu email address or providing some form of student identification.

Shopping

Amazon Prime Student

If you’re not piggybacking off of your parents’ Amazon Prime account, you can have the subscription for less while you’re in school. College students can get Prime Student for $6.50 per month or $60 per year, and it includes the same perks as a standard Prime membership including free two-day shipping, free same-day delivery in select areas, and access to the entire Prime Video library. Amazon also currently offers a six-month free trial, so you’ll pay even less during your first year.

Buy Prime Student at Amazon – $60 a year

Best Buy

While it doesn’t offer a specific student discount, Best Buy has Student Deals that you can sign up to receive. Aside from proving your student status, the only requirement is for you to be a My Best Buy member; that program is free to enroll in. We actually recommend that most people sign up for My Best Buy because some items, especially during site-wide sales, will be even cheaper for members. All student deals will appear in the Member Offers page in your account.

Sign up for Student Deals at Best Buy

Apple

Apple offers some deals to students and educators. This year in particular, Apple is throwing in a free pair of AirPods when you buy select Macs or iPads for college. You’ll get AirPods with the regular wired charging case free, or you can upgrade to AirPods with the wireless charging case for $40 more. Alternatively, you can get the AirPods Pro for $90 more. Apple knows how popular AirPods are and it clearly wants to sweeten the deal for students who have been thinking about getting a new computer before heading off to college.

The AirPods promotion also includes Apple education pricing on Macs and iPads. There isn’t a flat percentage rate across all products; the discounts are device dependent. For example, right now students can get a new MacBook Air M1 starting at $899, which is $100 less than the normal starting price (Amazon’s matching this price, too). The 13-inch MacBook Pro also starts off $100 cheaper and the new iPad Pros start at $749, or $50 cheaper than usual. These are decent savings if you must have a brand new Apple product, but those with tighter budgets should also consider Apple’s refurb program.

Shop Apple’s back-to-school promos

Samsung

Samsung offers up to 10 percent off most of its products to students and educators. The brand also has some decent offers like a “speed and storage” bundle that includes two Samsung drives for under $300. We’d recommend stretching that 10 percent discount as much as possible by using it on big-ticket items like a Samsung laptop or a Galaxy smartphone if you need one. Otherwise, Samsung has solid accessories like the Galaxy SmartTag and the Galaxy Watch Active 2.

Shop Samsung’s back-to-school promos

Microsoft

Microsoft also provides students and educators with up to 10 percent off its gadgets, including the already affordable Surface Go 2 and the Surface Headphones 2. And Microsoft’s online store doesn’t only sell Surface devices: You can also find Windows PCs from Lenovo, HP, Acer and others there at discounted prices.

Shop Microsoft’s back-to-school promos

Streaming

Spotify

Spotify Premium’s student plan gives you a lot for only $5 per month. Besides access to millions of songs, it also includes Hulu’s ad-supported plan and Showtime’s ad-free service. You’d spend roughly $27 a month if you paid for all three separately at their full prices, making this student offer one of the best you can get.

Buy Spotify Premium Student – $5 a month

Pandora

Pandora also offers students its Premium membership for $5 per month. Pandora’s offering doesn’t include any additional services, but you do get an ad-free experience, personalized music, unlimited skips and unlimited offline play.

Buy Pandora Premium Student- $5 a month

Apple Music

Apple also slashes 50 percent off its Apple Music subscription for students, bringing it down to $5 per month. The offer is available for up to 48 months so you can enjoy the rate for the entirety of your college experience. What’s more, the company bundles Apple TV+ in this student offer, so you can watch Apple originals like The Morning Show and See.

Buy Apple Music Student membership – $5 a month

Tidal

Tidal provides student discounts on both of its streaming services: Premium and Hi-Fi. Premium drops to $5 per month, down from $10, while Hi-Fi costs $10 per month, down from $20. This year, the company is offering a three-month free trial of either of its services to any new user through the end of August. Tidal is still often overshadowed by Spotify and Apple Music, but these discounts are a good way to give it a try without spending too much money.

Buy Tidal Student starting at $10 a month

Hulu

College students can sign up for Hulu’s ad-supported plan for only $2 per month. That’s $4 less than the normal price and a great deal considering all of the content that Hulu has to offer (think The Handmaid’s Tale, Grey’s Anatomy, Rick & Morty and more). Yes, you have to deal with commercials, but it’s a small price to pay to binge-watch shows like Brooklyn Nine Nine, which can provide a much-needed laugh when you’re drowning in coursework.

Buy Hulu (ad-supported) – $2 a month

YouTube

If you’re already spending a lot of time watching YouTube, you may have a better experience with YouTube Premium. The Student plan knocks nearly 50 percent off the price so you’ll pay $7 per month for ad-free video viewing, background play, video downloads and access to YouTube Premium Music. The latter is YouTube’s attempt at a Spotify/Apple Music competitor, but it has a long way to go before it can really hold a candle to those services. However, if you listen to most of your music via YouTube already, Premium could be your one-stop-shop for music and video streaming.

Buy YouTube Premium Student – $7 a month

Headspace

Being a student is stressful even in the best of times, but now it’s even more difficult to concentrate and find peace. Headspace is just one of many meditation and mindfulness apps available that can help with that, but it stands apart with a great student discount: $10 for the entire year, or $60 less than a normal annual membership. In addition to a large library of meditation lessons and routines to follow, Headspace recently added SleepCasts, a collection of soothing voices reading bedtime stories to help you fall asleep, as well as “mindful” workout routines.

Buy Headspace Student plan – $10 a year

Tools

Adobe Creative Cloud

You’re probably using Adobe products if you’re studying anything to do with digital art or design. Adobe CC is the industry standard in this space but the entire suite of programs is quite expensive at $53 per month. Thankfully, Adobe has education pricing for students that drops the entire creative suite to $20 per month for the first year. That includes the big programs like Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC along with Lightroom CC, Premiere Pro CC, Adobe XD and more.

After your first year, the monthly cost increases to $30 per month. While not ideal, it’s still more affordable for students than it is for industry professionals. If you’re not tied to Adobe programs, you might also consider Affinity Photo, Designer and Publisher apps from Serif ($50 each for the Mac or Windows versions), which compete with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

Buy Adobe CC – $20 a month

Ableton Live

Regardless of whether you’re studying music production, students can get 40 percent off Ableton Live Standard or Suite for as long as they are enrolled full-time. That brings Live 11 Standard down to $269 and Suite down to $449 — great discounts on some of the best music software available right now.

Buy Ableton Live starting at $269

Microsoft 365

Many students have to use Microsoft 365 tools on a regular basis. If your college or university doesn’t provide you with an account, you can still get Microsoft 365 for free by taking advantage of the company’s student and educator discount. This gives you access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and even Microsoft Teams free of charge, which is a great deal considering an annual subscription costs $100.

Get Microsoft 365

Ulysses

Spending all day and night writing papers is even more frustrating when you don’t have all your writing organized in one place. Ulysses is a popular writing app for mac/iOS that can be used for note taking as well as thesis writing, with features like auto-save and auto-backup, word-count writing goals, markup, plain text support and DropBox integration. Normally, Ulysses costs $40 per year but students can get it for only $11 every six months, or $22 per year. There isn’t a direct alternative for Windows users, but you do have options including Scrivener (a one-time student price of $41.65), IA Writer (a $20 one-time price) and FocusWriter (free and open-source).

Buy Ulysses – $22 a year

Evernote

Evernote can be an indispensable tool if you like to keep all of your thoughts in one place — everything from class notes to web clippings to to-do lists. Students can get half off one year of Evernote Premium, which brings the price down to $4 per month or $48 for the year. Premium is the way to go if you’re investing in Evernote because it syncs your notes across unlimited devices, gives you offline access, lets you annotate PDFs and search saved documents.

Buy Evernote Premium (1 year) – $4 a month

Squarespace Student plan

Whether you’re itching to get a jump-start on your portfolio or just want an online space for to show off your work, Squarespace is a good option as it gives students a 50 percent discount on any of its annual plans. The most affordable option will cost $72 for the year, which is half the normal yearly price of $144. Squarespace is one of many website builders out there, but it’s particularly popular with creative professionals. Its customizable templates make it easy to build a website and make it look exactly how you want it. Plus, you can upgrade down the line to add things like website analytics, custom JavaScript and CSS and e-commerce.

Buy Squarespace starting at $72 a year

News

It’s always been important to keep up with the news, but it’s never been more important than it is now. Yes, it’s daunting sometimes and we don’t expect (or encourage) you to inhale every breaking-news headline as it’s published. However, it’s crucial to know what’s going on in the country and the world as a whole. Here are some reputable news organizations that offer student discounts on their monthly or annual subscription plans.

The Atlantic: Starts at $25 per year for digital-only access.

The New York Times: $4 every four weeks for a base subscription.

The Washington Post: $5 every four weeks for digital-only access.

The Wall Street Journal: Starting at $4 per month for the Student Digital Pack.

The best laptops for college students

We’re all contending with a return to normalcy, and going back to school likely feels strange yet exciting. Whether you’re heading to a physical campus, taking classes online or a mix of both, a laptop is sure to be the control center for your studies.

And things have changed quite a bit over the last year or so. We’ve seen the introduction of Apple’s M1-powered MacBooks, while Microsoft recently unveiled Windows 11. With ARM-based computers teasing a future where the line between mobile and desktop computing is blurry, and Windows 11 working to bridge that gap by supporting Android apps, the laptop market is the most exciting it’s been in years.

But that might lead to more questions for shoppers. What should you look out for if you want an ARM-based PC? Will they run Windows 11 when that update is available? What are some key specs you should add to your must-have list this year? We compiled this guide to help you make the right choice, alongside a list of this year’s best laptops.

What to look for in a laptop for school (and what to avoid)

First: Windows on ARM still isn’t worth it. Snapdragon laptops may look and feel sleek, offer excellent battery life and built-in cellular radios, but they’re typically quite expensive, especially considering their limited app compatibility and finicky software. Apple’s M1 MacBooks, on the other hand, are great for almost everyone, barring those who need external GPUs, niche software or more than 16GB of RAM.

Over on the Intel side of things, almost every notebook released this year packs an 11th-generation Core processor. You’ll likely be able to find a cheaper version of a product with a 10th-gen chip, and it should still serve you well. And don’t forget about AMD’s Ryzen chips, either — they’re plenty powerful and no longer just for the bargain bin. If you’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of Windows 11 devices, don’t expect to see them before the semester begins. They’re more likely to show up in the fall around Microsoft’s usual hardware event in October.

Across the industry, companies have shifted to taller aspect ratios for their screens. Surface Laptops sport 3:2 panels, while many Dell and HP models offer 16:10. While the older 16:9 format is nice for watching videos, you’ll probably appreciate a taller format when you’re writing an essay. Some devices, like Dell’s XPS and Samsung’s Galaxy Book Pro, come with OLED panels, which will be nice for working with photos and videos. They usually cost more and take a toll on battery life, though, so you’ll need to weigh your priorities.

Fortunately, there’s a diverse selection of laptops around, so you should be able to find a suitable one regardless of your preferences. Here are our favorite notebooks for your return to schoolwork.

Apple MacBook Air M1

With its speedy performance, slim fanless design and excellent battery life, the MacBook Air M1 is a no-brainer for any Apple user. You’ll appreciate familiar features like a Retina display, comfortable keyboard and reliable trackpad. Plus, thanks to the company’s excellent Rosetta 2 emulator software, you won’t notice a huge performance difference when relying on Intel apps.

The big news, though, is that the ARM-based M1 allows the laptop to run iPhone and iPad apps too. While not every app will be available on macOS, the potential for more options on your desktop here is great. Now you just have to make sure you can keep the distractions at bay — which should be easy with the upcoming Focus modes on macOS Monterey, arriving in its final form later this year.

Unfortunately for those looking for more internal storage or something to run their bespoke video streaming setup, pre-fab MacBook Air M1 laptops top out at 512GB storage (although you can pay extra for up to 2TB) while the Pro M1 only supports up to 16GB of RAM. The MacBook Pro M1 also lacks support for multiple monitors and an external GPU. Those with more demanding workflows might need to look to Windows or an Intel-powered MacBook to ensure app compatibility.

Buy MacBook Air M1 at Amazon – $999

Dell XPS 13

Dell’s XPS series has been an Engadget favorite for years. Despite a somewhat plain design that some might call “classic,” the XPS 13 still stands out for nailing pretty much everything that matters. Great performance? Check. Gorgeous screen? Yes. Comfortable keyboard? Yep. Throw in a long-lasting battery and a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports in the latest versions, and you’ve got a powerful workhorse for all your classes (and more).

The company shifted to a 16:10 aspect ratio in 2020, and recently added a 4K OLED option. That means you’ll see greater contrast ratios and deeper blacks for maximum display goodness. The OLED configuration will cost you $300 more than the Full HD LCD option, but those who want the best viewing experience may not mind the premium. We also recommend you spend a little more and get at least the Core i3 model with 8GB of RAM instead of the meager 4GB that the base model offers.

Buy XPS 13 at Dell – $930

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

If you’re looking for an excellent typing experience, look no further than the Surface Laptop 4. Microsoft has been killing it with its recent Surface Laptops keyboards, and this one is no exception. Though they’re not as deep and springy as ThinkPads, the buttons here are super responsive and offer ample travel. The roomy trackpad is solid, too.

Of course, it’s important that the Surface Laptop 4 deliver on everything else, or we wouldn’t recommend it. The 15-inch version that we tested offered breezy performance, respectable battery life and a lovely 3:2 Pixelsense screen that supports Microsoft’s Surface Pen input. Though its design is a little staid, the Surface Laptop 4 still has a clean, professional look and a luxurious aluminum case that’s sturdy enough to withstand being stuffed in your backpack on the regular. Plus, at 3.4 pounds, it won’t burden your shoulders much.

The best thing about the Surface Laptop 4 is that the base model, which comes equipped with AMD’s Ryzen 5 processor and 8GB of RAM, starts at $1,000. That rivals the Dell XPS 13, making it a better buy for the value conscious; you get more screen, more power and more RAM for the money. Both the Surface and the XPS are great options, but the latter offers an OLED panel and thinner bezels that make it look more modern.

Buy Surface Laptop 4 at Microsoft – $999

Samsung Galaxy Book Pro

For those whose priority is a lightweight design, the Galaxy Book Pro series should be at the top of your list. At just 2.36 pounds for the clamshell and 3.06 pounds for the convertible model, the 15-inch Galaxy Book Pro is one of the lightest 15-inch laptops around. It’s also super thin at 0.46 inches thick, and despite its compact size it manages to house three USB-C ports (one of them supporting Thunderbolt 4), a microSD card reader and a headphone jack.

It also packs an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and at least 8GB of RAM, along with a 68Whr battery that delivers a similar runtime to the Dell XPS 13 and Surface Laptop 4. That’s particularly impressive given the Galaxy Book Pro has a Super AMOLED screen, which offers sumptuous image quality, high contrast ratio and deep blacks. Unfortunately, Samsung is still stuck on a 16:9 screen format, which will feel outdated in a year or two, but is hardly a dealbreaker.

The Galaxy Book Pro’s keyboard isn’t as comfortable as the Surface Laptop 4’s but it’s pleasant enough, and the trackpad is enormous. We’re more concerned about the odd webcam software that makes you look dark and splotchy, so if looking your best on video calls is of concern you might want to consider something else. Plus, the $1,100 base model comes with an Intel Core i5 chip, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, making it a competitive offering against the Dell and Surface laptops. Awful camera aside, there’s plenty to love about the Galaxy Book Pro, especially for those looking to lighten their loads.

Buy Galaxy Book Pro at Samsung – $999

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

If you’re considering saving a few hundred bucks by opting for Chrome OS, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 might be the right choice. Sure, there are cheaper Chromebooks out there, but it’s one of few machines with a 3:2 aspect ratio and has a utilitarian design that makes it perfect for butterfingers.

That price also gets you an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and sturdy 360-degree hinge so you can set it up in a variety of modes. The 13.5-inch screen is also more pixel-dense than most 1080p displays of the same size. Though the Spin 713 only clocked about 8 hours on our battery test, that’s enough to get you through a work day. If $700 feels too expensive for a Chromebook, you could also wait till it inevitably goes on sale to save a bit more. There are sleeker, more powerful Chromebooks available, but Acer’s Spin 713 offers a good mix of performance and a modern screen for the money.

Buy Acer Chromebook Spin 713 at Best Buy – $700

Acer Aspire 5

If price is your utmost concern, we recommend the Acer Aspire 5. It’s a 15-inch Windows laptop with an AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage that costs between $400 and $450. Yes, that’s less memory than anything else on this list, but it also costs much less than any of our non-Chromebook suggestions.

There’s plenty of ports here — including an Ethernet socket — and the aluminum chassis should make this laptop feel more expensive than it is. You’ll also appreciate its reliable performance, comfortable keyboard and 1080p display. For the price, the Aspire 5 offers everything you need to get through the school day, making it a great bargain.

Buy Aspire 5 at Acer starting at $399

The best accessories for your new iPad

Accessories will be key whether you’re turning your new iPad into a laptop replacement or just trying to protect it against daily-life hazards. It’s tempting to turn to Apple’s own accessories — and in some cases, you should — but there’s a slew of alternatives that work just as well and are often more affordable. We tested out a bunch of cases, keyboards, styli and other miscellany to see which iPad accessories are worth buying.

Cases and stands

Otterbox Symmetry Case for iPad Pro
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

I’ve always been that person who takes her new smartphone or tablet out of the box and immediately puts it in a case. While some detest hiding the true form of their new gear, it’s undeniable that cases provide protection for probably the most expensive tech you own. Apple’s Smart Covers for its various iPads are fine, but they’re overpriced and most of them don’t give your iPad any edge protection. Similar alternatives abound, some of which do surround the edges of an iPad. I’ve found ProCase and MoKo make some of the best — even better, they cost a fraction of what Apple’s Smart Cover costs.

If you’re willing to spend a bit more on a case, get something that combines protection and style. Otterbox is an expert when it comes to protection, but its Symmetry Series 360 series shows that it also has the design chops. Symmetry cases look similar to the Smart Cover, but the clear, scratch-resistant back is sturdy without adding a lot of weight to the iPad and the edge protection is substantial. I also like the extra flap Otterbox added that keeps the screen cover closed and holds the second-generation Apple Pencil to the side of the iPad Pros. Symmetry Series 360 cases are available for most new iPads, and while they’re expensive at $90, they’re worth it if you want a great balance of protection and style.

Buy Otterbox Symmetry 360 case at Amazon – $55

ProCase Leather Folio case for iPad Pro
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

A more affordable alternative is ProCase’s Leather Folio. While ProCase isn’t as well known for protection as Otterbox is, this model has a flexible plastic interior that wraps around most of the iPad’s edges to keep it secure. The lining also surrounds the second-gen Apple Pencil while it magnetically charges against the new iPad Pros, making it one of the more secure cases for those that have the Pencil.

Leather folios will appeal to a certain type of person. I didn’t think I was that person — until I tried this case. Not only is it attractive, but it’s practical. It has a pocket on the front flap, three notches on which to prop up the iPad at different viewing angles and an elastic strap that can either keep the folio closed or hold the front flap against the back of the iPad while you’re using it. It’s definitely worth its $18 list price for those that want a case that’s just as practical as it is professional.

All of the cases we like prop up your iPad in some way, but they aren’t the best if you want the device at a comfortable eye level. You’ll want a dedicated tablet stand for that, and there are several out there that let you adjust height, angle and more. Anozer’s foldable tablet stand is a good option if you’re often on the go. It’s heavier than other stands at one pound and it can be folded (mostly) flat so you can easily throw it in your backpack. While it’s best suited for 7- to 13-inch tablets, it can support certain smartphones, too (or you could get the company’s dedicated smartphone stand instead).

If you’re willing to sacrifice flexibility for something more elegant, Elago’s P2 stand for iPad may be a good fit. It’s made of a single piece of aluminum with a ledge for your iPad and a few well-placed cutouts that you can snake a charging cable through. The ledge is also wide enough to accommodate most iPad cases. It may not be foldable or adjustable, but its minimalist design will make it an attractive addition to your desk.

Buy ProCase Leather Folio at Amazon – $17Buy Anozer tablet stand at Amazon – $15Buy Elago P2 stand at Amazon – $20

Keyboards

Zagg Slim Book Go for iPad Pro

There are two types of people that seek out keyboards for their iPads: those who want something more comfortable than the on-screen keyboard for banging out the occasional email, and those that plan to use their iPad as a fully-fledged laptop. If you’re part of the first crowd, there are tons of inexpensive Bluetooth keyboards that will do the trick.

I’m partial to Logitech’s Keys to Go, an ultra-slim keyboard that almost disappears in your bag. It’s without a doubt one of the most portable Bluetooth keyboards you’ll find and it’s fairly comfortable to type on. Yes, the keys have little travel and a bubbly feel to them, but they’ll let you compose a quick email or respond to a message on Facebook much more easily than you could with the touchscreen. I also like that its wipeable fabric prevents spills and dirt from getting inside the keyboard. Plus, at around $60-$70, it won’t break the bank.

If you fall into that second category of shopper, there are even more options for you. The most luxurious comes from Apple itself in the Magic Keyboard. The $300 case magnetically attaches to the new iPad Pros and keeps them “floating” above the keyboard and trackpad. We praised the Magic Keyboard for its typing comfort and precise trackpad, but docked it for its limited range of motion. It’s easily the fanciest keyboard available for the iPad Pros and it’s one to consider if money is no object — or if you want the most stylish (and arguably most comfortable) keyboard money can buy.

Buy Keys to Go at Amazon – $70Buy Magic Keyboard at Amazon – $290

Logitech Slim Folio Pro for iPad Pro
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

But as far as protection goes, the Magic Keyboard provides basically as much as Apple’s Smart Cover (which isn’t much). If you need something a bit more durable (and don’t want to spend $300), Zagg’s $30 Slim Book Go could do the trick. It’ll keep your entire setup pretty sleek as its name suggests, and it’s even thinner than the $130 Logitech Slim Folio Pro. The latter case may be on the thick side, but it has a well laid-out keyboard and a secure flap that holds the Apple Pencil against your tablet.

If you want something that combines durability with style, we like Logitech’s $160 Folio Touch keyboard case. Its exterior is made of a tweed-like fabric, so it will blend in better with your briefcase or work bag. It’s also fairly slim and has a similar Apple Pencil-friendly flap that closes the whole thing shut. Plus, the keyboard is joined by a small yet useful trackpad, so you can truly use your iPad as if it were a laptop.

Buy Zagg Slim Book Go at Amazon – $30Buy Logitech Slim Folio Pro at Amazon – $130Buy Logitech Folio Touch at Amazon – $160

Stylus and screen protectors

Apple Pencil 2nd generation

This likely won’t come as a surprise, but the Apple Pencil is the best stylus you can get for the iPad. Both the first- and second-generation Pencils are designed to work specifically with iPads and it shows in their seamless writing performance. The second-gen stylus has a double-tap feature that you can customize to a certain degree, and pressure-sensitivity allows you to add as much or as little detail as you want to digital artwork. I highly recommend shelling out $100 or $130 for the Apple Pencil if you’re an artist — you won’t be disappointed.

But there are other options, too. Logitech’s Crayon is more affordable at $70 and it has arguably a better grip than either Apple Pencil. It’s just as good in terms of latency and accuracy — drawing in Procreate was a lag-free experience and my strokes always ended up exactly where I wanted them to be.

Buy Apple Pencil (1st gen) at Amazon – $95Buy Apple Pencil (2nd gen) at Amazon – $125Buy Logitech Crayon at Amazon – $70

Logitech Crayon stylus
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

But as someone who primarily uses an Apple Pencil for digital art, I missed pressure sensitivity when using the Crayon. Aside from that, the other biggest annoyance is that you have to use a Lightning or USB-C cable to charge it (even the newest model for the iPad Pros doesn’t magnetically attach to the tablet for charging). While I wouldn’t recommend the Crayon for serious artists, I would recommend it for anyone who’s on a strict budget, especially digital journal-keepers, hardcore note-takers and the like.

If you’re a heavy user of the Apple Pencil or some other stylus, you should consider getting a screen protector for your iPad. They pull double-duty: not only do they act as a first line of defense if your iPad goes careening onto the concrete, but they can also enhance the digital drawing and writing experience. Using a stylus on an iPad is strange at first because gliding the stylus nib over a glass surface feels nothing like “normal” writing. Matte screen protectors can get closer to replicating the pen-on-paper experience, and they also prevent the stylus nib from wearing down so quickly. Paperlike is the most popular in this space, but Bersem’s screen protectors are a great value at $14 for a pack of two. Not only does the matte finish help when you’re drawing or taking digital notes, but it also reduces screen glare and doesn’t interfere with FaceID on the newest iPads.

Buy Paperlike screen protector starting at $40Buy Bersem screen protectors (2 pack) at Amazon – $14

Hubs and adapters

Satechi iPad dock
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

If you plan on pushing your iPad Pro to its limits as a daily driver, you’ll probably need more than the tablet’s single USB-C port. Apple has provided little guidance to which USB-C hubs and adapters work best with the iPad Pros — there’s no MFi certification for accessories like this yet. Some hubs specifically advertise that they work with the newest iPad Pros, and if you want to be extra safe, I recommend buying one of those that comes from a reputable brand.

A newcomer in this space is Satechi’s $100 aluminum stand and hub, a foldable rectangle that cradles your iPad and provides a bunch of useful ports and charging capabilities. The holder itself rotates outward, revealing a hidden, attached USB-C cable and a rubber bumper that keeps the stand in place in your desk. On the back edge are a 4K HDMI socket, one USB-A port, a headphone jack, both SD and microSD card slots and a 60W USB-C connection for charging.

I liked the versatility of Satechi’s hub. I could easily use it when I needed to prop my iPad up to watch a YouTube video, and by just plugging in the attached cable, I could switch to using my iPad as more of a work device with all of the necessary connectors in place. It’s also surprisingly light at 10 ounces. Combine that with its foldable design and you have a full-featured hub that can easily be stuffed in a bag.

Buy Satechi stand and hub at Amazon – $100

HyperDrive USB-C adapter for iPad Pro

Another popular option is HyperDrive’s USB-C adapter. I’ll admit I was skeptical about this one, mostly because so many Amazon reviewers and YouTube personalities have raved about it (and I have a hard time believing a six-port adapter the size of a lighter should cost $90). However, after testing it out, I can say it delivers on its promises: t’s a neat little adapter that’s just large enough to fit an HDMI socket, a USB-C port, a USB-A connection, micro- and regular SD card slots and a headphone jack on its edges. That should cover most things you’d need an adapter for, save for hardwired internet.

However, what sets the HyperDrive USB-C adapter apart is that it comes with a tool kit that gives you more flexibility in how you use it. The default plate that surrounds the USB-C plug fits iPads without screen protectors, but there’s an included plate that accommodates screen protectors. HyperDrive even included a third plate with a dongle-like attachment so the adapter doesn’t have to sit right up against the iPad. All you need to do is use the tiny screwdriver that’s in the box to switch out the plates.

I think that somewhat justifies its $90 asking price. So many adapters that hug the iPad Pro’s edges are slick but they become basically unusable if you have a case, skin or screen protector.

Buy USB-C adapter at HyperDrive – $90

Anker USB-C hub
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

But $90 for an adapter is still a lot of money and I’d only recommend spending that much if you plan on using the iPad Pro as your daily driver. A cheaper alternative is Anker’s 5-in-1 USB-C adapter: It works just as well as HyperDrive’s; has most of the same ports, with the exception of an extra USB-C port and a headphone jack; and costs only $26.

You could use any of these adapters to connect an external drive to your iPad for more space. We’re fans of Samsung’s T7 series and SanDisk’s Extreme drives for those that want a good amount of extra storage in a fairly durable yet pocketable gadget. If you’d prefer something even more portable, SanDisk’s Dual Drive Luxe flash drive is a good option because it can plug right into your iPad’s USB-C port, it’s available in up to a 1TB capacity and it’s small enough to attach to your keys.

Buy Anker 5-in-1 adapter at Amazon – $30Buy Samsung T7 drive at Amazon – $80Buy SanDisk Extreme drive at Amazon – $85Buy SanDisk Dual Drive Luxe at Amazon – $50

Chargers and power

Anker Nano II 45W charger
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

A battery pack or an extra charger is important to have in your bag regardless of where you’re going. RavPower’s 26,800mAh power bank can charge iPad Pros 1.5 times using its 30W USB-C PD port. It also works with the newest MacBook Pros and other USB-C laptops in addition to the Nintendo Switch — so it can be your one-stop-shop for all your charging needs. I also appreciate that it comes with its own USB-C to C cable, so you don’t need to remember to bring one with you, as well as the micro-USB cable used to charge the power bank itself.

RavPower’s PD charger will set you back $60, but you can opt for the $50 Anker Powercore Essential PD charger if you want to spend a bit less. Its 20,000mAh capacity will provide at least 50 percent more juice to most iPads. It’s not ideal for larger devices like laptops, but it works well with smartphones and tablets.

You also don’t want to rely solely on the charging adapter that came with your iPad; it’s handy to have a backup. Anker’s new line of GaN II chargers has a couple of good options, and arguably the best for most people is the 45W Nano II. It’s the midrange adapter in the lineup and it can power up a 2020 11-inch iPad Pro up to 30 percent faster than Apple’s default adapter. In just a half hour of charging, I got about a 33 percent boost in battery life on my 11-inch iPad Pro. Anker’s device is also smaller than Apple’s and it has a foldable design, so it’ll fit better in cramped spaces and it’ll be easier to throw in a travel bag.

Buy RavPower 26,800 power bank at RavPower – $60Buy Anker 20,000 power bank at Amazon – $50Buy Anker Nano II 45W GaN charger at Amazon – $36

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