Our back-to-school guide wouldn't be complete without a section on dorm living. After all, you're going to be spending a lot of the year there (though hopefully not too much time). To really trick out a dorm room in 2019, we needed to focus on both comfort and convenience. Oh, and space savings, too. We think smart displays make a lot of sense, given how versatile they are. In particular, we opted for products that use Google Assistant over Amazon's Alexa because we think most people already tend to use Google for most services. We also suggested cooking gear that would be allowed in most dorms, including an electric kettle and the multifunctional Instant Pot. And to brighten up your new place a bit, we've also listed a couple different lighting options. From a high-tech smart clock to a basic coffee dripper, we think this is a solid shortlist for making your tiny abode feel like home away from home.
Black+Decker Dustbuster AdvancedClean+
It might not be top of mind what with the daily stresses of college life, but a tidy dorm room is also key to keeping your mind clear of clutter. One of the easiest ways to clean up your filthy dorm room is to use a handheld vacuum. The Dustbuster AdvancedClean+ model is a great example of one, thanks to its extra-large bin and a battery indicator, plus a washable filter so you can keep it clean as well. No, it won't wash your laundry for you, but it will keep your linens and floors clear of crumbs and debris. -- Nicole Lee, Senior Editor
Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp Cordless Kettle
Whatever your morning drink of choice, an electric kettle makes it that much easier to get hot water at the ready. The Cuisinart CPK-17 is especially valuable to tea snobs, as it also has preset temperature buttons that are ideal for certain varieties of tea -- water just off the boil for black tea and a few degrees below that for the perfect cup of green. Or if you prefer, you can use the water to heat up a cup of instant ramen during late-night study sessions. The CPK-17 comes highly recommended from our friends at Wirecutter as well, so you know this is a model worth looking at. -- N.L.
Google Nest Hub
Having Google Assistant at your beck and call is great, but what's even better is having it in a smart display like Google's Nest Hub. It shows you helpful info like the weather forecast and search results, and it's also great for watching YouTube videos and reminding you when your homework is due. Thanks to Google Photos, the Nest Hub is especially great as a digital photo frame, presenting rotating photos of family and friends to help keep your studies in perspective. Amazon's Echo Show may have pioneered this category, but the Nest Hub's superior integration with the Google services you likely already use makes it a lot more useful. Plus, the Nest Hub doesn't have a camera, which should lay some privacy concerns to rest.
Hario V60 Ceramic Coffee Dropper
In-dorm coffee machines are an invitation for disaster. When they're not being stolen, broken or thrown up into during floor parties, they're causing fires because you forgot to turn the heater off. Or worse, they're being misappropriated by your roommate to make homebrew grain alcohol based off a recipe they found on the internet. So instead of spending triple digits on something that likely won't survive the semester, consider Hario's V60 Ceramic Coffee Dripper instead. It's a ceramic funnel that sits atop your coffee cup. Pop a paper filter in and some grounds, pour hot water over them, and boom -- hot bean juice. This thing costs $20 on Amazon, is easy to use and clean, doesn't rely on environment-killing pods, and provides English majors with the valuable real-world work experience they'll need upon graduation. -- Andrew Tarantola, Senior Editor
Instant Pot Duo Mini
If you're fortunate enough to have a little cooking space in your dorm or apartment, then we highly recommend getting an Instant Pot. (It's probably allowed in most dorms but check to make sure.) It combines a lot of appliances in a single machine: You can saute and steam in it, and it also functions as a rice cooker, a slow cooker and a pressure cooker. Whether you're using it to whip up mac and cheese or a good, hearty chili, the Instant Pot can do it for you quickly and easily. If you're short on space or just cooking for yourself, the Duo Mini is a good and affordable choice. And if you're not entirely sure what to do with your brand-new kitchen gadget, check out our guide on getting started with the Instant Pot. -- N.L.
Lenovo Smart Clock
The Lenovo Smart Clock is smarter than the average alarm clock. It not only has Google Assistant integration but also a ton of helpful features... as a clock. You can change its clock face, smack the top of it to snooze and set a sunrise alarm that brightens up the screen to help you wake up more gradually. Since it's tied to your Google Calendar, the Smart Clock will also suggest various alarms, so you never have to miss another appointment. That's great for when you have that 8 AM Biology 101 class every Tuesday and Thursday. There's no camera on here as well, so you can also rest easy having this by your bedside. -- N.L.
LIFX Mini Day & Dusk
Depending on your setup, having a smart bulb in your life could be a big problem solver or at least a pleasurable convenience. Have a lamp with a hard-to-reach step switch or your dirty clothes blocking the path? These bulbs alleviate that with voice control, a mobile app and timers. Plus you get ad-hoc dimming for any fixture. LIFX offers an approachable WiFi-connected product that doesn't require a hub like some other brands, and it's simple to set up too. If you're like us, you'll avoid the avalanche of color options and stick with the warmth of the LIFX Mini Day & Dusk. This offers deep red tones up to a bright 4,000K, providing some color range, and can even adjust warmth automatically as day falls to night and vice versa.
If you're feeling lazy -- studying is hard, we know -- smart speakers with voice controls are a treat. When it's time to set the mood for a film screening, you can quickly toggle into movie mode with a phrase or a tap on the app. Turning on lights when you walk in the door couldn't be easier, even with your hands full. Don't worry about support here either: LIFX has you covered with Alexa, HomeKit, Google Home and Cortana for smart home integration. -- Jon Turi, Homepage Editor
Philips Hue Smart Lights
Whether you're living in a dorm, an apartment or still at your parents' house, you'll probably want to deck out the place with smart light bulbs. Just think about how great it's going to be when you can control the temperature or color of your lights with a smartphone, which is exactly what you can do with the Philips Hue. The two-bulb starter kit costs around $115 while the bundle with four lightbulbs is an overall better deal at about $140, and both come with the required hub that you'll need to connect to your WiFi.
While Philips does have its own Hue app, its smart light bulbs also work with Amazon's Alexa, Apple's HomeKit and Google's Assistant, letting you use your voice to control them. Aside from being able to tell Alexa to turn on or off your lights, you can also set up automation cues that power your Hue lights based on when you leave or get home. -- Edgar Alvarez, Senior Editor
TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp & Wireless Charger
If you only need a desk lamp, the comforting light of this $43 LED desk lamp will capably illuminate your work space. This lamp offers five lighting modes across seven brightness levels with a pivoting head that can be tilted and turned into nearly any direction. Best of all, it provides a 5V/1A USB charging port and a Qi wireless-charging pad, making it compatible with the last few generations of iPhones, along with the Samsung Galaxy, S9+, S8, S7 and Note 8, among others. -- A.T.