The best back-to-school tech for Aussie students

Acer Swift Go, Espon Printer, Fitbit Ace 3 and iPad 10.2-inch on a green background
(Image credit: Future)

With January in full swing, it won’t be long until the kids go back to school, and just like every other year, it’s a time that is stressful for both parents and students alike. To help ease that burden and make the transition back into study a little less overwhelming, we’ve tracked down the best back-to-school tech right here, so you don’t have to spend all summer searching for the right laptop, phone or printer to bring about academic success in 2024.

While this list won’t have the best notebooks, textbooks or stationery – the long-time trusted supplies used by just about every student from preschool to university – it does have a list of the top tech gadgets with a premium and budget option to suit any student, young or old.

These days, tech like laptops, tablets and even phones have become school essentials, so it’s ideal to make sure that your kid is equipped with one that’s reliable and will help them stay productive throughout the school day, and the year ahead. For parents sending their kids off to school for the first time, we’ve even listed some kid-friendly smartwatches here that are both stylish and multi-functional, with inbuilt safety features to help ease anxiety while you’re separated from your child.

The tech below isn’t just for the younglings though – if you’re starting at university or enrolling into a new Tafe course, the following list will get you set up for a successful academic year with the best back-to-school gadgets available in 2024. 

Best back-to-school laptops

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Acer Swift Go laptop on white background

(Image credit: Acer)

1. Acer Swift Go

Great value for performance

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable price
+
13th-gen Intel CPU options
+
3K OLED display

Reasons to avoid

-
Thicker than other laptops
-
5.5 hour battery life

Investing in any good laptop for school will cost you a pretty penny, but the value-to-performance ratio offered by the Acer Swift Go is hard to beat, so much so that we consider it the best for value in our best laptops list and it tops the charts as the best student laptop as well. With several variations on offer, you’ll be able to find the right configuration to fit your or your child’s needs with prices starting at about AU$1,200 for this14-inch laptop. The base range comes with a 13th-gen Intel Core i5 CPU, along with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, offering solid performance to get you through a standard school day. You can get more kick out of the laptop by opting for an i7 chip instead, or nab the larger 16-inch model if you prefer a larger workspace.

Of course, opting for a more powerful CPU does mean the battery life in this laptop takes a hit, with only 5.5 hours on offer from the i7 model. But you’re getting a beautiful 3K resolution from the 16-inch OLED display, and if you don’t mind carrying a charger around to get a full day’s use out of the Acer Swift Go, it’s a great option for any student who needs a high performing laptop at a good price.

A Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook against a white background

2. Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

Balancing value and design

Reasons to buy

+
Long battery life
+
Affordable
+
Lightweight and portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Small, uncomfortable keyboard
-
Single port for charger and headphones

The name gives us the sense that Lenovo couldn’t decide if this was a tablet or a Chromebook, but whatever you want to call it, the IdeaPad Duet Chromebook is a brilliant 2-in-1 on a budget. If just browsing the internet and getting assignments done is the main aim for purchasing a back-to-school device, then this is a very good option that should suit most budgets.

The battery has an incredibly long life of almost 22 hours, so if you (or your kids) are burning the midnight oil, it’s highly likely you (or the kids) will pass out before the IdeaPad Duet Chromebook runs out of juice. Admittedly the keyboard is small and the trackpad not too reliable, but these are the little sacrifices that have been made to keep costs down and may not be deal-breakers for you.

Read our in-depth Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook review

Best back-to-school webcams

Razer Kiyo Pro

(Image credit: Razer)

1. Razer Kiyo Pro

Only the best to look darn good

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth 1080p/60fps
+
HDR feature
+
Great in low light

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
No ball-joint swivel

Admittedly this is a great choice for anyone interested in streaming, but it's exactly those features that makes the Razer Kiyo Pro one of the best webcams money can buy. Uni students can experiment with streaming content in 1080p at 60fps, while younger kids can be in the spotlight as this webcam works quite well in low light too thanks to the ultra-sensitive light sensors it boasts. There's even HDR capabilities here, and that 60fps frame rate is buttery smooth. It's important to note that this Razer webcam requires a USB 3.0 connection, but this 2021 model breathes life into a stagnating webcam market where some of the best choices, like the Logitech C920 are now ageing.

Read our in-depth Razer Kiyo Pro review

Logitech C922

(Image credit: Logitech)

2. Logitech C922 Pro Stream webcam

Affordable 1080p streaming

Reasons to buy

+
Good quality streaming 
+
Built-in microphone

Reasons to avoid

-
No 4K recording
-
Released 8 years ago

While the Logitech C922 Pro Stream webcam might have been released way back in 2016, it’s still readily available to buy in Australia with a reasonable price drop compared to its initial RRP of AU$199. You can find it anywhere between AU$99 to AU$150, though we’ve even seen it go on sale for less than AU$90 in recent years, making it a worthwhile budget option if you’re in need of a webcam. 

Don’t be fooled by its age though; while it lacks 4K streaming, you are getting 1080p at 30fps or 720p at 60fps with autofocus, so classmates and teachers can see you clearly if you aren’t at school in person. There’s also a microphone built in with a 1m range, and it comes in a compact design on a handy clip that will attach right onto a laptop, monitor or tripod with ease.

Best back-to-school tablets

iPad 10.2

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple iPad 10.2 (2021)

The best tablet for schoolwork

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Strong performer
+
Upgraded front camera

Reasons to avoid

-
No Face ID
-
Lacks support for newer accessories

Honestly, when it comes to researching assignments and getting some other schoolwork done, you can choose any of Apple's iPad 10.2 models released from 2019 onwards. Even being older, the 2019 iPad 10.2 and the 2020 iPad 10.2 still hold their own, but the 2021 edition brings a better selfie camera if your kid needs to have a video chat with a teacher. It's now a 12MP ultra-wide lens. There's also double the storage from the previous model, and it gets a power boost thanks to the A13 Bionic chip. It still has an old-fashioned thick-bezel design and lacks Face ID, but offers far better value for money compared to the more premium and latest 2022 models of the iPads.

Read our in-depth Apple iPad 10.2 (2021) review

Samsung Galaxy Tab A9+

(Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung Galaxy Tab A9+

Budget tablet, premium functionality

Reasons to buy

+
Great multi-tasking capabilities
+
Expandable storage

Reasons to avoid

-
LCD display
-
Cameras are beaten by other tablets

If you have a student with a preference for Android, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A9+ offers a suite of premium features starting at under AU$400 – we even saw it drop below AU$300 just before Christmas while on sale.

Samsung’s tablets tend to have fantastic multitasking capabilities, with the option to have up to three different apps on display at once, making this line of slates a fantastic study aid for students taking notes while watching online lectures. While we haven’t reviewed the Tab A9+ yet, we got to test this feature out in the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8, and even on the older tablet we found that the multiple apps ran smoothly, so we suspect the Galaxy Tab A9+ would offer the same top-notch performance.

While the above iPad might have the Samsung Galaxy Tab A9+ beat when it comes to the cameras and screen, Samsung’s offering has better physical storage options. You can choose between 64GB or 128GB built in, but if you find you need even more space, you can add a microSD card to the Samsung Galaxy Tab A9+ for up to 1TB of extra storage.

Best back-to-school smartphone

Apple iPhone SE 2022 in black on white background

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple iPhone SE (2022)

An ‘affordable’ premium phone

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful for its price point
+
Lightweight and compact

Reasons to avoid

-
Weak camera setup
-
Modest battery life

It’s all about brand power for kids these days, so if you’re looking to treat your child with one of the best smartphones on the market, then the iPhone SE (2022) is definitely in that category. As we mentioned in our review, the latest iPhone SE "is faster and better connected" than the older model, thanks to the A15 Bionic chip under the hood.

While its performance and compact size are things we absolutely love about it, we're not too big on its middling battery life. And considering kids love their gadgets, they might need to carry the charging cable around with them if they've got access to mains power, or you'll need to get them a portable power bank... just in case.

That said, this is a gorgeous phone, with a the Liquid Retina screen displaying everything vividly, and the classic iPhone design looking nice and dainty here.

Read our in-depth Apple iPhone SE (2022) review

Motorola Moto G54 5G

(Image credit: Motorola)

2. Motorola Moto G54 5G

5-star handset on a budget

Reasons to buy

+
Strong battery life
+
Stunning display
+
Stylish design

Reasons to avoid

-
Subpar cameras
-
A bit large for smaller hands

Boasting a premium build quality – which includes a vegan leather rear panel – at a low price, the Motorola Moto G54 offers excellent value at just AU$299 at full price. It’s got a 6.5-inch LCD display, which offers a full HD+ viewing experience with a 120Hz refresh rate – so it’s great for streaming movies or playing games to keep students occupied while on the daily school commute. 

The biggest drawback for the Motorola Moto G54 is its size – smaller hands might find it difficult to hold and the placement of the side buttons is less than ergonomic. That said, the leather rear makes it a little easier to grip than other larger handsets, as well as making it a bit more tactile for a unique sensory experience that’s missing from other budget phones.

The Motorola Moto G54 cameras are a little lacklustre when compared to more premium handsets, but if the kids are looking to snap some cute lunch selfies or want to photograph some in-class notes for later, it’ll do the job just fine with its 50MP primary rear camera and 16MP front lens. There’s also a 2MP macro lens in case close-ups are called for.

Read our in-depth Motorola Moto G54 5G review

Best back-to-school portable storage

Samsung Portable SSD T7

(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung Portable SSD T7

The best backup solution money can buy

Reasons to buy

+
Great build quality
+
Fast transfers
+
Compact and portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Can get expensive

The Samsung Portable SSD T7 has two different models on offer, with the standard line staying true to the design showcased by the Samsung Portable SSD T5 that came before it, and a new model that has a unique twist on the standard portable SSD. Offering storage options from 500GB to 2TB, there’s also a 1TB capacity model called the T7 Touch that comes with a fingerprint scanner on its aluminium shell. This means that along with a password, students can also set up the SSD to be locked unless their fingerprint is also scanned, helping to keep assessments and other private files even more secure when not in use.

Across the entire Samsung Portable SSD T7 range, students can expect fast transfer speeds both to and from the SSD, offering up to 1,032 MBps / 924 MBps read/write speeds so productivity can keep flowing without interruption. This is aided by a USB Type-C connection, making this slim and compact portable SSD a student’s best friend (at least when it comes to digital storage).

Read our in-depth Samsung T7 Touch external SSD review

G-Technology 2TB G-DRIVE mobile SSD deal

(Image credit: G-Technology)

2. G-Technology G-Drive Mobile

File backup on a budget

Reasons to buy

+
USB-C connector

Reasons to avoid

-
Average performance

If you’re willing to sacrifice speed for space, then you can snag a G-Technology G-Drive Mobile portable hard drive for around AU$150 for a 1TB option. The G-Drive Mobile also comes with both a USB-C and USB-A cable, so can be plugged into any PC or laptop. Keep in mind that the device has been designed to work with Macs out of the box, but it can easily be formatted to work with a Windows machine without any loss in speed. While not quite as fast as an SSD, it does offer up to 130MB/s speed, which is quite respectable and plenty for schoolwork.

Read our in-depth G-Technology G-Drive Mobile USB-C portable hard drive review

Best back-to-school headphones

beats studio buds in red

(Image credit: Beats)

1. Beats Studio Buds

Great sound in different colours

Reasons to buy

+
Balanced sound
+
Decent noise cancellation
+
Comfortable to wear

Reasons to avoid

-
Call quality is not good

They're available in different colours and the Beats Studio Buds aren't all that expensive. In fact, you can very often find them discounted on Amazon and other retailers. 

And the lower price makes no compromises either. The Studio Buds are arguably the best-sounding Beats yet, with a balanced soundstage and active noise cancellation also on board. Where it falls short is in call quality, although some kids might argue the ANC could be better. Still, it's a good balance of value and performance here. It's best paired with Apple products though, with support for Spatial Audio in Dolby Atmos format, but they will work with Android devices too.

Read our in-depth Beats Studio Buds review

sennheiser hd 250bt

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

2. Sennheiser HD 250BT

On-ear cans that barely make a dent in the wallet

Reasons to buy

+
Lovely sound
+
Lighter than they look

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks headband padding
-
Muddy bass

For something you can get for under a hundred dollary-doos, these Senny cans are exceptional. Actually, you can even find it discounted for under AU$50! That is what we call value for money.

The Sennheiser HD 250BT might not have the most pleasing design, but they're lighter than they look and are comfortable to wear. At this price, don't expect a stack of features – even the headband misses out on padding – but these headphones more than make up for that by the sound they produce. The sound is open and well-defined, but it does lack a little bass. That said, some EQ adjustments can be made.

Battery life of up to 25 hours from a single charge should not be ignored either. 

Read our in-depth Sennheiser HD 250BT review

Best back-to-school wearables

Spacetalk Loop smartwatch in blue on white background

(Image credit: Spacetalk)

1. Spacetalk Loop

Children’s safety at the forefront

Reasons to buy

+
No access to distracting apps
+
Vibrant colour options
+
Gorilla Glass display

Reasons to avoid

-
Additional carrier fees 

It can be a scary world, but there are some fantastic gadgets out there to help give you peace of mind while the kids are out and about on their own. The Spacetalk Loop smartwatch is a handy little GPS tracker that comes with limited functionality – your kids will be able to keep in touch via phone calls but won’t have access to social media on this little smartwatch.

Safety is at the forefront of the Spacetalk Loop, with safe zones and contacts able to be added to the smartwatch so your kids know where to go or who to call if they run into any trouble. Additionally, there’s an emergency SOS button for quick access to emergency services if ever needed. You can also connect the watch to the Spacetalk app to keep an eye on their location and activity when you’re not together.

The best Fitbit: Fitbit Ace 3

(Image credit: Fitbit)

2. Fitbit Ace 3

A tracker to help develop good fitness habits

Reasons to buy

+
Activity and step tracker
+
Silicon band protects the screen

Reasons to avoid

-
Boring companion app
-
Limited colour range

Slipping in under AU$100, the Fitbit Ace 3 is a great kid-friendly fitness tracker that takes a lot of notes from its predecessor, the Fitbit Ace 2. Despite not being a smartwatch like the Spacetalk Loop, you can still keep in touch with phone calls or text messages if your kid has their Fitbit Ace 3 connected to a phone, but its goal here aligns more with the standard Fitbit range with only a few child-safety features added.

Boasting an 8-day battery life, the Fitbit Ace 3 has inbuilt activity, healthy habit and sleep trackers, with additional bedtime reminders and silent alarms to help keep the kids on a healthy sleep cycle. Additionally, it has a 50m water-resistant rating so you don’t have to worry about it getting damaged from a dip in the pool. There’s some cute features included to make fitness goals even more enticing for kids, but to get the full use out of it you’ll need to use the standard Fitbit app, which comes stripped down to the basics for a more child-friendly experience.

Read our in-depth Fitbit Ace 3 review

Best back-to-school printers

Epson EcoTank ET-2850

(Image credit: Espon)

1. Epson EcoTank ET-2850

Cartridge-free printing

Reasons to buy

+
No more cartridges
+
Auto 2-sided printing
+
High-capacity ink tanks

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited paper capacity
-
Slow print speed

Epson has a solid variety of cartridge-free printers in the EcoTank range, and the ET-2850 even makes its way onto our best home printers list. This all-in-one inkjet printer houses four high-capacity ink tanks to get the full spectrum of colours offered by CMYK, with a 100-sheet paper capacity and auto 2-sided printing so you can print reports or assessments out without having to flip the page around manually. With Wi-Fi connectivity options to help you print from any phone, tablet or laptop connected to your home network, and a handy full-colour display that’s easy to navigate, its main downside is its printing speed. Compared to other printers, you’re only going to get 10.5 pages per minute when set to B&W, so if you have massive multi-page documents to print out, you’ll need to allocate some time in advance to make sure you get that assessment in on time.

Canon PIXMA Home TS5160 printer on white background

(Image credit: Canon)

2. Canon PIXMA Home TS5160

An all-in-one for the budget conscious

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable
+
Compact design

Reasons to avoid

-
Costly cartridges
-
Small paper tray

If you’re not too keen on splurging top dollar for a printer, then this option from Canon is wonderfully affordable. At just under AU$100 you can print and scan as much as needed. The printer even has an ‘auto duplex’ feature which automatically prints to both sides of the paper, and setting up a Pixma Cloud Link account will let you print anything sitting in Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive or any other cloud service. You can even print from Facebook or Instagram. The Pixma Home TS5160 is covered by Canon’s Print Assist program, where you’ll receive step-by-step instructions on how to set up the device (although it’s easy to do anyway) and any fault found within the first year of purchase will see the printer replaced at no cost.

Miscellaneous 

Satechi Aluminum Multi-Port USB-C Adapter V2

(Image credit: Satechi)

Best back-to-school USB-C hub: Satechi Aluminum Multi-Port Adapter V2

Get more port options

Reasons to buy

+
Sleek design
+
7 ports

Reasons to avoid

-
Short cable
-
Lacks audio port

Ports on new laptops are changing. The faster USB-C or Thunderbolt ports are slowly and steadily becoming the norm. So if you child's new laptop doesn't have the ports needed to plug in, say, a USB 3.0 cable, then this Satechi hub offers seven different ones, and includes an SD card reader, a 4K HDMI port and a Gigabit Ethernet port. All these ports come at a price though and it's definitely not the cheapest option, but it is one of the best. The ports are spaced out nicely, so plugging something in won't require juggling cables and wires.

Romoss 50W PPD20 portable power bank

(Image credit: Amazon)

Best back-to-school portable charger: Romoss 50W PPD20

For when you need plenty of juice

Reasons to buy

+
High capacity
+
Affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Lower efficiency
-
Slightly clunky design

There's a whopping 20,000mAh capacity battery pack here and it's been built to make sure your kids' laptops stay juiced up all day, ensuring they don't lose their hard work if the laptop shuts down suddenly because of low battery. And for something that costs less than AU$100, it's excellent value for money. 

It supports both Power Delivery and Quick Charge on a USB-C port with an output of up to 45W, although there is a 50W total output available. It even tops itself up really quickly at 45W, so it really is a great power backup solution to carry around. It is a little on the clunky side, but still looks quite alright.

Canon EOS 200D Mark II with 18-55mm lens

(Image credit: Canon)

Best back-to-school camera: Canon EOS 200D Mark II

No better way to learn than on a DSLR

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable
+
Excellent image quality
+
Easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Autofocus slightly dated
-
Slightly bigger than mirrorless rivals

If your child has an artistic streak and is interested in taking a photography class, considering getting them a beginner DSLR. Yes, it might seem counterintuitive to recommend a DSLR in the age of mirrorless, but there's no better type of camera to learn photography on.

The Canon EOS 200D Mark II is not only easy to use, it's compact and lightweight, plus won't cost the earth – you can get a single-lens kit for under a grand. It might also be a little old now, but it's powered by a Digic 8 processor that's still pretty powerful. There's Canon's trusty Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus on board, as well as both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

While its autofocus performance isn't as snappy as Canon's newer R-series cameras, it is still pretty good. Then there's a flip-out screen that offers a guided menu system to help a beginner learn, and 4K video capture if necessary. And like all DSLRs, it's got a pretty good battery life that no mirrorless can match.

You can always encourage your child further by adding more lenses over the years, which there are plenty of.

Read our in-depth Canon EOS 200D Mark II review

Sphero Bolt

(Image credit: Sphero)

Best back-to-school STEM education tools: Sphero Mini / Bolt

Help your kids learn to code

Reasons to buy

+
Fun device
+
Several functions

Reasons to avoid

-
Mediocre battery life
-
Easy to lose due to small size

From the company that brought us the interactive Star Wars bots comes these little connected toys that put education front and centre. The Sphero Mini (a tabletennis-sized ball) and the Sphero Bolt (a bigger, rolling robot with a display) are remotely controlled toys that can help kids learn to appreciate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM) that the Australian government is heavily investing in right now.

While they're a whole load of fun for both kids and grown-ups alike, you can also write code that dictates the actions of the Sphero. There are plenty of lessons to choose from and there is a huge amount of satisfaction to be had to see your creation come to life when the toy begins to move. The Sphero Edu app also allows you to try out other people's code if you or your child aren't keen on creating your own. Coding, though, is very simple and requires no prior computer technology knowledge.

Parents should be aware that if you get the Sphero Bolt for your child, the accompanying Sphero Play app has a Scream Drive setting that makes the Bolt move faster the louder your kid screams or shouts at it (it's a lot of fun for the kids but not so much for everyone else).

Read our in-depth reviews of the Sphero Mini and Sphero Bolt