College Student Gadget Guide – Top 5 Most Affordable Gadgets For Students

August 15, 2008

Young people love their gadgets. I love gadgets. The problem is that they come at a premium price, and I don’t like paying a lot of money for electronics. Parents only have so much money to buy gadgets for their kids, and college students never have any money. So, I put together a list of inexpensive gadgets for college students. The word “inexpensive” is relative, because you might not think some of these items are cheap, but they are cheap relative to their competition.

The Dell Inspiron 1420 – $749

I know that Mac Books are by far the most popular laptops among young people, but hear me out on this one. Here are some features of the Inspiron that make it worth getting while in school.

  • Mac is better for images and video, but not for productivity. The Dell Pentium Core Duo processor is efficient and sips battery life.
  • You can pick from a number of colors and it only weights 5.3 pounds
  • At $749, it’s $300.00 less than the standard Mac Book.
  • Comes with Core Duo processor, 2 GB of RAM, 250GB hard drive, wireless card, DVD writer, and built-in webcam

The Palm Centro – $99.99

The iPhone is the most popular smart phone on the market, but it’s expensive, and the plan is even more expensive. They lowered the price for the new 3G iPhone, but they increased the data plan by $10 and it doesn’t include a text messaging plan. So, if you want to save some coin, check out the functional Palm Centro.

  • Full QWERTY keyboard, perfect for texting and sending email.
  • Sync contacts and calendar from Microsoft Outlook.
  • Touch Screen with a more slender design than the Blackberry.
  • AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile offer the Palm Centro at a nice price, $99.99.
  • Google Maps uses triangulation to locate your approximate spot on the map, also has Telenav GPS system.
  • Blazer web browser has mixed reviews, but serves its purpose.

;The Canon Pixma MX700 All-in-one – $129.99

I’ve never had a Canon printer, so if they are horrible, feel free to post a comment. I’ve heard good things about this one, and I am looking for a new all-in-one printer, so I might try this printer out. Here are the features:

  • Copy, Fax, Scan, and Print. You’d be surprised at how many times you need to fax something while you’re in college.
  • Costs only $129.99
  • Great picture quality printing. You can hook up your digital camera straight to the printer and save money on photo developing with this printer.
  • Makes copies up to 30 words per minute.
  • 70% of consumers voted it a “5” on

The 2nd Gen iPod Nano 4GB – $149.99

In my opinion, this is the best iPod for the value on the market. iPod got it right, other than the fact that it doesn’t have an FM tuner. I own this Nano, and it’s perfect for my needs. For a college student, it’s perfect for working out and going on road trips. The 8GB is $199.99 if you truly need that much space. I came to grips with myself that I didn’t need 60GB of music at all times, so I dumped my brick of an iPod and bought the new Nano. Apple will probably come out with a 3rd generation ipod soon, because they love rolling out new products as fast as people get accustomed to the previous one, but this nano should satisfy your gadget cravings for years to come.

The Nikon Coolpix L18 – $119.00

This is a simple little camerea, but great for taking out on campus, at the bar, or at sports events. If you’re a serious photographer, don’t bother with this camera, but it’s great for the average user at a discount price.

  • $119.00 on
  • 3″ LCD screen
  • 8.0 mega pixels
  • ISO 64 – 1600
  • Compact, stylish design

Remember that I’m not presenting my picks for the BEST gadget of these five genres. I tried to find a decent gadget at a discount price, because at Money Smart Life we’re looking out for your bank account first. Buying a hunk of junk isn’t worth it if you get it at a discounted price either, but the research and reviews shows that these products will definitely satisfy for their price tag.

If you’re going to spend money on gadgets, you’ll have to save it somewhere else.  Learn about ideas for decorating your dorm room on a budget saving money with student discounts, and ways to have fun in college on a student budget.

In this series you can also read about a review of student health insurance options and comparing them with eHealthInsurance.  Finally, you can find the best spot to keep your hard earned money in our review of the best checking accounts for college students.

This college student guide to getting the most gadget for your money is part of the College Student Money Guide.


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Erik Folgate is a husband and father living in Orlando who's been writing about money online for 6 years. Digging himself out of $20k of debt after college and his former experience in the insurance industry give him some useful insights into personal finance issues.

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8 Responses to College Student Gadget Guide – Top 5 Most Affordable Gadgets For Students

  • Ben

    birdboyee , thanks for the feedback. Sounds like your up to speed on your gadgets!

    NCN, agreed, the goal isn’t to go spend a lot of money on gadgets but if someone’s in the market for a new gadget, these should offer good value for your money.

    Phil, good point on combining the phone, ipod, and camera; that’s definitely one way to go. Of course gadgets like the iPhone aren’t cheap and if you’re only in the market for a camera the Coolpix is a good choice.

  • Phil

    Well i say ditch the Palm, camera and Ipod and get a cellphone that has all of those functions, you don’t the to use it as a cellphone, but you already have a gadget that does all three (well the camera is not going to be that good but hey, we are talking about saving some cash)
    also, if you’re not in IT, get an eepc, but i would really recomend any of the dell brand, there are a lot of cheap options out there
    and about printers… what college doesn’t have one that you can’t use? – save the cash

  • NCN

    Cool stuff, indeed…
    But, perhaps the money would be better spent on books…
    Old fashioned, I know…
    But so many college kids graduate with mountains of student loan debt…
    Perhaps it’s because they buy cool gadgets instead of necessities?

    I use a 400 dollar laptop, a 7 year old printer, a 6 year old
    cell phone, a 9 year old camera, and a 4 year old mp3 player…

    Not cool, but I get stuff done…

  • birdboyee

    Nothing outbeats HP’s 7280 multifunction printer. Not only can you scan, print, fax on an autofeeder, but itsll print on both sides, did i mention its wireless as well? I like how easy you can print images directly by built in usb/card reader.

    – As for camera, nikon is a good choice, I walked into bestbuy a couple days ago and saw another nikon camera that has ISO up to 3200 for under 180 bucks!!! Heres a quick guide in looking for camera: 1. Make sure ISO is higher than 1600, the higher the better! High ISO makes images non-blurry. 2. make sure Aperture is low, aperture is measured by fstop, the smaller the number, the more light is absorbed making night time pictures better. Mostly all Nikon camera coolpix have great ISO measurements. 3. Many people talk about how high their pixel camera is which are 90% of people who only use their cameras for 4×6 pictures. You CANNOT see a difference between a 4×6 picture taken at 3 megapixel or 10 megapixel, Now if you try to print that picture higher, yes, the 3megapixel shot will be blurry. My point is if your only printing 4×6 pictures, stick to taking shots at 3megapixel to save memory. If your looking to take larger picture shots, reconsider purchasing an SLR. I own a coolpix and NIKON D80, I can take close-to-professional, if not professional pictures with D80.

    – Notebook PC: I saw at bestbuy a very neat PC called Asus Eee. It is awesomely small with a screen of 8.9, running on windows XP, 1gig ram and 16 gig of storage, built it webcam and mic. Not a huge storage but there’s always externals with over 250gig at under 100 bucks! Install open office and your in business! Old School teens waste their time burning CD’s, there is no CD on this unit, CD’s are slowly but surely becoming obsolete, get an IPOD as recommended above.

    – Mobile: Palm Centro sounds cool, I prefer my blackjack II from samsung. I hear there coming out with a backjack III in late October of this year!!! I cant wait!! You can do so much with this phone the list is endless!

    NOTICE: I DO NOT work for HP or hold HP stock. I DO NOT work for Asus or hold Asus stockI I DO NOT work for NIKON or hold NIKON stock!! I AM an IT professional, my comments are strictly personal and experience from working with thousands of electronics thrown my way.

  • Lazy Man and Money

    My wife got a Palm Centro just last week. She looked at an Instinct (iPhone clone) in mind, but hated it. I have to say that I couldn’t use it without it’s keyboard either. It was simply cheaper and better.

  • Lauren

    Nice gadget list and I agree with the Dell selection but there’s other Dell laptops that are even cheaper that offer just as much! A laptop is defintely a must for college.

  • marci

    Thanks for the nice intro to the gadgets.
    Now maybe I’ll know what the grandkids are talking about 🙂
    Nice to see the $$ alternatives.


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