The 2021 school year is full of uncertainties, thanks to the alarming rise of the COVID-19 delta variant. But whether the students in your life are returning to the classroom full time, staying remote or adopting a hybrid learning model, they're definitely going to need school supplies and gadget essentials to help them work — and play. And to help, CNET has assembled some of our favorite gear. These are three back-to-school essentials under $100 that we heartily recommend. Check out our full article at CNET.com for more great suggestions.
Big sounding mini wireless speaker
UE Wonderboom 2 - This wireless speaker is a colorful alternative to more expensive models from Anker and Bose. It's pretty compact and offers better — and bigger — sound than some of its slimmer and smaller rivals. It really can float and has better battery life than the original Wonderboom, too. Like its predecessor, the Wonderboom 2 carries a list price of $100, is fully waterproof and comes in multiple color options. What's different is the IP67 rating that means it's dustproof, more shock-resistant and also able to float. It also has 30% better battery life — up to 13 hours at moderate volume levels, according to Ultimate Ears — and you can link two together to create a stereo pairing by simply pressing a button on each speaker.
Superb everyday keyboard
Logitech MX Keys - A great way for a student to step up from that cramped laptop (or iPad) keyboard is with Logitech's MX Keys — arguably the smartest low-profile Logitech keyboard we've used. It has "spherically dished" keys that cradle the tips of your fingers, and the keyboard is responsive and tactile. In that sense, it's similar to Logitech's Craft keyboard, which lists for twice the price.
The keys light up as your hands approach and there's a sensor that adjusts the illumination according to the lighting conditions. You can also turn off the light if you want to save battery life. The dual layout is designed to suit both Mac and Windows users, and the MX Keys is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android systems. Using illumination, you can get 10 days of operation on a full charge or up to five months with backlighting turned off. When it's time to recharge, the battery indicator LED glows red and you can continue using the keyboard while charging via USB-C.
No more lost backpacks
Apple AirTags (4-pack) - Know a student who's always losing stuff on campus? In the locker room? Or just around the house? If they own an iPhone, gifting them a set of AirTags could be just the ticket. Once slipped into a backpack or a jacket, those items become trackable thanks to the AirTags using every nearby Apple device as a rangefinder. Grab a four-pack for just $99.
The following CNET staff contributed to this story: CNET contributor Matt Elliott, Senior Editor Joshua Goldman and Copy Editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit www.cnet.com.
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