Smart home tech for your dorm room

Your dorm room is the home base for absolutely everything you do at college. Back at home, you had space for all your stuff and endless places to plug in all your tech. Now, you’ll most likely be dealing with a cramped space, limited power, dodgy Wi-Fi, and maybe surly roommates. Making your dorm room smarter is going to help you study, relax, and stay organized.

amazon echo dot 4th gen review  7 of 8

John Velasco / Digital Trends

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock

Set wake-up alarms, stream music, and get homework help

Pros

  • Charming new design
  • Great audio quality for its size
  • Alexa Guard protection
  • Affordable cost

Cons

  • LED clock should be default

A digital assistant can help with so many things at college. You can use it to stream music (at reasonable volumes without annoying your neighbors), ask Alexa for help with assignments (Alexa, what is Gross Domestic product?), and use it to control other smart devices you might want to bring along, like smart lighting. Thanks to that built-in LED clock, you don’t have to fish out your phone to check the time, and you have two glorious ways to snooze your alarm: Ask Alexa to snooze or hit that excellent built-in snooze button. 

amazon echo dot (4th gen) with clock

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock

Set wake-up alarms, stream music, and get homework help

ge expands cync smart light adds climate control camera game room full color

Cync by GE smart light bulb

Add color, light, and fun

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to use
  • App is uncluttered
  • Great variety of lights
  • App control is quick and responsive
  • Works with all digital assistants

Cons

  • Could use a few ‘extra’ features
  • Motion sensor was glitchy

Adding a smart light bulb or two can be a great way to smarten up a dorm room. Just make sure to choose bulbs that don’t require a hub or bridge. A good pick is Cync by GE smart bulbs because you can control them from your phone using the companion app. Add IFTTT and you can get your smart lights to give you a heads-up on the weather by having them turn blue when it snows, for example.

ge lighting cync smart led light bulbs, color changing, bluetooth and wi-fi enabled, alexa and google assistant compatible, a19 light bulbs (4 pack)

Cync by GE smart light bulb

Add color, light, and fun

Amazon Smart Plug

Smarter power made easy

Pros

  • Small
  • Affordable
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • Doesn’t add extra outlets

Smart plugs are a great way to add remote control over devices that otherwise don’t have smarts. You can use them to bring automation to your dorm room or small apartment. An Amazon Smart Plug is an inexpensive and easy option that adds smarts to an existing plug, so you can program the plug to turn on your desk lamp at a certain time of day. If you’ve got more gadgets, you may want to also consider adding a power option that splits a single outlet into multiple connection points.

amazon smart plug

Amazon Smart Plug

Smarter power made easy

Belkin Power Strip Surge Protector

Keep your gear charged

Pros

  • Fairly compact
  • Long cord
  • Extra room for larger AC adapters

Most graduates will tell you they have lived in a dorm room with just one power outlet. A power bar that also doubles as a surge protector is just the thing for making sure your devices are charged and ready. This splitter has multiple options for connecting all your devices. It also gives you the peace of mind of surge protection so nothing fries your stuff. If you want more ideas, check out our list of the best power bar surge protectors.

belkin power strip surge protector

Belkin Power Strip Surge Protector

Keep your gear charged

Kensington Ergonomic Vertical Wireless Mouse

Battle carpal tunnel

Pros

  • Wireless
  • Battery powered
  • Combats wrist fatigue and carpal tunnel

A wireless mouse is a must-have to keep cable clutter at bay. A Bluetooth mouse alone is such a relief after swiping around on a laptop trackpad all day, and it’s a total game-changer to use a mouse with your iPad. This particular Kensington wireless mouse is also vertically oriented, meaning it helps you stave off carpal tunnel syndrome. Getting used to it takes about a day, but once you’ve come on board, you’ll never go back to a regular wrist-wrenching mouse again.

Another great option in a small space is to move things off the desk surface whenever possible. If you’ve got a ring light, webcam, or microphone you’re using, getting a Kensington Boom Arm is a huge help. The articulating arm can move into a hundred positions and can be pulled into your space or pushed away as needed.

kensington ergonomic vertical wireless mouse (k75575ww)

Kensington Ergonomic Vertical Wireless Mouse

Battle carpal tunnel

jbl flip 6 review  trashed radiator

Ted Kritsonis/Digital Trends

JBL Flip 6

Bring music anywhere

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Loud and clear sound
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Excellent water and dust protection
  • EQ offers some sound tweaking
  • Works with JBL Portable app and PartyBoost

Cons

  • Can’t stereo pair with non-Flip 6 JBL speakers
  • Doesn’t work as a speakerphone
  • Not drastically different from Flip 5

A portable Bluetooth speaker is at the center of any good party, but finding one that can survive a multitude of outings and that’s solidly built and sounds good when turned up can be tricky. (If you want more choices, check out our list of the best Bluetooth speakers.)

The JBL Flip 6 will give you about 12 hours of playtime and offers a more nuanced bass response than the venerable Flip 5. It’s available in a bunch of colors — think about choosing a brightly colored one so it’s easy to find in the grass at the park. Pair two Flip 6’s together using Party Boost and you can really fill the room with sound.

If you like playing music to study or meditate, you’ll be pleased to know that the JBL Flip 6 will also sound good if turned down. This feature is especially nice if you get tired of wearing your headphones all the time.

jbl flip 6

JBL Flip 6

Bring music anywhere

samsung m8 smart monitor review 12

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Samsung M8 Smart Monitor

The ultimate two-in-one monitor

Pros

  • Works as a smart TV or a monitor
  • Supports Samsung Gaming Hub
  • Attractive design
  • 65W USB-C power delivery
  • Good SDR image quality

Cons

  • Limited HDR performance
  • No VESA mount and limited stand adjustment
  • Webcam features aren’t available on a PC

Small dorm spaces require you to make the most of what you’ve got, and that’s why gadgets that can do double-duty are key. The Samsung M8 monitor is a 4K display plus a streaming TV all in one 32-inch screen that actually looks good from every angle. Connect your laptop and take on photo and video-rich assignments with ease. When the school day is over and homework’s complete, you can switch it to TV mode. All the most popular channels are built in, and it comes with a remote control so you can manage it from across the room.

samsung m8 smart monitor

Samsung M8 Smart Monitor

The ultimate two-in-one monitor

Satechi Trio Wireless Charger

Recharge three devices with one connection

Pros

  • Compact
  • Looks good
  • Charges multiple Apple devices

If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, you’re probably charging a phone, a watch, and some AirPods every night. The Satechi Trio Wireless Charger allows you to keep all of your devices charged and ready to go without hogging that precious plug-in space with three separate plugs. Connecting with a single USB cable, the Trio is sleek and flat and will be at home on your tidy nightstand. Apple Watch users should be particularly happy that the charger supports nightstand mode so you won’t have to interfere with charging if you want to check the time.

satechi trio wireless charger with magnetic pad –qi certified– compatible with iphone 13 pro max/13 pro/13, iphone 12 pro max/12 pro/12/12 mini, airpods pro/gen 3, apple watch series 7/6/se/5/4/3/2/1

Satechi Trio Wireless Charger

Recharge three devices with one connection

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make my dorm room smarter?

First, try relying on a smart assistant. Having Alexa, Google Home, or Siri kicking around is an awesome way to manage your schedule, order supplies, and listen to music. If you’re using Alexa, the Amazon Echo Dot + Clock is intended for nightstands, making this Echo ideal for compact spaces.

Can I use Alexa in my dorm room?

Yes, you can use Alexa in your dorm room. In some cases, you may simply be able to connect a smart speaker like Amazon Echo’s digital butler to your floor’s Wi-Fi. In others, you may have access to an in-room Ethernet port where you’ll set up your own Wi-Fi network, and from there, you can connect all the smart devices you like. It probably pays to check with your school to see what kind of Wi-Fi service is available and what officials recommend you bring — and don’t bring — to your home away from home.

Do smart plugs work in dorms?

Yes, you can use a smart plug to turn a fan or heater on or off (since relying on central heat and air is often out of your control) or with a coffee maker (if allowed in your dorm room), lamp, or other small appliances. For the most part, many smart plugs don’t need a hub or bridge and can connect directly to your smartphone or dorm Wi-Fi, so they should work anywhere — even a dorm room.

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