Don’t forget to accessorise! Here’s the lowdown on chargers, storage, keyboard accessories, screen protectors, label makers and more for back to school in 2022.

Portable power

Few things are as frustrating as a smartphone with a flat battery when you need to make an important call home, or a tablet/laptop that runs out of juice while you’re writing a 2,000-word essay. The need to recharge tech can be overlooked when life gets busy and the school year begins, leaving users – and the battery level – seeing red.

That’s where power banks come to the rescue. These compact and portable high capacity batteries deliver a fast recharge while on the go, or an emergency top-up. They’re a must-have addition to the school bag, offering peace of mind that devices will last all day long.

The type of power bank you need depends on the type of device being charged, how often you charge it, as well as how quickly you want it to charge. Also consider the number of devices you want to charge – multi-port banks will charge several devices simultaneously, from smartwatches and phones to earbuds and tablets.

Power banks support USB-A and USB-C (for fast charge) connection, making them compatible with most devices’ USB charging cable.

Charge is measured in milliamps per hour (mAh) – the higher the mAh, the longer the power bank will last. If the power bank’s mAh is less than the device it’s charging, it won’t charge that device to a full 100%.

How many charge cycles will it deliver? Your device’s mAh value lets you quickly calculate this. For example, most smartphones have a battery that’s approx. 3,000 mAh, therefore a 10,000mAh power bank will charge it three times. Aim for a power bank that will charge a phone at least twice. 15,000mAh is ideal for devices like earbuds and e-readers, while a maximum capacity of 20,000mAh will keep a laptop or tablet energised. 30,000mAh is recommended for larger laptops doing heavy lifting.

A 20,000mAh capacity should be sufficient to charge the kind of devices taken to school, like earbuds, phone, tablet or laptop. The Cygnett Boost V2 20K Power Bank is an ideal choice for everyday school use and will charge three devices simultaneously, with up to 5.2 phone charges when fully powered. It’s fitted with a USB-C port for 15W fast charging, along with two USB-A connections, and a digital display to check the bank’s power level.

If a power bank will only be used for a quick recharge or an emergency top-up, then opt for one with a basic, low capacity of 5,000mAh, like the Cygnett ChargeUp Move 5K Dual USB Power Bank, which also offers optimal charging for Apple devices. However, if it’s going to be used more frequently and for a full charge, consider a fast-charging model that won’t take hours to fully power up.

And remember to always keep power banks and charging devices away from direct heat – never leave them in a hot car during summer.

Say watt
Wattage is another thing to look for when considering a charger. You can determine the maximum wattage of a device by its INPUT value. Most smartphones require 5W to charge and tablets up to 12W, while Quick Charge certified tech uses 18W to speed things up. The amount of watts you need in a charger will depend on the device’s power consumption and how many devices will be charged at the same time – should you need to power up a pair of phones, you’ll need 24W.

 

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Wireless charging

Cygnett Magnetic Charging Cable

Wireless charging is a more advanced alternative that’s gaining in popularity. It’s also the ultimate in convenience, eliminating a clutter of cables, adaptors and additional chargers. QI is the universal standard for wireless charging, so first make sure that your device is QI certified and compatible with a wireless charger, and also check the specs for fast charge capability. The simpler and quicker things are when used at school, the better!

One of the downsides of some wireless chargers is the need to properly align the charger and device to enable it to fully power up. No problem on a stable desk, but if the device is being bounced about in a backpack, the magnetic handshake between charger and device can be broken. Fortunately, Apple’s proprietary MagSafe technology has solved that problem with easy magnetic attachment that locks on to the device to ensure it stays put and receives a constant and stable charge.

Basic wireless chargers offer 5W or 10W charging – the higher the wattage, the faster the charging – while MagSafe chargers deliver up to 15W. However, unless the device being charged also contains magnetic coils, you won’t get a full 15W of power.

Designed for use with the iPhone 12, MagSafe is also compatible with Android tech like Samsung’s Galaxy range and Google’s Pixel 5, as well as certain older models and some brands of earbuds – again, look out for the QI logo if unsure.

MagSafe chargers can be both practical and aesthetically pleasing: the Belkin 3-in-1 Wireless Charger for Apple MagSafe is an attractively designed stand that charges three Apple devices simultaneously – iPhone 12, Apple Watch and Airpods – and the perfect solution to send the kids off to school with a full tank. For a more portable option, consider the Cygnett Magnetic Charging Cable for up to 15W of fast charging – it’s compatible with MagSafe technology and designed for easy, one-handed operation.

Power up with USB

From smartwatches and earbuds to phones and tablets, the tech inventory being carted to school is likely to have increased in the last year, which means more devices to be charged for the day. If you’re the type that has a bottom drawer filled with USB power adaptors, or are always without a spare, a USB charging station is the solution – a central power source that will charge multiple devices at the same time.
A powered USB charging station is more practical than a USB hub, which connects multiple devices to a computer or laptop but drains its battery during the charging process. USB charging stations deliver 1A or 2.1A power per port (A being the amount of amps). 1A would suit a smartphone but not a tablet, so it’s best opt for 2A as a minimum. For fast charging, choose a station with high speed ports up to 5A.

With a total of 45W, the Cygnett PowerPlus 4-Port Wall Charger is a portable power station with 2 x USB-A ports and 2 x USB-C for fast charging. Quickly charge one device or share the power across four devices simultaneously.

If your charging needs are less or you simply want a portable alternative to throw in a bag or leave plugged in under a desk, the Cygnett Flow Dual USB Wall Charger has 2.4 amp output for fast charging of two devices simultaneously and will do the job nicely.

The ABC of USB
The Universal Serial Bus (USB) has made convenient charging and transferring of data a cinch. But not all USB ports are created equally, so what do those other letters denote?
USB-A – The one we all know and the one we always seem to insert the wrong way first. Designed for use with computers, chargers and power outlets.
USB-B – A square-shaped connector used for peripherals like printers and external HDDs.
USB-C – The current standard, offering high speed data transfer and higher power flow.

 

Storage solutions

Laptops quickly fill up with photos, videos and games, but their internal storage capacity can be small. That’s where portable storage devices come into play, like the ubiquitous USB flash drives that have changed our lives. These inexpensive, pocket-friendly storage solutions can range in size from 16GB to 512GB, so it’s best to have a rough idea of what you want to store on it before purchasing.

A 16GB flash drive will hold approximately 3,800 12MP photos, up to 4,000 songs, four hours of HD video, and 320,000 single-page word documents. That should more than suffice for everyday school use, but it’s always better to have more storage space than you’ll need, and the SanDisk USB 3.0 Flash Drive (32GB) will give students twice the capacity as well as a fast read speed of 100Mbps.

Samsung T7 Portable SSD Drive

If you’ve got a vast digital library that’s taking up space on your laptop, or need a quick and reliable way to back-up the day’s work or larger files, an external Solid State Drive (SDD) is the solution. An SSD is similar to a computer’s hard drive, but stores data on flash-memory chips. These small, portable devices can hold terabytes of data in their TARDIS-like interior and are ideal for students to keep work safe and secure – it’s simply a matter of how much storage capacity is required.

The Seagate One Touch 1TB Portable SSD is a lightweight and shock-resistant plug-and-play drive that will effortlessly transfer files with speeds of up to 1,030Mbps. It also includes an Android app for backing up photos and videos, as well as file mirroring software for seamless access. Alternatively, for students who require less storage space, the sleek Samsung T7 SSD 500GB delivers equally fast transfer speeds along with multi-device compatibility and built-in security options.

The 123 of USB
When purchasing a USB cable, consider the data transfer speed required, as measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and gigabits per second (Gbps):
USB 1 – 12 Mbps
USB 2.0 – 480 Mbps
USB 3.0 – 5 Gbps
USB 3.1 – 10 Gbps
USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with older devices, but it helps to first check a device’s manager to determine the type of USB port(s) it has.

 

Accessorise!

For turbo-charged speed at 5A/100W and 480Mbps data transfer for quick synching with devices, look no further than the Cygnett Armoured 2.0 USB-C to USB-C cable. This durable and well insulated lead works well in tandem with a charging platform and at a generous 2m, offers ample room to move and can double as an extension cable.

Protect your tech

While much of today’s tech designed for on-the-go use is robust and built to last, kids are still prone to drop things. Even in a backpack or school bag there can be unfortunate collisions resulting in bumps, cracks and scratches, and invariably, a tablet or laptop can attract more fingerprints than a crime scene. It’s wise then to consider a protective case or sleeve for devices that travel and are subject to the stress of a school environment. But first, always check the size of your device to ensure the perfect fit.

Logitech’s folios and combo keyboard cases offer secure protection for 7th/8th/9th Gen iPads. As well as providing protection from spills, bumps and scratches, these versatile cases incorporate a full-size keyboard that transforms an iPad into a laptop with one click. The Logitech Slim Folio Keyboard Case for iPad 10.2” is a lightweight all-in-one case featuring a backlit keyboard and kickstand that locks at an optimal angle for desk use, as well as keeping the front, rear and corners well protected. The Logitech Combo Touch Folio adds a precision trackpad and full-size detachable keyboard to your iPad, while the Rugged Folio is slim keyboard case reinforced with military standard drop protection – ideal for field trips.

Cygnett’s TekView range are slimline cases with a hard-wearing fabric exterior and soft microfibre interior designed to protect iPads and tablets. They feature a fold-out kickstand with multiple viewing angles for desk use or movie viewing, as well as a built-in storage slot for a stylus and direct access to all ports and buttons. For added protection, consider a Cygnett Glass Screen Protector – four layers of ultra-clear tempered glass will keep iPads and tablets safe from scratches, cracks and impacts as well as daily wear and tear.

If you’re just in the market for a simple sleeve that will protect a laptop or tablet, Incase offer a sustainable option manufactured using recycled plastic waste recovered from marine environments. The Incase Compact BIONIC 13” Laptop Sleeve Case offers 100% recycled plastic protection for laptops, notebooks, tablets and Chromebooks, with a front panel pocket to store accessories. (Also available in 16”).

The Cutting Crew

“Where did you have it last?” “I don’t know.” As a parent, you’ll know the ever-present reality of your child returning home without something they left with. Whether it’s a blazer, a drink bottle or a book, the lost property department is invariably the busiest room in any school. However, clearly labelling just about everything that leaves the house in the morning (other than your child) goes a long way towards retrieving misplaced property.

This is where the Cricut range comes in handy, not just for identifying property but putting some creativity into covering books and folders.

Essentially, a Cricut is an electronic cutting machine that can fashion a myriad of designs from different materials. Feed in the design via a computer and marvel as the shape is cut out right before your eyes.

Adhesive materials can be used for naming pens, books and water bottles, or for creating stickers and ornamental covers for essential stationery. The Cricut press machine can be used to affix name tags to clothing, prints for T-shirts, and labels for bags and pencil cases. Literally, the only limit here is your creativity.

Although be warned: as we discovered earlier this year when we reviewed the Cricut Joy, once you learn how to use it properly – and it doesn’t take much – you can quickly find yourself in a Cricut rabbit hole. And there’s no coming back from that.

So, what are your options?

Cricut Joy
The entry-level model, but that in no way restricts what it can do. The machine connects via Bluetooth, and all the craft is conducted through the Cricut Design Space app on a smart device or a desktop computer (both Mac and PC). There are heaps of different materials that can be used, from card to stickers, iron-on medium to vinyl.

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Cricut EasyPress Mini
For all essential iron-on tasks, the EasyPress Mini is the compact and easy to use solution for crafters and parents of school kids alike. Once you’ve printed your iron-on design on your Cricut Joy and decided where you’re going to apply it, the EasyPress will affix it with aplomb. Bags, coats, hats and shirts can be labelled for easy detection, or decorated with a bit of flair.

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi