The best gadgets to give a college student

Smiling teenage girl with digital tablet taking selfie with mother and sister in Christmas living room

If you’re shopping for a gift for a college student over the holidays, consider gifting a gadget rather than a pair of fresh bed sheets.

As CNBC’s in-house gadget reviewer, I have a few ideas that I think college students will really love, from streaming TV sticks to smart speakers and portable gaming systems. And if your student is planning to spend any time abroad, I even have a good idea on an unlocked cellphone so you don’t need to worry about paying for expensive roaming fees.

Here are the best gadgets to give a college student.

  • Google Chromecast

    In other gift guides, I’ve recommended the Amazon Fire TV and the Apple TV, but I think the Chromecast is the best streaming TV bet for a college student. It lets them stream movies, TV shows, pictures and more from a smartphone to their dorm room TV. And, if they have friends, they can enable a guest mode so that others can get in on the fun. It’s only $35, so it won’t break the bank, and you won’t have to worry about it if your kid’s roommate runs off with it at the end of the year.

    Price: $35
    Buy Now: Google Chromecast

    The Google Chromecast

  • Motorola G5S Plus

    The Motorola G5S Plus is an unlocked cellphone that works on all major U.S. carriers (without a contract) and can also be used abroad. It’s perfect if you have a son or daughter getting ready for a semester abroad, since it costs only $240 but offers all the basics, like fast charging, decent cameras, a fingerprint reader, a large 5.5-inch 1080p display and a premium all-metal design. Once your kid sets foot in Europe (or elsewhere) just buy a local SIM and you’ll save big on data and roaming fees you might otherwise pay some U.S. carriers

    Price: $239.99
    Buy now: Motorola G5S Plus

    The Motorola G5S Plus

  • Apple AirPods

    Every kid needs a decent set of headphones and, while they’re still kind of silly looking, Apple’s AirPods are my top choice for most activities. They’re compact, offer great battery life and work with iPhones and Androids. Sure, you might want a set of noise-canceling cans for longer trips, but they cost more and aren’t as portable as AirPods. Plus, now that smartphones are largely ditching the headphone jack, it’s time to get on board with Bluetooth headphones anyway.

    Price: $159
    Buy now: AirPods

    CNBC: AirPods 2