Last week we asked the iMore community to give us their most pressing back-to-school tech questions. These are the questions we picked to answer! We've got a wide range of experts across the Mobile Nations family, so we've tapped all of our sites to weigh in on questions about phones, tablets, laptops, and everything in between. Let's see what's on the mind of parents and students...

Sean N. asks:

What's your go-to recommendation now for a "My entire life is in this bag" backpack for a college student? In high school, my son was able to basically use his car as his locker and, as such, was able to carry a messenger with only a Chromebook, material for his next course, and lots of small must-have gadgets (ex.- slim batteries, cables, earbuds, etc.). He won't have a car at college, and he needs to be able to carry a 12" laptop, tablet, all his books, lunch, etc. I'm willing to spend on it, but I want it to have a top-notch design, plenty of separate pockets, good weight-balance, and get him through 4 years.

Lory Gil answers:

A good backpack that can support A LOT of stuff (and heavy stuff, at that) is a balancing act between quality stitching, large pockets, and lightweight material (the latter being more important than you may reallize). We've got a list of the best backpacks designed for school, but my personal suggestion based on your college student's needs is the Ospery Nebula. Karen S. Freeman reviewed the women's model recently if you want to see more details.

Ron A. asks:

Can having a smart speaker in the house actually be helpful to a student doing their homework?

Bryan M. Wolfe answers:

Great question! With Amazon Alexa, you can add learning and reference skills to help the student with their homework and even gain access to TED Talks information. Once these skills are setup with your Echo device and the Alexa app, you can just ask questions that may arise during homework sessions. Hope that helps Thanks for reading and for your question.

Sherri B. asks:

Is there an advantage to having a tablet over a laptop? Is one a better option than the other for a student - or a teacher? I am a teacher, and our district is considering moving to Chromebooks for teachers - we've always had MacBooks in the past. Students are now 1:1 with Chromebooks, which, along with cost, is the reason given for the potential move for teacher machines. I love my Mac, and although I can see the cost-benefit to giving teachers Chromebooks, I am concerned about what I perceive to be a lesser machine.

Could you speak to that? What would I need to know if we are forced to switch from MacBooks to Chromebooks? Would it be prudent to purchase my own MacBook (the school would allow me to use my own machine)? Would it be a good idea to suggest giving teachers the option for a tablet instead (they are open to our input)? If it matters, we currently have MacBook Airs; they are looking at Chromebook Pros. Administration mainly uses iPads, so teachers have considered asking for those since the district is looking to save money. What would be the advantages and disadvantages to an iPad vs a Chromebook Pro?

Rene Ritchie answers:

If your primary concern is to get as many computing devices into the hands of as many children as possible for highly standardized use cases in as easy to manage and maintain a way as possible, then Chromebooks are a great choice. They're cheap, they're traditional clam-shell designs, they come with all the Google software needed for things like writing — and taking tests – and because they're web based and Google has great tools, they're simple to keep clean, updated, and administered.

The downside is Google's business model, which is based on data harvesting and exploitation, might be antithetical to your personal or public policies, Chromebooks aren't as adaptable or creativity focused as iPads, or as well built and locally powerful as Macs. So, if you want to keep your data as your data, and you want to do a lot of creativity-inspired curriculum, you want to take tablets around with you, or you want to run a lot of local apps for a lot of years, iPads or Macs might do you better.

Richard C. asks:

What are some of the best "back to school" discounts and deals on laptops? I heard about Apple having a deal on Mac Books, but what about a Windows PC or Chromebook? What is my best bet a Mac, a PC or a Chromebook?

Jared DiPane answers:

There are lots of great deals going on, but Dell and HP have some of the best direct ones. Prices right now start at just $130 (though that one wouldn't be best for students!)

I'd say something like the Inspiron 15 5000 Laptop would be a great value at just $650. In addition to the instant discount, you get a $100 Visa gift card with it.

On the HP side, the 15t is down to $480 during this sale, making it hard to beat right now!

If a Chromebook is of interest, the Acer Chromebook R11 is down to $230 at Amazon. Lower specs than a Windows PC, so be mindful of your interests and expectations from it.

Overall, there is no single best choice here. It depends on your needs, budget, and whether you have an OS preference or not. If you've already invested in Windows apps and games, it may be worth sticking with Windows. If you're looking for a change, you may even consider an iPad with a Smart Keyboard!

Alex T. asks:

What are the best mini fridges for college students that are good quality without breaking the bank so much? $150 or less

Lory Gil answers:

At less than $150, you're either going to have to go with a mini fridge that doesn't have a freezer or that has a very small freezer that is incorporated into the fridge box. For fridge with freezer, my suggestion would be RCA's Igloo mini fridge. For a fridge-only, Magic Chef's mini fridge has a lot of space for those larger leftover boxes. If you're willing to drop an extra $50, get a mini fridge with a separate feezer door, like GE's model. Hope this helps!

Students have a hard enough time stressing out about classes. Let's save them the hassle of figuring out which tools to invest in. Take a gander at our answers here, and if you don't find what you're looking for, drop a reply in the forums and our editors will pile in with their thoughts!

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