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How to build your ultimate back-to-school battle station

Whether you’re looking for the right laptop, or perfecting your desk decor, here’s everything you need for remote learning.

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Back-to-school shopping used to be about preparing to leave the house: new clothes, new shoes, new bag. But with many schools and colleges opting for remote learning or a half-home-half-campus hybrid, this year is different. Right now, it’s all about setting yourself up for success at home with a desk fit for remote classes, video chats, plus your extracurriculars like gaming or maybe even launching your YouTube empire.

To get you or your child ready to WFH this school year, we teamed up with Micro-Star International (MSI), maker of leading-edge laptops for gaming and content creation, to find exactly what you need to build a functional, stylish workspace. Browse our top picks ahead.

MSI GS66 Laptop

The thin, light GS66 in matte Core-Black is hands-down one of the most stylish laptops on the market. It’s also designed to give gamers superpowers, with lightning-fast processing, a 300 Hz refresh rate, enhanced graphics and audio, and a 99.9Whr battery that lets you experience smooth gameplay or multitasking all over your space. Better yet, MSI’s exclusive Dragon Center software lets you control and customize your rig just the way you want it.

Price: $1,799

LARQ Bottle

When did you last wash your water bottle? That’s a question you’ll never ask yourself again with a self-cleaning bottle like this one. Every two hours, it uses ultraviolet LED to wipe out germs and bacteria, and because it also purifies H20, all you need is a working faucet to have clean water daily. Consider it a permanent resident on your desktop.

Price: $95

White Laptop Quickstand Eco Standing Desk Converter

If a standing desk sounds like more commitment than your two feet are ready for, consider a converter like this minimalist one that allows you to change positions on a whim. It lets you adjust a laptop to any height up to 19 inches, and when you’d rather sit, it can lie flat on a desk — or tabletop.

Price: $399

Bits and Bobs Storage Container Set

Put your odds and ends (cords, loose change, and other accessories) where they belong: out of sight. This set of three glass containers from Danish design brand Hay doubles as decor while saving space that a sprawling and more traditional desk organizer would consume.

Price: $22-$42

MSI Modern 15 Laptop

If you’re looking for a great-looking laptop that’s affordable and handles all your daily productivity tasks in stride, look no further. The Modern 15 laptop is the perfect workstation for all your needs, from online classes and video meetings, to web browsing and music-listening thanks to its speedy processing and NVIDIA GeForce-enhanced graphics. This is the one you’ll take everywhere.

Price: $779

Computer Light Ring

RIP first-day-of-school outfits. Now, it’s all about finding the right light, which is why you’ll want to introduce yourself to this clip-on light ring on day one of class. With adjustable brightness and four different color settings, it can give you the professional-grade glow no sweater ever could.

Price: $44.99

Bird’s Nest Fern

Fact: There is no space that can’t be improved by living greenery, and first-time plant parents will find this small, easy-to-care-for fern a welcome addition to their desktop. It’s a low-key, pet-friendly plant that requires low light and little humidity, meaning all you have to do is water it — it may even forgive you if you occasionally forget.

Price: $35

MSI Immerse GH50 Gaming Headset

This headset features rich, 7.1 surround sound for a peak audio experience whether you’re listening to music, watching a movie, or slaying a virtual enemy. Gamers will find even more features to love here, with haptic feedback, inline controls for easy access to mute and volume settings, and a detachable unidirectional microphone. The earcups also feature RGB Mystic Light, which allow you to synchronize and coordinate colors with gaming rigs and peripherals to create nearly endless color combinations and effects.

Price: $69.99


Despite your best efforts to remain hardcopy-free, you may find yourself with a few books that need to be within reach. If that’s the case, you’ll want to contain those pages with a simple but functional pair of bookends that offer a pop of color like this steel set from Seattle-based design studio fruitsuper.

Price: $32

Venice Studio Black Task Office Chair

Before you trick your space out in a plastic piece that’s as good for the back as it is bad for the eyes, consider splitting the difference with a design-forward seat. This Fred Segal-designed chair keeps it clean with midcentury lines while offering the support of a high back and never-to-be-underestimated armrests.

Price: $299

2020-21 Academic Planner

Commit to your goals in writing with this academic year planner that goes from July 2020 to June 2021. Each month spans two pages, leaving room to drill down details and set weekly goals. And because it lays flat and has a narrow profile, it’s easy to keep beside you all day long.

Price: $9.99

Poppin Dark Grey 3-Drawer Filing Cabinet

The best way to ensure your desktop is clear is to have plenty of drawer space below it. This portable filing cabinet, which mercifully arrives assembled, is ready to hold all those clunky friends — headphones, chargers, notebooks — you’d rather not have as guests on your desk.

Price: $249.99

MSI GF65 Laptop

Not many laptops offer a gaming experience enhanced with NVIDIA GeForce RTX graphics at this price point. For just over $1,000, you get real-time ray tracing, artificial intelligence, and programmable shading — in other words, some of the most vibrant visuals around, all in a thin, stylish chassis, with 7-hour battery life. Better gameplay, right this way.

Price: $1,099

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