Small appliances like a microwave, a coffee maker and a mini fridge are fairly small investments that go a long way toward making life in a college dormitory more comfortable. Whether you need to fuel a late-night study session or just want to keep all that Red Bull cold, choosing the best small appliances for your dorm room is easy. ConsumerSearch has number of reports that will make it simple to furnish your room with all the comforts of home. Read on...
Chill out with a mini fridge
Perhaps the most essential appliance of a well-appointed dorm room is the mini fridge. The best ones don't have freezers -- and the ones that do are so small and anemic that they can scarcely store and freeze a tray of ice cubes -- so you won't be able to stock up on ice cream bars and frozen pizzas. But a mini fridge is great for keeping drinks cold and for stashing leftover pizza from the weekend. The mid-sized, 2.5-cubic-foot Danby DAR259 (*Est. $170) is the ConsumerSearch Best Reviewed pick for best mini fridge, though it is a bit on the pricey side. The 2.7-cubic-foot Kenmore 92779 (*Est. $100) is a little less and also slightly smaller.
One tip: Check with your university first; some already have fridges, and still others don't allow students to have them at all.
Late-night essential: The humble microwave
To reheat that cold pizza (or make microwave popcorn), you'll need a microwave. Unless you're living in the Taj Mahal, a compact microwave will probably be your best bet. Our Best Reviewed pick, the Sharp R-230KW (*Est. $75), doesn't have many bells and whistles compared with more expensive units -- there's no cooking sensor or inverter technology to prevent over- or under-cooking. But it's very compact and has a one-year warranty.
Choosing the best toaster oven
A toaster oven is a good alternative to a microwave. It won't cook that frozen pizza as quickly, but it will make your pizza crispy, not mushy -- and unlike a microwave, a toaster oven can make toast or a bagel on mornings when you want to skip the dining hall. Our Best Reviewed pick, the Sanyo Space Saving Toast Oven (*Est. $50) is very compact and affordable, and users say it is very simple to use.
To stay caffeinated: Coffee makers and tea kettles
If you want some coffee to go with your bagel -- or if you just need some help to pull an all-nighter study session -- a coffee maker is a must. Serious coffee drinkers will appreciate the Mr. Coffee JWX27 (*Est. $45), a 12-cup coffee maker that's our Best Reviewed pick for a basic coffee maker -- if you only want an occasional cup of java, a one-cup coffee maker might be a better choice. Serious collegiate coffee drinkers will naturally want to buy beans, rather than pre-ground coffee; the Krups Fast Touch (*Est. $20) is an excellent, affordable coffee grinder. If tea is your beverage of choice, the electric Capresso H2O Plus tea kettle (*Est. $60) is fast and has an automatic shut-off in case you dash off to class without turning it off.
Take it with you: Travel mugs
Whether you prefer coffee or tea, you'll want an insulated travel mug to take your drink with you (so you don't nod off during that early-morning lecture). Depending on how much you want to spend, you can purchase a basic mug like the plastic 16-ounce Aladdin Recycled and Recyclable Travel Mug (*Est. $9) or the fancy Contigo AutoSeal Travel Stainless Steel Mug (*Est. $20), among other choices.
Keep your cool with a fan
All of those appliances -- as well as your computer and stereo and whatnot -- are bound to generate some heat. Even if you have air conditioning in your dorm room, a small fan might be a good idea. The Honeywell HT-900 Super Turbo High Performance Fan (*Est. $15) is a pint-sized powerhouse and will fit in the most cramped of spaces. If you have the room for something larger, the Lasko 1825 18-Inch Adjustable Cyclone (*Est. $30) is also a good choice.
Before you buy
Before you buy any appliance, it's a good idea to check with your residential advisor, as some colleges and universities place restrictions on what you can keep in your room. If you can, you should also check in with your roommate-to-be to see what he or she plans on bringing. That way, you won't end up with two coffee makers but no mini fridge. For more ideas on creating the perfect dorm room, check out About.com's interior-decorating channel for tips on organizing and furnishing your space. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation).