back to school gadgets 604x500 Back to School! Already?!

The HP Pavilion dm4 (left), the Sony Vaio (right), and the Samsung NB30 netbook (center) are all great back to school PCs. Whether you’re shopping back to school for a teen or a college student, tech gear is an essential part of student life these days. What gadgets does a college kid need? Check out this year’s must have (and let’s be honest, must want) school gadgets.

Take Better Notes: Look slick while you take notes in class… okay, and do some Facebook stalking. The MacBook Pro comes in 13″, 15″ and 17″ sizes, all with LED backlighting, aluminum casing, and the longest-lasting Mac notebook battery to date (8 to 10 hours depending on the size). Looking good takes money, however; this line of MacBooks start at $1,200, $1,800 and $2,300, respectively.

Clean Your Sty: Introducing the new Cinderella, a robot to clean your filthy dorm room. The Neato XV-11 Vacuum Cleaning Robot creates a map of the floor space rather than bump along walls and chair legs. Neato Robotics sells it for $399, as well as filters, chargers, and boundary tape at various costs.  iRobot sells its version of the smart vacuum for $200. Tech specs include sensors to avoid stairs, carpet-to-hard-floor automatic adjustments, and a Virtual Wall tool to create “off-limit” areas.

Write DIfferent: The Pulse is Livescribe’s original, award-winning smartpen — and with it you too can be original and award-winning. The Pulse features a built-in microphone and speaker to record and play back audio, an infrared camera that records what you write, an audio jack for distance recording, and a USB connector to charge your pen and transfer data. Buy yourself an excuse to not lend out your pen! Only $129.95.

Get Fancy: Skip the library and browse online over 3G networks, or take advantage of the Wi-Fi hotspot on your campus. Apple’s iPad allows you to read iBooks and study — and play games, surf the Internet, check mail, and watch movies without straining your eyes. If you have the money (a measly $500 to $829), or if you simply can’t study without a beautiful LED-backlit screen, this is the pad for your pad.

Call Home: Apple’s newly released iPhone 4 features FaceTime video calling, HD video recording, iBooks, iTunes, Safari, and a whole slew of new and updated tools.  For many of the same functions, the iPhone 3GS is still a great option, and starting at $99, it’s cheaper than the iPhone 4, which starts at $199 for the 16GB version, and $299 for the 32GB version. For anyone using Verizon Wireless, wait a year and you won’t have to switch to AT&T.

Portable Power: To flakes, plan-changers, and bad communicators everywhere, “my phone died” is no longer a valid excuse. Kensington’s Portable Power Pack can charge any USB mobile device, anytime, anywhere. The device is a rechargeable external battery pack that works with BlackBerrys, iPhones, iPods, MP3 players, and countless other devices. Buy your no-show friends a clue this year — for just $60.

Stay Cool: This semester, be a hotshot without burning yourself in the process. The Logitech Cooling Pad N100 keeps your computer off your thighs, and boasts a sleek design and constant airflow that barely impacts your laptop’s battery life. For $29.99 you too can enjoy its “rear air intake.”

Go on Lockdown: Protect your laptop from library lurkers who live for your bathroom breaks and coffee addiction. This lock is portable, discrete, and securely attaches to any computer with a T-bar lock. It features a four-wheel combination lock, self-coiling steel cable that contracts to 3 inches and extends to 6 feet, and online registration to recover forgotten codes. Guard your $1,000+ computer for $24.99.

Save your Work: Never lose a term paper, problem set, or photos from last night again. Portable hard drives are compatible with all USB connectors and work with both PCs and Macs. Verbatim’s (right) “Always On” LCD screen continuously updates your free space. With 320 to 500GB of space and a 7-year warranty, you’ll never cry into your defunct PDA again — just the $194 price. Seagate’s version boasts capacities of 250GB to 1TB ($170), automatic backup, encryption technology, and ten colors.

Save Your Memories: Running out of ways to procrastinate? Improve your quality of cyber-life with Sony’s bloggie Camera, the greatest way to capture life’s special moments (for future blackmailing) since Facebook tagging. A 270-degree swivel lens, built-in USB arm, horizontal playback, and 5x optical zoom make this one sexy gadget. Invest in your future as a Web sensation for $150.

Ignore Your Roommate: As engaging as Ivanhoe may be, nothing can drown out the sound of obnoxious troglodytes — otherwise known as roomates. Well, almost nothing. Silence that chewing, coffee-slurping, and keyboard-clanker with Shure’s SE115 Isolating Earphones. Enforce silence in black, blue, red, or pink. $120.

Read Cheaply: If the iPad and nook are too mainstream for you, add the Pandigital eReader to your skinny-jeaned, plaid-shirted ensemble.  The tablet-esque gadget features a 7-inch, full color, and touch sensitive display in addition to built-in Wi-Fi and dictionary, email access, and video, image, and picture viewer. Impress your friends with your electronic individualism for $169.

Build a Big Screen TV: Display projects (or TV) up to 60 inches in class, in your dorm, or in a study room. At 4 ounces, this little projector functions with iPod, iPhone, iTouch, camcorders, digital camcorders, and DVD players, among others. Also included is a 0.5-Watt speaker, 20,000 hours of LED light life, and a 1,000:1 contrast ratio. The downside: a measly 1.5-hour battery life and a $229 price tag.

Link Everything: The MiFi works by creating a Wi-Fi hotspot “virtually anywhere” via a mobile broadband network. This means you can sunbathe in the quad at school or act sophisticated at a local coffee shop while accessing the Internet. Even better, you can stay online during cross-country road trips in your Kia Rio Hybrid. Stay awesome for about $250.

Never Lose a Print-Out: Nobody likes a printer hog — that person who exhausts her printing quota every day, sending last-minute essayists into fits of hysteria. Do the collegiate world a favor and invest in a Canon PIXMA printer. Use the $200 MX870 Wireless (left) for faxing, scanning, copying, and two-sided, wireless printing. Use the $300 iP100 for lab-quality photo prints directly from your digital camera.

Save Space: Watch TV on your PC or Mac with this… thing. If you lack a dorm room TV (highly unlikely if you are a video-gaming college male), or if you can’t wait for Hulu to post the newest episodes of your favorite shows, consider the Volar MAX. This USB-sized stick supports both digital TV (ATSC) and unencrypted digital cable. It could be your $60 ticket to procrastination.


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