Back-To-School Gift Guide: 25 Ideas For Tech-Savvy Students10:00 AM EST Wed. Aug. 22, 2012
Though back-to-school time sadly means the end of summer barbecues and beach days, it's also an excuse to indulge yourself -- or your favorite student -- in some of the hottest new gadgets in the industry.
Whether you need a new laptop for college or a backpack to safeguard your most cherished devices (those bus rides can get pretty bumpy), here's a look at 25 tech gifts sure to make any student smile.
On top of portability and performance, durability is a must when it comes to back-to-school laptops. That was Lenovo's line of thinking, at least, when it launched its ThinkPad x130e laptop, a PC that's fast enough to be enterprise-ready but "ruggedized" enough to be classroom-ready too.
The laptop boasts a top cover rubber bumper for better shock absorption, recessed ports and a 1.2-mm-thick bezel frame to protect the LED screen. The x130e's corners are also 33 percent stronger compared to traditional ThinkPads, meaning less damage when dropped. It's available for $483 on Amazon.com.
As the homework assignments and term papers pile up, students are bound to spend more time in front of a computer. Make sure they do so comfortably with GoSmart's new RestPad, a mouse pad designed to relieve pressure and keep wrists ache-free.
Made out of 100 percent natural sheepskin, the new RestPad is said to relieve at least twice as much pressure as competing mouse pads, with a removable wrist rest ideal for PC users suffering from carpal tunnel or a previous wrist injury.
The RestPad is available in tan, brown and pink, starting at $24.99.
Sometimes trying to study in a college dorm is more challenging than that midterm itself. Give your student the gift of peace and quiet this year with Phiaton's PS 20 noise-cancelling headphones, which, by blocking up to 95 percent of all outside noise, makes hitting the books a little bit easier.
Phiaton's $100 earbuds are also unique from other noise-cancelling headphones in that they don't look like some bulky, outer-space headset used to contact life on another planet. Instead, they fit easily inside a user's ear (think Apple's earbuds for the iPod), making them perfect and embarrassment-free for listening to music on the way to class.
Tired of lugging your reading books to and from class? Consider Amazon's Kindle Fire, a super portable, 7-inch tablet that arms students with access to more than 20 million books.
The Kindle Owners' Lending Library also lets users choose from over 145,000 books, including more than 100 current and former New York Times Best Sellers and the entire Harry Potter series, which they can borrow for free with no due dates.
When not reading for school, students can use Amazon's flagship tablet to access millions of TV shows, songs and magazines, along with apps including Netflix and HBO GO. The Fire is reasonably priced too, touting a $199 price tag.
iPads and other tablets may be ultraportable, but sometimes students need the convenience of a good ol' fashioned keyboard when churning out those book reports. Logitech's wireless tablet keyboard and case delivers just that. Through a Bluetooth connection, students can connect the keyboard wirelessly to their iPads to enjoy the best of the traditional laptop and new-age tablet worlds.
The $70 keyboard also acts as a stand, so the iPad can be perched at angle while typing, rather than lying flat.
The days of heavy textbooks weighing you down are over with AirBac's AirTech backpack. The $89 pack comes equipped with air-filled bladders -- think airbags, but for a backpack -- that not only help take the strain off your shoulders and spine when carrying heavy loads, but serve as protective covers for laptops, tablets or smartphones. AirTech can fit up to a 15-inch notebook PC and comes with two medium-sized pockets for any other gadgets students want to safeguard.
Make sure you never miss a moment of that important lecture with a Livescribe Smartpen, a computerized pen that records audio to let students revisit a lesson whenever they need to. What's more, the Smartpen also stores written notes and graphics, which users can load onto their PCs for further review.
Depending on storage capacity, the Livescribe Smartpen starts around $115.
Dorm rooms aren't exactly the most spacious accommodations, so save some precious real estate with the Epson Stylus NX430 Small All-in-One Printer. Only 15 inches wide and 11 inches tall, the NX430 still packs the punch of a full-sized multifunction printer, with a printer, scanner and copy machine all rolled into one. It also is Wi-Fi-enabled, meaning students can save time by printing papers from their iOS or Android mobile devices on their way to and from class, and it sells for a reasonable $89.
For indecisive students torn between investing in a new smartphone or tablet for the back-to-school season, Samsung's Galaxy Note offers the best of both worlds. Touting a unique, half-smartphone, half-tablet form factor, the Galaxy Note measures 5.3 inches and comes with a stylus students can use to jot down class notes (or, yes, doodle mindlessly) directly onto the device's screen.
A version starting around $550 is available today, but Samsung is expected to launch its second-generation Galaxy Note sometime this fall.
For college students looking to go back to school in style, Apple's new MacBook Pro with Retina Display is one of the thinnest notebook PCs on the market with lightning-fast processing speeds. Running Intel's Ivy Bridge processors and delivering crystal-clear graphics with its 2,880-by-1,800 display resolution, the newest member of the MacBook Pro family provides plenty of screen real estate with a 15-inch frame and weighs in at just under 4.5 pounds.
The price tag is a bit of a hefty one, though, with Apple charging $2,199 for the new PC.
For students living away from home who want to keep in touch with mom and dad, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx should be their smartphone of choice, touting an industry-leading 21.5 hours of talk time (the iPhone 4S, by comparison, gets around 9 hours).
It's also super thin, measuring just 0.35 inches, making it the perfect fit for a backpack or a pocket. Motorola offers the Droid Razr Maxx, which runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and comes with 16 GB of memory, for $299.99.
Nikon says its Coolpix S30 digital camera "welcomes hands of all sizes," with its durable design and easy user interface making it a great fit for students of all ages.
Younger students can take the Coolpix S30 on field trips worry-free, knowing it will absorb shock when dropped and even emerge unscathed from an underwater plunge. College kids will love it for its 10.1- million pixel count that yields high-quality pictures, as well as for its built-in album-making feature that lets you create scrapbooks for quick access to favorite images.
Plus, it sells for only $100 bucks and comes in an array of colors sure to synch with all students' styles.
After sleeping in through the dog days of summer, getting to school in the morning, especially on time, can be a challenge. Make sure your favorite student doesn't miss the bus with iLuv's Vibro II Dual Alarm Clock, an alarm clock that comes with an attached speaker/shaker device that can be placed underneath a pillow to either play music or vibrate when it's time to wake up. If the music doesn't wake you, the shaking certainly will.
The $60 Vibro II Dual Alarm Clock also doubles as an iPhone or iPod dock, meaning you can pick the wake-up sound track of your choice and charge your device overnight.
Textbooks may be valuable learning tools, but they can also feel like a ton of bricks when lugging them around in a backpack all day. But this year, students can travel light, with Apple's new textbook line-up in the iBookstore. K-12 titles are available from textbook publishers McGraw-Hill and Pearson Education for a range of subjects, including biology, physics and algebra. Many of the books are interactive, too, allowing students to drill down into graphics and charts and even take notes.
Textbooks start at $14.99 in the iBookstore and can be purchased with an iTunes gift card or iTunes cash.
It's always a good idea to back up your work, eliminating any chance of that 30-page senior thesis going kaput. The Verbatim Tuff-'N'-Tiny USB drive is a student- and dorm-friendly storage device that's dust-proof and water-proof, and it attaches to a key chain where it can never get lost. It's also "penny-thin," fits in all standard USB ports and offers password protection for Windows users, ensuring those back-to-school assignments stay extra safe.
Options range from 2 to 32 GB and $10 to $40 dollars on Verbatim's website.
The Acer Aspire 5349-2635 may not compete with some of the highest-end laptops out there when it comes to specs. But, the 15.6-inch, Intel Celeron-powered notebook does stand apart when it comes to its price tag. It sells for just $328 on Walmart.com, making it the perfect choice for cash-strapped college students looking for a deal.
Though it lacks a USB 3.0 port and is a little bulky compared to some of its competitors, the Acer Aspire 5349-2635 still gets the job done, equipped with 4 GB of memory, a 320 GB hard disk drive and an LED-backlit display.
Want the processing punch of full-blown desktop PC without sacrificing too much dorm-room real estate? Lenovo's got you covered.
The PC maker launched in May its new "tiny" ThinkCentre M92p, a desktop with a width that measures just 1.4 inches thick or about the size of your average golf ball. But, don't be fooled by the M92p's petite form factor; the smallest desktop in the ThinkCentre series still packs in 4 GB of 1600MHz DDR3 RAM and up to a third-generation Intel Ivy Bridge Core processor.
Lenvovo's new mini-desktop is available for $699 on its website.
Ever experience that panicked feeling when you realize you've lost your entire notebook of Psych notes the night before a big exam? Well, avoid it happening again by scanning your handwritten notes with the Planon DocuPen and storing them safely on your PC.
Students can use the DocuPen to scan up to an entire megabyte's worth of both notes and graphics in just four to eight seconds per page. It weighs less than two ounces, so it can be easily slipped into a backpack, and it sells for $69 on Amazon.com.
Ultrabooks and laptops are a great choice for many of today's closet-sized dorm rooms, but using a touchpad day-in and day-out can get old pretty quickly. That's why Logitech's G7 laser cordless mouse is a great gift choice for any college laptop-user yearning for the convenience (and comfort) of a mouse.
With a 2000 dpi laser engine, the G7 is precise and responsive, working about four times faster than conventional mice. It also glides extra smoothly over a mouse pad, and it can be used for seamless game-play when the homework is finished.
The G7's precision will cost you a pretty penny at $279, but Logitech also offers lower-end cordless mice starting around $30.
For high school students braving advanced math and science courses this fall, Texas Instruments' TI-89 Titanium graphing calculator is a backpack essential.
Considered by Texas Instruments to be its "most powerful graphing calculator" to date, the TI-89 comes pre-loaded with 16 apps, including NoteFolio, a basic word processing solution that lets users type class notes and share them with other TI-89 users through the calculator's built-in USB port. The TI-89 is also allowed to be used during the SATs, along with several Advanced Placement (AP) exams.
Between studying, part-time jobs and a social life, college students often put cleaning on the back burner. That's why the iRobot Scooba 390 is the ideal send-off gift to ensure those dorm rooms stay spick and span.
Through its use of a thorough, four-stage cleaning process, the battery-operated Scooba 390 is literally a cleaning machine, prepping, washing, scrubbing and even squeegeeing your floors for you. Best part? You just press a button and watch the Scooba get cleaning -- no actual work is required. The convenience comes at a cost, though; iRobot's gadget sells for $499.
To help college students stay up to speed with their favorite TV series while away, there's Apple TV. The flagship digital media receiver from Apple puts access to thousands of HD movies and TV shows at users' fingertips, letting them download content from iTunes to play directly on their TVs. Also included in the $99 device is a feature called AirPlay, which lets users stream content for their iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.
Old-school meets high-tech in Kate Spade's $85 Composition Notebook case for tablets. Students can place their iPads or other tablets within the 10-inch cover to infuse a bit of vintage flare into their larger back-to-school lineup. Upholding the same look and feel of a traditional Composition notebook, the Kate Spade brand name is creatively hidden on the front of the cover. The case is made out of coated poplin, has a lined interior to keep tablets safe and is available at Nordstrom's.
Between those bumpy bus rides and or hectic walks to and from class, students need a way to protect their new iPhone 4 or 4S. They can do it in style this year with Grove's bamboo iPhone cases, carved from a single block of bamboo that both looks great and holds its own when dropped or jumbled up in a backpack. Students can choose from a pre-crafted design, or even send in their own art for a customized case.
All the cases are handmade in Portland, Ore., and start at $69.99.
With all the smartphones, tablets and other back-to-school gadgets used by students today, staying organized is a must. Help them find what they need more quickly with Cocoon Grid-It, an organization system that can store everything from a full-size tablet to a phone to basic pens and pencils. It's thin enough to stick into a backpack, and it comes with built-in straps to keep devices in place. It can also be used to hold power cords, headphones and other accessories so more time can be spent hitting the books than searching for their favorite tech toy.
Grid-It starts around $14.99 and comes in a variety of sizes and colors.