Friday, August 6, 2010

KXL: Back-To-School Tech Guide 2010 Edition

In less than a month students will be heading back to class, and with them... the latest tech gadgets.

Let's start with some fun gadgets I've found for this year's back-to-school shopping:

Neverlate 7-day Alarm Clock ($35, ThinkGeek.com)
Set each day's wake-up alarm based on your class schedule. Set the snooze time from 1-30 minutes and up to 7 independent daily alarms. The 5" cube has a battery backup and even has a "nap" timer. Brilliant!

USB Memory Watch ($20-$40, ThinkGeek.com)
It's a watch! It's a USB memory stick! This handy combo-accessory comes in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB versions and is even shock proof and anti-static.

LightWedge Reading Light ($20-$25, ThinkGeek.com)
An ideal accessory for late-night studying, it wedges between the pages and illuminates the entire page. Available in paperpack and textbook sizes, the LightWedge Reading LIght runs on 4 AAA batteries for up to 40 hours of light.

Speaking of reading... what about the e-book readers? A good idea for students or a waste of money?

It all depends on your situation. Think about what titles are available for a specific platform of e-book readers, and consider the pros/cons of lightweight travel vs. not being able to highlight in the books or, potentially, sell used titles back at the end of the semester. Do the math, often the pricing is only slightly cheaper for electronic titles. That said, e-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle have dropped in price dramatically and may be the perfect back-to-school accessory.

Many listeners ask about which computer they should buy. I hear often: netbook vs. notebook... and Mac vs. PC. Here are a pair to consider, one of each (I happen to use both regularly):

HP Mini 210 in Preppy Pink ($300+, Amazon.com)
Ultra-portable netbook from HP slides from class-to-class with lightweight ease. Available in six colors including "preppy pink" he netbook boasts battery life that leaves its bigger brother laptops in the dust. The 93% keyboard takes some getting used to, but the portability will more than make up for it. Not the best bet for those seeking degrees in graphics design, programming, or other technical fields.

Apple Macbook Pro 15" ($1800+, http://www.apple.com/store)
Graphics and creative students may opt for a Mac OS X-based Macbook. Starting at $1000 for the basic Macbook and two hundred bucks more for the Pro series, Apple notebooks are well-designed robust systems. Add Parallels, Fusion or Apple's own bootcamp for full Windows support.

If you have other questions about gadgets and tech for back-to-school, leave them in the comments or email: techexpert AT brianwestbrook DOT com

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