Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back-to-School Gadgets: Part 1

Sadly, it's already "back-to-school" season; the time that signals the end of summer break for kids, and the impending return of the colder winter days for adults. Naturally, my e-mail inbox has been inundated with back-to-school gadget pitches over the last month.

While kids returning to school will obviously require the basics (notebooks, pens, pencils, fashionable new clothes, etc.), some nifty gadgets might also come in handy. Here are a few suggestions:

MP3 Player: While an MP3 player isn't exactly an educational toy, kids do need something for downtime. I've been using the neat pebble-shaped Samsung YP-S2 Pebble player (hence the name) to listen to tunes while I go to the gym or for a run. What's neat about it is that it comes with a lanyard that has earbuds attached to it. Pull the lanyard around your head, and clip the earbuds into your ears. Then, just wear the player like a necklace. A handy clip will secure it to your shirt so that it doesn't bounce up and down while you walk. It's also really easy to get tunes onto the device: connect it to your PC using the included USB dongle and just drag and drop the desired songs into the player's folder. Then control playback via dedicated buttons on the face. Available in five shiny colours (black, white, red, green, and purple), each pebble can hold 2 GB worth of tunes. $60

All-in-One Printer: Students like to save space, especially when they're working with a tiny desk in a tiny dorm room or computer room at home. The HP Photosmart C4385 is a neat option that permits printing, copying, and scanning of documents all in one compact unit. What makes it even more convenient is that the AIO can operate wirelessly, helping to reduce clutter even more. $130

SanDisk Cruzer Pattern USB Flash Drive: Fashion is as important as function these days when it comes to gadgets. Student that want to store or transfer important presentations or notes can use this flash drive, which comes in gray or black, each with floral-like etching on the exterior to add some "flare". A clip allows it to be easily secured to a backpack or belt; and U3 technology lets password-protected applications run right from the 1GB or 2GB drive. $10 or $15

Targus Wireless Presenter with Laser Pointer: University students looking to impress during their class presentations will appreciate this laser pointer that employs 2.4 GHz wireless technology which allows it to work for up to 30 feet away from the display. You can move page up/down, resume a screen, and even darker a screen while dictating your information to the class. $40

Digital Camera: There are so many neat and affordable digital camera options out there today that really, the choice is up to the individual and what he's looking for. Nikon's Coolpix L18 will appeal to the fashion-conscious student because it comes in a variety of colours (black, sapphire, and ruby). But it also employs some pretty impressive features, like a 3" LCD, 8 MP sensor, and an Easy Auto mode that lets users literally point and shoot while the camera does the rest. $140

Notebook PC: As with the digital camera market, there are so many options in the notebook arena, that it's all a matter of what you'll be doing with the PC, and what option best suits you. Gamers will likely gravitate toward something like the Toshiba Qosmio X300 that can serve as the device for "fun" time as well when it's down to business. It employs all the "extreme" features one would want, from 4GB of memory to up to 500 GB of hard drive space; touch buttons, and the latest graphics processors. It becomes even more versatile, especially for the dorm room teen on a budget, via HDMI-CEC technology for connecting to a Toshiba LCD and viewing content on the big-screen. $2,000

Notebook PC Bag: Naturally, when you have a notebook, you also need something to carry it around in. If fashion is the primary concern (which, let's face it, it is with many students!), then the Acme Made boutique-style bags will fit the bill. The designs are gorgeous (even the insides will impress), while still being functional to carry a notebook along with accessories and other files and folders. Pricing TBA.

Stay tuned for more back-to-school gadget suggestions; you still have a few weeks left of shopping!

[Photo: The Acme Made line of fashionably notebook bags].

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