Like it or not, summer’s almost over, but it’s never too early to start prepping for all the gadgets you need this upcoming school year. From tech that gets you the best performance at school to toys that help you relax after a day of lectures, here’s our 10 selections for the gear you need this season.
Google Nexus 7, 16GB ($250)
A tablet is undoubtedly one of the hottest must-haves in today’s tech-infused world, and the Google Nexus 7 is a fantastic budget model for students who just want a lightweight, go-to computing device on the fly. Running the latest version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the processor is fast enough to keep up with your new pace of life while the 7-inch screen fits perfectly in your hand, making it ultraportable for your trek around campus. The Google Now dashboard, included in the Nexus 7, also makes a great source for every day inquiries, such as the weather, public transportation delays, news, and other predictive data acquired from your continued use. An extra $25 credit for the Google Play shop is also a nice incentive if you buy it in the coming months.
Check out our review of the Nexus 7.
Amazon Prime Membership ($80 a year)
Amazon recently announced that it would be offering a Textbook Rental center, so use the extra savings and invest in an Amazon Prime membership to access free two-day shipping on most items. This way, whenever you need to get more snacks, books, and miscellaneous supplies, you can have it at your door without the need to get to your nearest shopping center. Prime memberships also come with added features, like instant movie and television show streaming and select e-books for your Kindle.
Belkin WeMo Switch + Motion ($100)
You might not think about how much electricity you’re using since college dorms charge a flat-rate housing fee, but it’s still good to start getting into a greener, more eco-conscious habit. The combination of the Belkin WeMo Switch and Motion sensor will recognize when you enter the room before powering on certain things, helping you save energy by using only when you need it.
With the recent adoption of ifttt technology, students can also have fun with learning to program their WeMo to respond to their social media activities, such as tweeting or posting a Facebook status to command certain actions. This might make it a neat way to play a little prank on your roommate as well, such as turning on the radio while you’re in class to freak them out.
Dorm rooms are generally pretty tight spaces, as many television advertisements are fond of pointing out, so make the most out of your tiny room with Crates. This modular, stackable storage system can be adapted to fit any lifestyle for any purpose, from seating to nightstand to laundry bin. We’ve even seen someone stick a plastic bag inside, fill it up with ice, and use it as a portable cooler. The simple white design is also easy to match with any personal style, and truly begs the user to bring out their creativity. The ability to repurpose as the year goes on makes Crate a nice investment for just $20 apiece, and can last for all four years of college and then some. Add-on accessories begin at $5 to $30.
Roku 2 XS/LT ($100 or $50)
You might have seen the Roku 2 XS in last year’s back to school guide, and it’s here again because this is a solid gadget, highly recommended for students who need some time off after a day of lectures and exams. The tiny digital entertainment center has it all: high definition streaming for more than 300 Internet channels (including Netflix and Hulu Plus), music player, and a remote control that doubles as a motion-sensor gaming device to play Angry Birds with. If the $100 price tag seems a bit steep, you can also opt for the new Roku LT, which sells for half the price. Of course, expect the budget purple version to lack a few specs than its premium counterpart.
When traveling across campus from class to class, you want a backpack that fits a lot of stuff while remaining as slim as possible. The North Face’s Base Camp Free Fall backpack does just that. The clever design packs an impressive amount, with special slots designed for phones, keys, and ID cards. It also makes for a great overnight backpack, fitting three days worth of clothes while maintaining a comfortable wear. As with most North Face backpack designs, a front belt clip is also available to shift the weight off your back when carrying heavier items, such as large textbooks or computers.
So you’ve got your cell phone and iPod ready to go for a day of classes… what to do when you head back to your room? Consider this BlueLounge charging station a classy way to add a home decor touch to your dorm room while powering your gadgets simultaneously.
The Sanctuary comes in white, black, or dark wood colors and has a simple design that fits into any dorm room seamlessly. It’s also compatible with more than 3,760 devices, making virtually any gadget work with the charging station. When you’re not using it to charge devices, it also acts as a nice place to leave your wallet and/or keys so you don’t forget them before leaving the room.
MacBook Air 11.6-inch 64GB model ($1000)
Once again, the Macbook Air lands in our back to school guide simply because it’s the best when it comes to portability, usability, functionality, and overall great design. This year, the new Macbook Air also come with the latest Mac operating system: OS X Mountain Lion. This allow for all sorts of shortcuts, such as tweeting directly from your Finder window, to using the Notification Center to stay on top of all your e-mails, chats, appointments, and more. Purchase before September 21 and students can qualify for a $100 gift card to use on apps, books, movies, and games.
Livescribe 4GB Echo Smartpen ($118)
I know what you might be thinking: “More than $100 on a pen?” We promise the smartpen concept is more useful than you think. For students who attend many lectures in a day, keeping up with the professor’s agenda can be tiring. The Livescribe Echo Smartpen can record up to 4GB of sound while you jot down notes. Afterward, you can tap your notes and the pen will bring up the portion of the lecture it recorded that is related to what you wrote.
You can also upload the audio clips to your computer or other productivity apps like Evernote or Pages to use for review after class. To protect against thieving kids looking to steal your notes, you can program a four-digit password to prevent others from accessing the replay button on the special-designed notepad.
Rdio Unlimited Family ($18 a month)
Sure, there are plenty of music streaming services available, but Rdio is definitely the most family-friendly. Two unlimited subscriptions start at 20 percent off the retail value while three subscriptions costs just $23. The paid service will also be compatible with your mobile gadgets, from the iPad to Android to Windows Phone and even Blackberry OS. The desktop interface utilizes large photo grids, making music discovery more organic. Use it in combination with your Roku and you’ve got the tiniest mobile entertainment center on campus that still packs quite the punch.