Back to school supplies: tech we recommend
18th Aug 2013 | 23:36
Sales for Back to School gadgets are now in session
The only problem with summer vacation is that it gets shorter and shorter after the first day.
With a new school year quickly approaching, it's time to soak up the last hours of the long summer sun, and prepare for nine months of hard work that will give birth to another freedom-filled summer.
One of the best ways for students and teachers to start off on the right foot is by picking up "technology built to learn."
That's why we put our thinking caps on a little early, coming up with a Back to School gadget list that will make reading, doing homework, and paying attention in class a bit easier during the 2013-2014 school year.
The Dean's List Trivia Game app
Before your teacher hands out a syllabus for the upcoming semester, prep with some brainy questions by downloading the appropriately themed Dean's List Trivia Game app.
This iOS and Android quiz game has 200 question sets of 5 questions each. In case your brain isn't back from summer vacation just yet, that's a total of 1000 questions.
The questions are extremely challenging, even for trivia buffs. You either know it, or you don't even know the jargon it's talking about.
Luckily, most of the answers in the Dean's List include source links to the web, allowing you to do a little more research if you find a question's answer to be questionable.
Acer Aspire S7-392
Price: Starting at $1,449.99 on Acer.com
Start the school year off with an Acer up your sleeve by considering the company's impressive second-generation ultrabook and the follow-up to the original Acer Aspire S7 we liked so much.
This year's model has school spirit and a Haswell processor at heart thanks to Core i5 or i7 depending on the configuration. Intel's new battery-sipping CPU means the computer can last all day long.
The Aspire S7 battery has improved by 33 percent so you can achieve more productivity from the hardware, and it boasts quieter fans that adhere to the library's strict "no noise" rules.
These improvements go along with the ultrabook's sleek and lightweight design that make it just 2.87 pounds. The stylish auto-light-sensing electroluminescent keyboard doesn't hurt either, especially if you have a roommate and you're plugging away at an all-nighter in the darkened dorm room.
LiveScribe Sky Wi-Fi Smartpen
Price: $135 on Amazon
You're smart, but your pen is stupid. It hasn't changed much since the fountain to ballpoint pen transition in the 19th century, which makes life a Bic.
LiveScribe smartpens will point you in the right direction when writing down and reviewing notes, thanks to the integration of an audio recorder. As you jot down handwritten notes on special paper with microdots (that you can hardly see), the pen remembers what was being said.
Go back, tap any area of the notes, and hear what was being said at the moment you wrote something down. This contrasts with normal audio recordings in which you're hunting through a 50-minute timeline for a particular section of a lecture.
While the LiveScribe Echo model is still available, the company added the LiveScribe Sky in the last academic year so that notes transfer wirelessly to a computer or device and sync with Evernote.
Microsoft Windows 8 / Office
Price: $69.99 / $79.99 at Microsoft
Microsoft's software is a little less relevant on campus every new school year compared to a decade ago, as you can get away with lots of tasks using Google Docs or OpenOffice.
However, there's no getting through a semester without one teacher requiring Office-based formats, and really Office is the most reliable word processing program out there.
The good news is that students and teachers don't need to spend a whole lot on the operating system or Microsoft's suite of programs, and they're more compatible with Macs than ever. Windows 8 Pro is only $69.99, and a four-year subscription to Office 365 is just $79.99.
There's no getting around not using Windows or Office at least once, but at least there's a way to get around paying full price.
Price: $60 for 100GB from Google
Word processing is more advanced in Word, but when it comes to storing files, Google Drive outdoes Microsoft's newer SkyDrive service as one of the best cloud storage options.
Drive comes with 15GB of free storage, which compares to Dropbox's 16GB. In Google's case, though, you don't have to pester all of your friends to sign up to earn the space. You may have two thumbs, but you don't want to become "that guy" on campus.
In addition to automatically syncing your Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations, Google allows for other individual files as large as 10GB each - five times as large as that of SkyDrive.
So while SkyDrive has document collaboration similar to Google's sharing options, the only reason to buy into Microsoft's plan is if you have a Windows Phone 8 device.
FAVI Smart Stick Keyboard Controller
Price: $32.51 at Amazon
Whether it's for academic presentations or for personal use in a dorm, the FAVI Smart Stick Keyboard Controller puts every necessary button at your thumb tips.
The RF transmitting keyboard remote has tactical QWERTY keys, a mini touchpad, Android hotkeys, and buttons for left and right mouse clicks. Best of all, you will be able to see all of them in the dark - there's a clutch LED backlighting the 75 keys that make up this remote.
The FAVI Smart Stick RF is compatible with devices that have a USB port, including computers, tablets, game consoles, and set-top boxes. Always a nice touch: The small USB dongle can be tucked away behind the battery door when not in use, right next to a removable Li-ion battery.
There's also a new Bluetooth version that exchanges game console and set-top box support for expanded tablet and smartphone functionality, including Apple devices.
Tom Bihn Synapse 25
Price: $170 at Tom Bihn
Before you put all of these tech school-bound supplies into your bag, you'll need a backpack that is able to fit all of your new gear.
Tom Bihn makes a variety of durable bags that can take care of your everyday carry needs, especially the Synapse 25. It has five zippered pockets and can fit both a laptop and a tablet in the main compartment, as well as some of your textbooks.
Although more expensive than other brands, the strength of Tom Bihn's Made in the U.S.A. bags and their 100 percent finished seams means that one of these bags can last for years. It's backed up by a 60-day return or exchange policy and lifetime guarantee to boot.