Gadgets 101: Essential Back-to-School Gizmos

September is fast approaching, and with it comes a flurry of new journals, pens, and textbooks -- journals that power off, pens with microchips, and textbooks measured in gigabytes. By Kat Meduski

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    Back_to_School_Gadgets

    The HP Pavilion dm4, left, the Sony Vaio, right, laptops and the Samsung NB30 netbook are all great back to school PCs. But tech gear is an essential part of student life these days. What gadgets does a college kid need?
    AP Photo/Richard Drew
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    Clean Your Sty

    Introducing the new Cinderella:  robots to clean your filthy pig sty -- er, dorm room. The Neato XV-11 Vacuum Cleaning Robot (right) creates a map of the floor space rather than bump along walls and chair legs. Neato Robotics sells it for $399, as well as filters, chargers, and boundary tape at various costs.  iRobot sells its version of the smart vacuum for $200. Tech specs include sensors to avoid stairs, carpet-to-hard-floor automatic adjustments, and a Virtual Wall tool to create “off-limit” areas.
    Neato Robotics / iRobot
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    Take Better Notes

    Look slick while you take notes in class (and stalk folks on Facebook). The MacBook Pro comes in 13-, 15-, and 17-inch sizes, all with LED backlighting, aluminum casing, and the longest-lasting Mac notebook battery to date (8 to 10 hours depending on the size). Looking good takes money, however; this line of MacBooks start at $1,200, $1,800, and $2,300, respectively.
    Apple
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    Write Different

    The Pulse is Livescribe’s original, award-winning smartpen -- and with it you too can be original and award-winning. The Pulse features a built-in microphone and speaker to record and play back audio, an infrared camera that records what you write, an audio jack for distance recording, and a USB connector to charge your pen and transfer data. Buy yourself an excuse to not lend out your pen! Only $129.95 …
    Livescribe
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    Get Fancy

    Skip the stacks and browse online over 3G cellular networks, or take advantage of the Wi-Fi hotspot on your campus. Read iBooks and study -- and play games, surf the Internet, check mail, and watch movies without straining your eyes. If you have the money (a measly $500 to $829), or if you simply can’t study without a beautiful LED-backlit screen, this is the pad for your pad. If you actually have work to do, reconsider.
    Apple
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    Less Beer, Better Water

    It’s hard to trust your dormitory water when the bathroom wreaks of hangovers. Drink less beer -- and make an investment in your health -- with the ZeroWater ZD-013 filtration pitcher. This $34.99 necessity of life has an electronic tester and a five-stage filtration system, and with batteries included (yes!), it should be part of your packing list. 
    Zero Technologies, LLC
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    Stay Cool

    This semester, be a hotshot without burning yourself in the process. The Logitech Cooling Pad N100 keeps your computer off your thighs, and boasts a sleek design and constant airflow that barely impacts your laptop’s battery life. For $29.99 you too can enjoy its “rear air intake.”
    Logitech
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    Call Home

    Apple’s newly released iPhone 4 (left image and middle image) features FaceTime video calling, HD video recording, iBooks, iTunes, Safari, and a whole slew of new and updated tools.  For many of the same functions, the iPhone 3GS is still a great option, and starting at $99, it’s cheaper than the iPhone 4, which starts at $199 for the 16GB version, and $299 for the 32GB version. For anyone using Verizon Wireless, wait a year and you won’t have to switch to AT&T (or experience reception issues in Manhattan, just saying).
    Apple
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    Portable Power

    To flakes, plan-changers, and bad communicators everywhere, “my phone died” is no longer a valid excuse. Kensington’s Portable Power Pack can charge any USB mobile device, anytime, anywhere. The device is a rechargeable external battery pack that works with BlackBerrys, iPhones, iPods, MP3 players, and countless other devices. Buy your no-show friends a clue this year -- for just $60. 
    Kensington
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    Go On Lockdown

    Protect your laptop from library lurkers who live for your bathroom breaks and coffee addiction. This lock is portable, discrete, and securely attaches to any computer with a T-bar lock. It features a four-wheel combination lock, self-coiling steel cable that contracts to 3 inches and extends to 6 feet, and online registration to recover forgotten codes. Guard your $1,000+ computer for $24.99.
    Kensington
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    Save Your Work

    Never lose a term paper, problem set, or photos from last night again. Portable hard drives are compatible with all USB connectors and work with both PCs and Macs. Verbatim's (right) "Always On" LCD screen continuously updates your free space. With 320 to 500GB of space and a 7-year warranty, you'll never cry into your defunct PDA again -- just the $194 price. Seagate's version boasts capacities of 250GB to 1TB ($170), automatic backup, encryption technology, and ten colors.
    Verbatim Americas, LLC and Seagate Technology LLC
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    Save Your Memories

    Running out of ways to procrastinate? Improve your quality of cyber-life with Sony’s bloggie Camera, the greatest way to capture life’s special moments (for future blackmailing) since Facebook tagging. A 270-degree swivel lens, built-in USB arm, horizontal playback, and 5x optical zoom make this one sexy gadget. Invest in your future as a Web sensation for $150.
    Sony Electronics
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    Ignore a Roomate

    As engaging as Ivanhoe may be, nothing can drown out the sound of obnoxious troglodytes -- otherwise known as roomates. Well, almost nothing. Silence that chewing, coffee-slurping, and keyboard-clanker with Shure’s SE115 Isolating Earphones. Enforce silence in black, blue, red, or pink. $120.
    Shure
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    Read Cheaply

    If the iPad and nook are too mainstream for you, add the Pandigital eReader to your skinny-jeaned, plaid-shirted ensemble.  The tablet-esque gadget features a 7-inch, full color, and touch sensitive display in addition to built-in Wi-Fi and dictionary, email access, and video, image, and picture viewer. Impress your friends with your electronic individualism for $169.
    Pandigital
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    Build a Big Screen TV

    Display projects (or TV) up to 60 inches in class, in your dorm, or in a study room. At 4 ounces, this little projector functions with iPod, iPhone, iTouch, camcorders, digital camcorders, and DVD players, among others. Also included is a 0.5-Watt speaker, 20,000 hours of LED light life, and a 1,000:1 contrast ratio. The downside: a measly 1.5-hour battery life and a $229 price tag.
    Optoma
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    Link Everything

    The MiFi works by creating a Wi-Fi hotspot “virtually anywhere” via a mobile broadband network. This means you can sunbathe on “the lawn” at school or act sophisticated at a local coffee shop while accessing the Internet. Even better, you can stay online during cross-country road trips in your Kia Rio Hybrid. Stay awesome for about $250.
    Novatel Wireless
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    Never Lose a Print-Out

    Nobody likes a printer hog -- that person who exhausts her printing quota every day, sending last-minute essayists into fits of hysteria. Do the collegiate world a favor and invest in a Canon PIXMA printer. Use the $200 MX870 Wireless (left) for faxing, scanning, copying, and two-sided, wireless printing. Use the $300 iP100 for lab-quality photo prints directly from your digital camera.
    Canon U.S.A.
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    Save Space

    Watch TV on your PC or Mac with this… thing. If you lack a dorm room TV (highly unlikely if you are a video-gaming college male), or if you can’t wait for Hulu to post the newest episodes of your favorite shows, consider the Volar MAX. This USB-sized stick supports both digital TV (ATSC) and unencrypted digital cable. It could be your $60 ticket into procrastinatory nirvana.
    AVerMedia Technologies
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