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10 great tech gifts for back-to-school

It’s that time of year again, when students – and their parents – start to think about a return to campus and the start of a brand new school year. Whether they’ve been working a summer job or just hanging out at the beach, classes and long hours of study are just around the corner.

But there is nothing like the gift of a new gadget or two to make that back-to-school transition a little easier. Nobody appreciates technology more than the college student, who is constantly trying to meet the demands of family, coursework and friends. (But not necessarily in that order!)

So here are our tips for some affordable back-to-school gadgets that will put your budding scholar on the right track for a productive and enjoyable year.

Nook Color

If you are thinking of an e-reader, then the Nook Color remains in a class of its own. The Wi-Fi-enabled device features a 7-inch full-color LED backlit screen, a full web browser, and 8GB of storage – enough to hold thousands of books, magazines, songs and photos. Students can check e-mail, watch video, and access Barnes & Noble’s huge store of e-books with over 2 million titles, including 1 million that are free-of-charge.

In a back-to-school promotion, Barnes & Noble are offering over $100 in free books and study guides if you buy a Nook reader by September 12 and register it by October 31. Some of the classics on offer include “Beowulf,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” and “Crime and Punishment.” Although the promotion  is geared towards students, it can also apply to anyone with a desire to re-read the classics.

Price: $249
Where to buy: Any Barnes & Noble Store, B&N.com

Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad

The lightweight Logitech Tablet Keyboard is specifically designed to pair with Apple’s iPad tablet and turns it into a more productive, easy-to-use device. Connecting over Bluetooth wireless, the Tablet Keyboard works with within 30 feet of your iPad or any other iOS device (including iPhone and iPod touch).

The separate carrying case not only protects the Tablet Keyboard but also converts to a sturdy iPad stand that can be adjusted to any angle. The Tablet Keyboard is designed for travel and easily slips into a backpack or suitcase.

Price: $69.99
Where to buy: Best Buy, Stapes, Amazon.com

Kodak PLAYFULL Camcorder

The Flip may be dead but there are plenty of worthy successors in the mini-camcorder class and the Kodak PLAYFULL is one of the best. Just 3.9 inches tall by 1.6 inches wide, the PLAYFULL can capture full 1080p HD video or widescreen HD 5.3 megapixel stills.

The PLAYFULL features full on-camera editing capability, so you can fine-tune our footage, cut out what you don’t want, or extract still images from video. The pop-out USB arm allows easy upload to a PC and instant sharing with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and KODAK Gallery.

Price: $129.95
Where to buy:  Kodak Store, Amazon.com

Motorola Droid X2

Looking for a new smartphone but don’t want to hang around for the new iPhone? Try the Motorola Droid X2 from Verizon. The X2 is a large phone….a very large phone. You can watch movies, play games and browse the web on the incredible 4.3-inch multi-touch display. It comes with an 8MP camera and 8GB of built-in memory, so there’s lots of room for storing those favorite songs and photos.

The Droid X2 has also dramatically improved things “under the hood.” The dual-core processor and a new graphics processor combine with the Android 2.2 operating system to make response times lightning fast. The X2 come pre-loaded with the Quickoffice suite, Amazon’s Kindle app, Skype Mobile and various Verizon apps. There is also easy access to the hundreds of thousands of third-party apps in the Android Market.

Price: $199 with a two-year Verizon contract
Where to buy: Any Verizon store

Roku 2 XD Streaming Media Player

No self-respecting college student is going to want to rely on a cable for their entertainment needs. It’s all about the web – and with the Roku 2 XD it’s all there at the touch of a button. Instantly stream your entertainment choices from tens of thousands of movies and TV shows from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus and more. Listen to music on Pandora, or listen to your own iTunes playlists. Watch major sports, news or original Internet programming. It’s all available whenever you want it.

Roku 2 XD works with any TV and no PC is required. It’s built-in Wi-Fi works with any high-speed Internet connection. (Netflix, Hulu Plus and other content subscriptions are not included.)

Price: $79.99
Where to buy: Roku.com, Amazon.com

Epson Stylus C88+ Printer

When it comes to printers for college, they have to be robust, affordable, produce good quality prints.…and not much else. That’s right, even your tech-conscious college kid is not going to be too concerned about style points when it comes to a printer. He wants something that’s going to sit quietly in the corner but effortlessly leap into life whenever called upon.

The Epson Stylus C88+ inkjet printer is perfect for the job. It spits out text at 23 pages per minute, and the four-color, border-free photo printing is perfect for decorating the dorm room. The separate ink cartridges mean you don’t have to spend a fortune on replacements, and the low overall cost means nobody gets too upset if it gets knocked over or someone spills the inevitable cup of coffee.

Price: $84.99
Where to buy:  Epson.com

Bose AE2 Audio Headphones

Bose AE2 audio headphones combine the noise-cancelling performance of the company’s celebrated QuietComfort series with a price tag that won’t break the bank. The smooth round-the-ear fit is ideal for those times when you have to block everything out and study, or for those moments when you just want to kick back and enjoy some music.

There are two options: the standard AE2 audio headphones or the AE2i version, which is specifically designed to work with the iPhone. (Making those calls home so much easier!) The AE2 ear cups twist and fold flat for easy travel in their own custom carrying bag.

Price: $149.95 - $179.95
Where to buy: Any Bose store or Bose.com

Sony Vaio C Series Laptop

The all-new Sony Vaio C Series of laptops are vibrant head-turning machines, which also pack enough of a punch to take care of all the computing needs of the modern-day student. Made of special light-catching material, the Vaio C Series radiates a glow even when it’s turned off!

The 14-inch or 15.5-inch screen features a full HD display, while the Intel i7 processor and state-of-the-art graphics package deliver a lightning-fast response whatever the task. The C Series comes pre-installed with the Sony Imagination Studio Suite, which combines five powerful Sony applications for enhancing and sharing music, photos and movies.

The C Series comes in a choice of six colors: Bolt Black, Lightning White, Neon Green, Neon Red, Neon Orange and Thunder Blue.

Price: From $729.99
Where to buy: Any Sony Store on at Sony.com

Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo has just dropped the price on its revolutionary 3D handheld gaming system but that just makes it even more of a steal! The no-glasses, adjustable 3D imagery is truly remarkable when playing 3D games or capturing and playing with 3D images. The dual-display Nintendo 3DS includes all the cool features from earlier Nintendo devices, as well as introducing Streetpass, which can link your 3DS to other 3DS’s, and Spotpass, which actively seeks out wireless hotspots for constant online access.

And don’t think your college student is too old for a little handheld gaming action. This is still one of the coolest devices on the market!

Price: $169.99 from August 12, 2011
Where to buy: Best Buy, GameStop, Amazon.com

iPad 2

No list of great back-to-school gifts would be complete without Apple’s iconic tablet computer. Despite intense competition from other manufacturers, the iPad 2 remains the king of tablets, combining a stunning visual display with great functionality and tens of thousands of apps. And don’t forget the built-in FaceTime app, which is ideal for those video calls back home.

The iPad 2 starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only version and goes all the way up to $829 for the 64GB Wi-Fi + 3G model. (Data plan sold separately.) What you get for that is one amazing study and entertainment device – and one very happy student!

Price: From $499
Where to buy: Any Apple Store, Apple.com, Amazon.com                 

Comment by Antonio Arellano, posted 8/11/2011, 2:46 PM:

Very nice list. Searching for the right laptop and printer can be tiresome for a student. The Sony Vaio laptops are reliable machines that can get any student through a semester.The funky color series are appealing,too. The Epson Stylus C88 Printer is reasonably priced, and has the ability to take care of the print jobs in a hurry! Overall decent products for going back to school. Antonio A. PCNation.com
Comment by Paul Hemphill, posted 8/11/2011, 11:59 AM:

This is terrific info, Suzanne. After seeing what's available, I continue to stand in awe of what technology is doing. And what's here's will be out-dated within, say, weeks. Incredible.
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