Win a Laptop, Camera, Media Player or Bag
It’s mid-August, which means millions of students are heading back to school over the next few weeks. From the excited, apprehensive incoming freshman who will be neck-deep in pre-requisite classes to the veteran senior who’s on easy street (except for that pesky 30-page thesis), every college and high school student is looking to equip him or herself with the latest gadgets and electronics. From laptops and computer peripherals to media players, storage and backpacks, our latest back to school tech guide should help equip students for the long semesters and trimesters ahead.
We'll help you get started on your shopping. You can win one of four gadgets featured in this article by entering our contest here. The prizes include an HP G42 notebook, a Nikon Coolpix S4000 camera, a Targus CityGear backpack, and an Archos 3 digital media player. The contest will run from 11pm pacific time on August 12, to 11pm pacific time on August 19. The names of winners will be drawn at random, and you only have to enter once to be eligible for the drawings for each of the four prizes.
School and gaming often go hand in hand. From dorm-wide Madden and Call of Duty tournaments to late-night StarCraft II LAN sessions, you’re going to need the hardware to stay at the top of your game. Choosing a console is easy, but finding a suitable gaming PC can be more of a challenge. Luckily, the G51JX-A1 from Asus will keep you gaming for years to come without breaking the bank. The G51 combines a quad-core Intel Core i7 720QM processor with dedicated Nvidia GTS 360 graphics (with 1 GB of dedicated GDDR5 RAM), so you’ll have no trouble playing the latest and greatest PC titles. 500 GB of storage and 6 GB of DDR3 memory round out the insides, so there is plenty of hard drive space for games, media, and homework and enough RAM to make multitasking a breeze. A Full HD 1920x1080 resolution LED-backlit 15.6-inch LCD can handle whatever HD video you throw at it, but the G51 is still small enough to bring to the library or across the quad for some PC LAN action. The rest of the G51 is standard fare, including 4 USB 2.0 ports, HDMI out, eSATA, SD slot, 2 megapixel webcam, six-cell battery, DVD burner, and a two year warranty (the first year includes accidental damage). The only thing we miss on the G51 is a Blu-ray drive, but if PC gaming is just as (or more) important than class, the G51 is the perfect dorm room companion.
The FX600 from MSI is the perfect laptop for those who don’t want to sacrifice power or portability. At 5.28 pounds, it’s light enough to be an everyday classroom companion, but its dedicated graphics and powerful dual-core processor can still rise to the occasion when necessary. The Intel Core i5 450M packs a punch at 2.4 GHz (2.66 GHz in Turbo Mode), and its Hyper-Threading keeps CPU-heavy applications in check. The Nvidia GT 325M graphics (with 1 GB of GDDR3 memory) can keep up with even some newer titles like StarCraft II, so it won’t be all work and no play when class is out. It’s the usual set of hardware outside of that, including 4 GB of DDR3 memory, 500 GB of storage, a 1366x768 resolution, 15.6-inch screen, four USB ports, HDMI, eSATA, memory card slot, a 720p HD webcam, and a six-cell battery. If you fancy yourself a serious gamer, you might want to look at more powerful alternatives like the Asus G51, but if you need a formidable middleweight, the FX600 is a great choice.
So PC gaming is not on your radar whatsoever, and you simply want a lightweight laptop that can give you an edge in academia. The G42-230US from HP is a lightweight (4.85 pounds) 14-inch laptop that is small enough to go everywhere but big enough to keep typing comfortable. HP went the AMD route with the G42, pairing a dual-core AMD Turion P520 (2.3 GHz) processor with integrated Radeon HD 4250 graphics. HD video will still play effortlessly, but this is definitely not a gamers’ machine. You still get plenty of RAM (4 GB) and storage (320 GB), however, so keeping up with assignments and multitasking late into the night will be a breeze. The 1366x768 resolution is a perfect fit for the 14-inch LED-LCD display, and the included webcam will keep you connected no matter how far away from home you go, Remember, nothing says “I need money!” like a heart-to-heart on Skype with dear-old mom and dad. The G42 comes equipped with three USB ports, HDMI, DVD burner, memory card slot, and two 3.5mm audio jacks.
Nikon Coolpix S4000
Every student needs a digital camera nowadays. What better way to share those hilarious moments with the folks back home than with oodles of high-res photos and HD video? The S4000 from Nikon packs a 12 megapixel CCD sensor with a max resolution of 4000x3000, so you’ll never miss anything during those mid-term ragers and trips to downtown. The 4x optical zoom isn’t the best zoom you’ll find on a point and shoot, but it’s suitable for a sub-$200 camera and should perform well with short to medium range shots. The 3.0-inch touchscreen LCD (with anti-reflection coating) makes menu navigation and in-camera editing a snap. The S4000 also comes with 720p video capabilities, perfect for catching evidence of your professor going off the deep end. SD/SDHC memory cards are the storage flavor of choice, and its rechargeable battery means you won’t constantly be hunting for AA replacements. The S4000 is one of the best point and shoot cameras you can find for under $175. The optical zoom and video are both adequate, but if you fancy yourself a true filmmaker, you might want to look into a standalone camcorder, too.
Kingston DataTraveler 101 Gen 2
Smaller-capacity flash drives are a dime a dozen these days, but there will always be a use for the high-capacity varieties. The 32 GB DataTraveler 101 32 GB from Kingston (or DT101) is small enough to fit in your pocket, yet spacious enough to carry whatever data you can throw at it. From documents and media to backups of your most important files, the DT101 can do it all. Need to bring your latest edit of your video project to class? Done. Want to show off those spring break photos without uploading everything to Photobucket? No problem. The DT101 does include urDrive software, which allows you to organize and play media directly on the drive (no windows media player required). Perhaps the most attractive feature of the DT101 is its swivel design, which means there’s no cap to lose. At a penny under $60, the DT101 is one of the most affordable 32 GB flash drives you can buy today. Of course, that frugality comes with some exceptions, like a lack of hardware-based security and slower transfer speeds. That said, you probably aren’t going to need security software for a thumb drive full of homework and HD video, and transfer speeds are still adequate, writing HD video at 7.17 MB/sec., and reading the same at 20.43 MB/sec. The DT101 is affordable and spacious, and will quickly find a permanent home in your pocket or backpack.
Belkin Mini Surge Protector with USB
While you’ll still need a more full-bodied surge protector for your computer or TV setup, this three outlet Belkin surge protector is still a great multi-outlet strip to keep by your desk or door. You get three standard oullets for charging…whatever needs charging, and protection up to 918 joules, which should keep most smaller electronics (phones, rechargeable batteries) safe. The male plug rotates 360 degrees, so you can have multiple outlets almost anywhere. The shining feature of this surge protector is USB charging, which is possible via two USB ports on the side of the main housing. This makes cell phone and MP3 charging a breeze, without the need for bulky power adapters. Belkin even includes a mini-USB cable, which can connect to dozens of different cell phones.
Targus CityGear Backpack TCG216US
You might not be roaming the halls of your high school anymore, but you’re still going to need a backpack to carry around that laptop and the oodles of textbooks you’re going to buy (or that you’re supposed to buy, at least). The CityGear backpack from Targus will give you tons of storage space while keeping your back from contorting under the weight. The TCG216US has a dedicated pocket for laptops, and can fit nearly any 17-inch laptop (and thus smaller models, too) without much hassle. There are two additional large compartments for notebooks and textbooks, and plenty of smaller compartments in front for CDs/DVDs, supplies, and gadgets. For your MP3 player, there is a special compartment with a line-out hole, so you can keep your iPod safe and out of sight while riding the subway or walking around campus. The shoulder straps have ample padding, and the back panel is also padded, so you’t be worrying about scoliosis. There’s no TSA-approved badge here, but the TCG216US is still a great value for the amount of storage space you get.
Patriot Memory 32 GB SDHC
From laptops and digital cameras to voice recorders and pocket camcorders, SD cards are a very versatile storage option. So, if you’re going to buy one, you might as well go big! The 32 GB SDHC card from Patriot memory (specifically the PSF32GSDHC4 model) is one of the more affordable options when it comes to 32 GB SDHC cards. You aren’t going to get the read speeds associated with higher-end (and thus more expensive) options, but the read and write speeds for photos (18.21 MB/sec. and 8.79 MB/sec., respectively) are fast enough to justify the lower price ($54.99 after MIR). If you feel the need for speed, Patriot also has an Iris SDHC card that ups the read speed to 42.5 MB/sec. and write speed to 10.77 MB/sec. That’s a gain of roughly 133 and 22 percent, but you’ll be spending an additional $30 for the added speed.
LG W2486L LED Monitor
When it comes to desktop monitors, LED displays are all the rage. From the super-thin panels to the high contrast ratios, there’s no reason not to get an LED monitor for your dorm room now that they’re below $300. The W2486L from LG is a 24-inch monitor with a whopping 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 2ms response time and Full HD 1920x1080 resolution, making it the perfect monitor for school work, gaming and movie watching. For connectivity, the W2486L has DVI, VGA, audio out and two HDMI ports. Now you can keep your Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC all connected without swapping out cables every five minutes. Audio will have to be handled via headphones or external speakers, as the W2486L has no internal speakers. The color quality, brightness and contrast that comes with LED monitors is unprecedented, so the W2486L really is a perfect choice for the student who needs one display for all the entertainment devices in the room.
JVC HA-RX700 Headphones
A good pair of headphones in the dorm room will go a long way, from blocking out the distractions of the world while you’re studying to helping you enjoy a movie while the roommate tries to sleep. The RX700 headphones from JVC offer excellent bass, an extra wide head band for added comfort, and large 50mm Neodymium magnets for optimum sound reproduction. The RX700’s come with an extra-long 11.5-foot cord to allow for moving around your room while rocking out, and JVC throws in a 1/4” adapter so you can use the cans with amps, keyboards and other music equipment. For under $40, you can’t go wrong with the RX700’s.
Archos 3cam Vision PMP
When it comes to portable media players, everyone usually goes for the iPod Touch or Zune HD. However, there are a few solid alternatives out there, including the 3cam Vision PMP from Archos. This 8 GB PMP has a 3-inch, 240x400 resolution screen, which is smaller than an iPod Touch or Zune HD, but should still get the job done for video, be it on the subway or in the back row of a classroom. The true video power user will be happy to know that the 3cam supports a multitude of video formats, so there’s no need to convert before loading the PMP up before a flight. Video aside, the 3cam has a lot of features not found in the more popular competition, including the ability to record video and take pictures, voice recorder, and an FM transmitter so you can play your music through the radio. 8 GB of storage will allow you to hold 6,000 MP3s or 20 hours of video. At under $100, the 3cam Vision is an absolute bargain. The iPod Touch and Zune HD might have a little more polish to them, but Archos has packed this PMP with so many extra features, it’s impossible to ignore.
Canon Pixma MX870
The library or computer lab might be your primary destination when printing out those 25-page term papers, but it doesn’t hurt to keep a scanner and solid photo printer around in the dorm or suite. The Pixma MX870 from Canon is the perfect dorm room companion, giving you around 10ppm in black and white and 6ppm in color. That laser printer in the library will blow this out of the water, but the color photo printing with the MX870 is hard to beat at this price. Plus, the 2400x4800 dpi scanner will make scanning photos and receipts that much easier. The MX870 also allows for direct printing from memory cards, and SD, CompactFlash and Memory Stick are all supported. Our favorite feature of the MX870 is the price of ink; black and individual color cartridges can be found for under $15 each, or in a four-pack for around $50. Canon wraps all this up in a WiFi-enabled package, so no USB cables required. You might find yourself in the library, printing out those big term papers, but the MX870 can take care of everything else, and on the cheap, too.
Logitech G700 Gaming Mouse
The G700 is the newest gaming mouse that Logitech has to offer. Building on previous technology and designs, Logitech is trying to please all comers with its latest offering. The G700 starts with a gaming-grade laser sensor which can go from 200 to 5700 dpi. There are 13 buttons on the G700, which seems daunting, but Logitech has arranged them so they stay out of the way until you need them. From the four thumb buttons on the side to the three buttons living next to the left click (used for battery status and dpi changing), to the button underneath the scroll that changes the wheel from smooth to ratchet, the G700 has a button for everything. Most gamers tend to shy away from wireless mice; luckily, the G700 can go wired or wireless, adapting to any desktop environment. The wired USB cable also charges the Eneloop battery in the mouse. As for the receiver, the G700 uses the ever-popular nano USB receiver, which sticks out less than half an inch as to not get in the way. Weight is still a concern, but the G700 is one of the lightest fully-featured gaming mice we’ve ever seen. The G700 can please nearly every PC gamer out there, and is our favorite wireless gaming mouse ever.
Logitech G510 Keyboard
Only game-obsessed students need apply to purchase one of these powerful keyboards. Logitech’s new G510 takes itself seriously with a built-in LCD panel that displays in-game notifications for PC games like World of Warcraft, Civilization IV, and Unreal Tournament. What info will the screen display? Logitech mentions player rank, server IP, score, times health status, ammunition status, as well as music info and e-mail notifications. Other extra details, like backlighting colors that can be customized, 3.5mm headset jacks and integrated USB audio, and 18 programmable keys will make you feel like you’ve got the best place to put your hands.
You’d better be expecting to make lots of like-minded gamer friends in your dorm or on campus to make this $119 purchase pay off.
Read reviews of the Logitech G510 keyboard at Newegg.com
My Passport Essential Wave Limited Edition
We understand that not all students will care about owning an external hard drive that stands out in a crowd. But we know that some will. After all, storage can be so….boring. Western Digital is doing its best to spice up what is looking more and more like a commodity, so it teamed up with design students at a college in Long Beach, California to design some drive enclosures that might appeal to fellow students. They ended up with five styles: Boom Box, Black Hole, Cityscape, Fuschia Leaf, and Wave. The 500GB My Passport Essential costs about $120, make the cost of this storage space about 24 cents a gigabyte. For the kids that want each gadget they own to look distinctive, the premium on this limited edition external drive isn’t steep.
MeeElectronics M11+ Headphones
If you already know that not all earbuds are created equal, and that Apple’s white offerings won’t cut it with you, but you can’t afford to spend $200 on a device that will take a pounding by the elements as you ride your bike around campus every day, we suggest the MeElectronics M11+ headphones ($54.99). We found them to be the most comfortable sub-$200 earphones we’ve ever tried—that’s because they came with 10 different sets of ear tips for us to choose between, and we found a set that was just right. The sound was pretty impressive, too, if you like swaggering bass and lots of details in high notes. These come up black, silver, or red. Don’t turn the volume up too loud, or you won’t hear cars coming up behind you.
BlueAnt S4 Handsfree Speakerphone
Commuter students, or any students driving a car in one of many states that require hands-free phone conversations, need to be safe. Personally, we prefer not to stick tiny devices into our ears, and much prefer a reliable, voice activated speaker. BlueAnt’s S4 fits the bill, and stuffs more features into its svelte, magnetized frame than you’ll know what to do with. For starters, you’ll probably never have to take your hands off the wheel to answer a call or futz with your phone. The S4 reads the name of whoever is calling you, because it has already synced with your phone contacts (if it isn’t a contact, it will read you the number). To answer the call, just say “answer.” If you have a Blackberry or Android phone, you can install an app that will read your text messages and email to you, as well. You can also access movie times, directions, the weather, and news by talking to the S4, which will read back what you want to hear (it uses your phone to dial up Microsoft’s Bing 411 service). The S4 is loud—you’ll hear it over the din of traffic—and battery life lasts for days of use. It automatically syncs with your phone every time you enter your car.
Read reviews of the BlueAnt S4 at Newegg.com