If your kids haven’t already started school, chances are they will be starting soon. ‘Tis the season for buying school supplies, tons of books, healthy kitchen tools that your college-bound student will hopefully use at least once, and the must-have gadgets they’re begging for.
There’s a lot of tech out there, and chances are, nine times out of ten your children know way more about it than you do. That doesn’t mean you should be completely clueless when you make an essential school purchase for your student: if they know so much about this stuff, surely it can’t be that hard, right?
Here’s our handy guide of stuff your college student will absolutely love.
Laptops: Getting The Best Bang For Your Buck
Laptops are an essential part of the school experience now. Your kids are going to have to write papers, do research, and check email during school—not to mention keep up with friends on social media. These are essential for college students, but even high school students are finding that they’re an essential piece of their school experience.
Finding the right hardware to power your collegiate—or college-bound—student’s assignments is absolutely necessary. Here are the vital specs you should look for, no matter what you end up buying.
· RAM: 4GB is recommended for just about everything and will run just about everything you throw at it smoothly. 6 to 8GB is even better. (My high-end work/production PC runs on 8GB RAM, to give you a reference point!)
· Processor: Most retail laptops have Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 multi-core processors. An i3 dual-core would be suitable for students just starting high school. College-bound students will need more powerful processors, like an i5 or i7 quad-core. Processor speed (typically somewhere between 2.8GHz and 3.1GHz) is a basic game of numbers: the faster the better.
· Digital Storage: Just about every laptop on the market comes with 500GB of storage at the minimum. 1TB is double that. More is better than less, so it’s a simple numbers game again. If your student takes lots of pictures or has a massive music collection, they’ll thank you for all the storage space you can get them.
The cool tech guys over at gdgt have rated some of the best laptops on the market, including Apple Macbooks, and you can browse by price and review score before you buy. Definitely check their reviews before making a final decision.
Smartphones: Keeping In Touch, Staying In Style
College students are wild about smartphones. Sure, they’re trendy and new, but they’re also valuable tools for just about every aspect of the college experience. Smartphones are actually becoming educational tools, and more adventurous students are finding ways to enhance their learning experience with smartphone apps that help them practice, study and learn new things.
If you’re looking for a lower-price solution, Android phones are your best bet. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy SIII, HTC One X (which I personally use!), and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the “official” Google phone, are all great choices. If you don’t end up getting one of these, make sure that you get a phone with “Ice Cream Sandwich” or “Jelly Bean,” the latest upgrades to the Android platform. Buying a new phone with an old operating system is awful.
Apple’s popular iPhone is another option, but parents ought to wait if they can for just a little longer. Rumors have it that Apple is going to launch their newest iPhone some time in September, right around the corner. If you want your kids to have the absolute latest, hold off. If you want a better deal on an older device, the iPhone 4 and 4S are still excellent devices and are relatively inexpensive through most carriers.
Tablets: Not Quite A Computer, but More Than a Smartphone
iPads and Android tablets are excellent choices for students looking for a tablet to fill out their gadget collection. These ultraportable devices have bigger screens to handle more work, but have the convenience of smartphone touchscreens built in.
Apple’s iPad is still one of the best-selling tablets on the market, largely due to the popular brand name and reputation for reliable, stable software. Android offerings are comparable in quality and can’t be beat in price, though the overall experience is different. Great Android tablets like the Google Nexus 7, the Transformer Pad 300, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 all offer similar functionality at a fraction of the cost of an iPad.
Apps Make Your Gadgets Perfect Study Tools
No smartphone or tablet is complete without apps that let you use all these neat technologies to your benefit. Here are a few great apps your student can use to turn all their devices into studying machines.
Dropbox is an excellent solution for file storage, and is the easiest cloud-storage system on the market today. Dropbox can sync files across Macs, PCs, tablets, and smartphones for a complete experience. As long as you have a device on you with Dropbox, you’ll never be too far from all those important homework assignments.
MathStudio is a great app that lets you turn your smart devices and your computer into an easy-to-use graphic calculator. $20 for this app is a fraction of the price you might pay for a collegiate graphic calculator, and you’ll have all of the same features at your disposal. Be sure that you clear your devices for use during class before you replace those expensive graphic calculators with your phone, though—colleges don’t like suspicious classroom activity.
We love Evernote at CEM, and it’s just as useful in school settings as it is for our work. It’s like Dropbox, but for notes: sync your notes across all your devices for ease of access from wherever you are. Evernote Peek for the iPad lets you turn your notes into simple study flash cards you can use to prepare for quizzes and tests, to boot.
Odds and Ends For College Students
Sending your kids off to college can be an adventure, and you want to make sure that you send them with everything they need to succeed in all their classes.
If your college-bound student is a heavy sleeper, you can set them up with Clocky. This goofy little robot clock rolls off the night stand and makes all sorts of noise, forcing even the heaviest sleepers to get out of bed to deal with it.
Even brand new college dorms are cramped, and a home-cooked meal is hard to come by when there’s hardly any room to keep food. Fortunately ThinkGeek’s 3 in 1 Breakfast Station solves that problem by cramming breakfast cooking essentials into one tiny footprint. This little cooker can sit on top of a mini-fridge and turn it into a cubby-hole kitchen.
This buying guide is just a start…we’re sure that your college student has plenty of other awesome ideas in mind. Let us know in the comments if there are any unexpected essentials your college student wanted this year!
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