School is back! While that's usually met with groans all across the country, if not the world, there is some excitement to be had. Back-to-school shopping is always a nice silver lining. If you're a kid or a teenager, that means mom or dad or whoever is in charge of keeping you alive is tasked with buying you things like pencils, binders, paper, and all sorts of supplies. If you're in college, that's a different story.
The good news is you get things like laptops and tablets. The bad news is that your school supplies have increased in costs by staggering amounts. The really bad news is there's a good chance that you're paying for all of this yourself. That isn't so easy to do when you're a typical starving college student. That's where MEGATechNews comes in. No, we're not giving you money. What we are giving you, though, is a list of some essential and affordable back-to-school gadgets.
Ultrabook: HP Envy 4
Despite not having the best battery life on the market (it's serviceable) and so-so resolution, the Envy expert pairing of considerable power and a small profile is undeniablely impressive. It also sports a backlit keyboard, perfect for those late nights when you don't want to wake up your roommate. At just over $1,000, the Envy 4 is a steal.
While I maintain that a computer is your number one priority, a smartphone is a very, very close second. You need to be able to communicate, plain and simple. It also doesn't hurt being able to take quick notes on the go. As a diehard Android fan, it almost burns my fingers to type this, but our recommendation for an affordable and effective smartphone is Apple's iPhone 4. Not the iPhone 4S, which is still a little pricey (and the differences are negligible to the common student), and not the upcoming iPhone 5, but the older iPhone 4, which can be nabbed at about $100 or less with a contract.
The iPhone 4 is a solid device and iOS gives you access to a plethora of apps, plenty of which have been designed with students in mind. So please, go run out and get yourself an iPhone so that I can stop talking about it.
Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7
Unless you're taking photography classes, this particular gadget isn't essential for school. It is essential, however, for having a well-documented school experience. These are the best years of your life, or so they told me, so you'll want to have a good camera to help capture the memories. This is especially important if you go to any parties in which your actual memory becomes unreliable. Our choice is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7. It's a lengthy name, but it's a solid camera and it deserves it.
Like the HP Envy 4 mentioned above, the DMC-SZ7 doesn't have the best battery life, nor will it satisfy hardcore pixel junkies. Also like the HP Envy 4, it packs a surprising amount of power in a small package. It's light, fast, powerful, and can be had for less than $200.
Suitable Alternatives: Canon PowerShot A1200, Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS, Nikon Coolpix S570
Sometimes it's not super practical to carry your laptop around, but your smartphone can't really get the job done. If only there was a device that combined the true portability of a phone with the power of a personal computer. Tablets have revolutionized the industry and for good reason. That reason, along with many more, is why you should pick yourself up a slate PC. There are a lot of good options out there, but our choice? The Google Nexus 7.
The Nexus 7 sports a 7", 1280x800 display with scratch resistant glass. That's very important for the reckless student who insists on literally throwing things into his or her backpack. The battery promises 10 hours of web browsing or e-reading. And it's all powered by a NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor. A lot of bang for just two hundred bucks.
All-in-One Printer: Lexmark Interact S605
Despite email being around for multiple decades, some teachers still employ the archaic use of actual paper. In order to please these savage beasts, you should equip yourself with an all-in-one printer that can scan, copy, and print, just to make sure all of your needs are covered. Our choice is the Lexmark Interact S605. I hesitate to suggest a Lexmark, because they are known for using up ink pretty quickly, but they're still excellent machines at incredibly reasonable prices.
There's not much to say about Interact. It's an all-in-one, which means it prints, scans, and copies, and it can also connect wirelessly so you don't have to worry about annoying cords. The best part is that you can grab one of these puppies for right around $150, which shouldn't break the bank for anyone.
Suitable Alternatives: Epson Workforce 310, Canon Pixma MX 870
eReader: Amazon Kindle
Yes, you can read ebooks with a tablet, assuming you have one. However, reading on an e-ink display is infinitely more pleasant and easier on the eyes. Reading is important in school, whether it be a textbook, a novel that you're doing a report on, or a magazine that you're reading in an effort to not do any work. Whatever you're using it for, the easy choice is the $70 ad-supported Amazon Kindle.
There are newer Kindle models, as well as impressive readers from Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Sony, but the Kindle is the eReader king and $70 is a mighty attractive price.
Suitable Alternatives: Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch, Sony Reader Touch Edition