Gizmo Guy: Head back to school with high-tech gadgets for reading, writing, 'rithmatic - and dorm-room coffee

Roku 3 remote, which features a unique, built-in headphone jack
Roku 3 remote, which features a unique, built-in headphone jack
Posted: August 09, 2013

GOT THE textbooks, tablet, smartphone and backpack ready? Check. How about all the high-tech accessories that your back-to-schooler needs to stay happy and productive? If the kid is leaving town for university and, perhaps, a shared student apartment, the wish list for gadgets gets very long. Here are some essentials:

TABLET TRANSFORMED: Tablets are the totable productivity tool of choice. But tapping class notes on a glass screen is tedious. And a tab is damage-prone. That's where the new Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio ($180) comes in for iPad users (all but first generation). Akin to a Transformer toy, this sleek protective case unfolds to prop up the tablet behind a surprisingly functional, soft membrane-bubble keyboard.

EXPRESS YOURSELF: We hear colleges won't allow students to put personal printers on the campus network. That's why printer maker Epson is now introducing an alternative solution - Wi-Fi Direct - for wireless printing from mobile devices with no router and no network required. The feature's even on the bargain ($99) Epson Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-One, which prints lovely, colorfast photos as well as documents and also scans documents for printout or cloud storage.

COFFEE TO GO: After a hard day's night, most students need caffeine aplenty to make that 8 a.m. class. Don't give Starbucks all your money. The latest crop of 16-ounce, vacuum-insulated, carry cups from Thermos ($17 and up) keep home brew warm for four hours.

LIFE EXTENDERS: To guarantee your mobile phone-aholics never run out of fuel, get them a carry case with built-in backup battery to double the run time. Mophie makes a sleek bunch of Juice Packs ($80) for iPhones and ye olde Galaxy 3. For iPhone 5 users, the Duracell Powermat Powersnap Kit ($99) has wireless "drop and charge" refueling on a companion Powermat base (about $35).

CABLE CUTTING: For today's budget-minded, cable-free generation, a tiny set-top box that sucks in video and audio entertainment from the Web is a great addition to the dorm TV. Especially since streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video allow students to feed off their parents' password-protected accounts at no extra cost. We like the Roku 3 ($99) media box for its mix of mainstream and quirky channels and its nifty wireless remote with game-friendly controls and built-in headphone jack. The rival Apple TV box ($99) is better at easing jock itch, though, boasting exclusive ESPN channels.

HEADPHONE PRIDE: Wear your university affiliation with pride with logo-endowed, solid-sounding Sol Republic Collegiate Series headphones ($129.99). Transferring schools? Just switch the headband to stay current.

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING: While a dorm room or student apartment usually comes "broom clean," it takes a good vacuum cleaner to keep it that way. Maybe the cutest, cleverest canister vac ever, the lightweight, easily stored Dyson DC47 Animal ($449) begs to be used, with nifty snap-together components. Especially cool is the Tangle Free Turbine Tool that uses counter-rotating brush heads to suck up the dirt like nobody's business. This could even keep a cat lover and an (allergy-prone) feline-fearer happy together. And with Dyson's five-year guarantee, you can call this investment an early graduation present.

PASS THE POPCORN: Want your kid to be the hit of the dorm or frat? Let him haul in a 5.1 channel Vizio S4251 home theater system - sold in a totable, 33-pound package ($280 at Costco) that resembles an oversize guitar case. Requires minimum setup skills while delivering maximum (102 dB) wallop. The wireless remote juggles several signal sources - hardwired plus Bluetooth-streaming.

MIGHTY MUSIC/PINT-SIZED PACKAGE: No room for a home- theater rig? The deceptively small but loud UE BOOM ($199) is a cylindrical-shaped, Bluetooth-ready, battery- and AC-powered speaker that really gets the party started.

Water-resistant, it shakes off spills and packs neatly in a book bag or a bike's water-bottle holder. And if lucky you chances upon a girl or guy who also has one, make even more beautiful music together, as two UE BOOMs pair wirelessly for stereo.

Also fresh-out, the sharply priced ($149) Cambridge Soundworks OontZ XL Bluetooth speaker doesn't rock as loudly but does just fine (in our test proving a great companion to a movie-streaming Nexus 7 tablet). Boasts track-control buttons, hands-free speakerphone functionality plus a USB charging port for emergency resuscitation of a fading cellphone.


Blog: philly.com/GizmoGuy

Online: ph.ly/Tech

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