Sunday, August 14, 2016

Back to School Tech Guide 2016

Summer, where have you gone? Yes, it's that time of the year again. Summer jobs and internships are coming to an end for college students and they're getting ready to pack their parent's minivan and move back to school. Lined paper notebooks and yellow highlighters aren't on the packing list for today's college students and grad students any more. Previous generations schlepped bulky desktops and tube TVs to campus. Students in 2016 are taking lightweight laptops and tablets along with 3D printers, high end 4K TVs and lightning fast routers.

This year's Back to School tech guide isn't your typical list of technology gadgets. The list includes some great values in addition to some products that require splurging. Some products will help college coeds be more productive, while others are helpful for unwinding after a day of classes and homework. After checking out these products most parents will wish they were able to turn back the clock and return to campus this fall.

Featured: Kenmore Elite 50" 4K UHDTV and Roku Streaming Stick - When it comes to ultra HD TVs, Kenmore isn't often on the list of the most impressive options. However, the Kenmore Elite 4K TV crushes the competition. It's the perfect TV for a college apartment, fraternity house or sorority house. Now available at Sears stores and at Sears online, the Kenmore Elite 4K UHDTVs are an amazing value for the quality and students can instantly stream with a Roku Streaming Stick (also available at Sears) to get over 1,000 channels with the most movies, music, sports and shows of any streaming player. The picture quality is excellent and there are enough HDMI ports on this model. $549.99

Kenmore Elite 50" 4K UHDTV

Featured: LG Gram 15 Laptop - There's simply no lighter high-performance laptop on the market than the LG Gram 15. This super lightweight lapper (only 2.2 lbs.) comes with Windows 10 OS installed, a powerful 6th generation Intel Core processor, full HD picture quality and many connective options including a built-in HDMI port for easy connectivity straight into a TV. No college student would ever complain about having to carry around this computer, which is lighter than most tablets and feels as light as a pile of a dozen sheets of paper. The Intel Core i5 version ($1,099) comes with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage, while the  i7 ($1,199) has 512GB of storage.

LG Gram 15 Laptop

Intel Compute Stick - This computer the size of a stick of gum immediately became my favorite tech gadget for 2016! This little device transforms any HDMI TV or monitor into a fast computer running Windows 10 OS (or a Linux option). The quad-core Intel Atom processor delivers maximum performance, but it doesn't use a lot of power so it's energy efficient and ideal for student living. Simply plug the Compute Stick into a TV or monitor and you have a computer. It's perfect for communal living because roommates could have one TV for leisure time, but each student could plug in their own Compute Stick when it's time to do some school work. When the student returns home on a school break, they just throw the stick into their pocket and their "desktop" goes with them. Prices vary.

Intel Compute Stick

LG 21:9 UltraWide Full HD IPS LED Monitor - Most students aren't going to want to lug two monitors to school this fall even if they're used to using dual monitors at home. This full HD monitor from LG, however, is like having a dual monitor with one unit. The UltraWide 21:9 aspect ratio makes games and movies more immersive than ever before, while the clarity of the 1080p pixel Full HD resolution with IPS is a game-changer. Everything looks more crisp and detailed from any viewing angle. With a monitor this good, a separate TV is unnecessary making this a must-have for any college dorm room this year where space is at a premium. The sleek design with a smooth curve base brings a touch of elegance to the monitor too. $599.99

LG 21:9 UltraWide Full HD IPS LED Monitor

Arris Surfboard Routers and Extenders - Today's college students don't remember a time of dial-up modems and wonky connections. They have come to expect lightning fast internet speeds and Arris products won't let them down. The Arris system of routers and extehttp://sears.comnders solves the common and persistent problem of Wi-Fi dead zones. Using a unique combination of next-generation networking technology and intelligent software, Arris tailors the Wi-Fi to the user's needs -- whether they're in a dorm room, old fraternity house or small apartment. The simple plug-and-play installation and iOS or Android app makes using Arris technology quick and easy. The routers range in price from $119.99 to $299.99 and the extenders are all under $100.

Arris Surfboard Routers and Extenders

3Doodler - While adult coloring books are the "new new thing" parents are doing after they send their kids off to college, the college students are doodling with 3D technology. Billed as the world's first 3D printing pen, the 3Doodler has won countless awards for tech innovation. This new form of art is taking the world by storm and it's become a fun collaborative activity for young people. On a rainy, lazy weekend college students are going to put away their homework, turn off the TV and create amazing little projects together with the 3Doodler. The pen comes in assorted colors and the plastic strands are inexpensive. There are several books available from 3Doodler to suggest fun projects and designs. $99


BEOPLAY H5 Wireless Earphones - The incoming class of freshmen on college campuses this year aren't impressed with wireless earphones because they are the generation that expects wireless everything. They also are different than students a decade ago who were content with the standard issue white earbuds that came with their Apple products. Today's students are going back to school with high quality, expensive music listening devices. Beoplay H5 provides an immersive listening experience around campus without having to carry bulky over-the-ear headphones. A bonus feature of the H5s is that you can customize presets on your iPhone and quickly access them from your Apple Watch. Ideal for fitness buffs, the H5 fits snugly in the ear and comes with several ear tips options including a Comply Sport version that has a membrane to prevent moisture interfering with the electronics. $249

BEOPLAY H5 Wireless Earphones

Lumo Run - There's been a lot of talk about Lumo Run and it's finally available to the public. A limited pre-sale last fall impressed runners and the prediction is that this little device will fast become the must-have tech product for athletes. If you've ever visited a college campus you know that running is the most prevalent workout activity. Lumo Run determines key metrics for targeted form by wearing this smart sensor that combines the powerful data of a running lab with the personal attention of a coach. Lumo Run's features include real-time audio coaching, insights after the run, plus personal recommendations for drills and exercises for long-term improvement. $99 (or $199 for running shorts with the sensor built in)

Lumo Run

Naim Audio Mu-so Qb Wireless Music System - This extremely compact yet powerful wireless music system is the perfect size for a dorm room or small apartment. It provides amazing sound and connects to everything imaginable. While the price is high for college students at $999.95, it's well worth the cost for a group of roommates to go in together and enjoy the booming sound on a daily basis. The quality beats out any other small size speaker in its class and the design will surely turn the heads of impressed coeds.

Naim Audio Mu-so Qb Wireless Music System

Tile and TrackR bravo - As Bluetooth has become more of a standard that allows devices to communicate wirelessly, more companies are developing devices with Bluetooth to solve everday problems. One of the most common problems people have (and the most frustrating) is losing things. Many products have been created using Bluetooth to help us locate these items. For example, for the past couple of years I've been using XY Findit ( to locate my keys when I misplace them. Two companies have come up with some creative new devices that use Bluetooth to keep track of things like pets, bikes, mobile devices or anything else that could go missing. Students can place Tile or TrackR bravo Bluetooth devices inside expensive textbooks, on their laptop case or even in a friend's pocket (so they don't lose their friend at a crowded party). Both Tile and TrackR bravo have alert notifications and connect to iOS and Android devices. TrackR bravo also integrates with home Wi-Fi and Nest network to disable alerts from sounding when wandering around the house. Both are under $30 or

Tile and TrackR bravo

Dacuda PocketScan Wireless Scanner - While textbooks seem like they would be obsolete for the college student in 2016, they are not. Students are still lugging around heavy texts, but Dacuda’s PocketScan can be a lifesaver for them. This has quickly became one of the most popular tech gadgets of the year. It scans textbooks, documents and photos perfectly. PocketScan, which flawlessly connects to popular software programs like Microsoft Office, has a built-in OCR engine for recognition and editing of text and tables. It offers seamless Bluetooth connectivity and a rechargeable, long lasting battery (over 400 Scans). I've never found a portable scanner of this high quality. $149

Dacuda PocketScan Wireless Scanner

Logitech CREATE Backlit Keyboard Case and Logi BASE Charging Stand for iPad Pro - I've long been a fan of Logitech and its newer Logi brand. It was difficult choosing only two of their new products to include for this Back to School rundown, but these two products will really add productivity to students. Earlier this month Logitech unveiled the CREATE Backlit Keyboard Case with Smart Connector for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and its already become the must-have add-on for iPad Pro users. It is compatible with the Smart Connector, eliminating the need to power on, connect or charge the keyboard. The backlit keyboard case comes with an Apple Pencil holder and is lightweight at under a pound, yet fully protective for the iPad. The Logi BASE Charging Stand also uses the Smart Connector. It provides the perfect viewing angle to turn the iPad into a monitor and as a bonus the tablet charges quickly. Keyboard: $129.99 Logi BASE: $99

Logitech iPad keyboard and Logi Base for iPad Pro

Swiftpoint GT Mouse - I first encountered the Swiftpoint mouse at CES a couple years ago and it immediately became my favorite mouse. While it's on the pricier side for a computer mouse, it's well worth the price. This ultra-portable wireless ergonomic mouse is perfect for small working environments. The same mouse that I always recommend to business travelers will be ideal for students working in classrooms and lecture halls where there's not a lot of extra desk space. The mouse combines natural touch gestures with the precision and convenience of a traditional mouse. Switfpoint works perfectly with Windows 7/8/10, Mac OS X and Android. I'm also excited for Swiftpoint's The Z gaming mouse, which comes out in December. $149

Swiftpoint GT Mouse

Corentium Digital Radon Monitor - When the discussion arises of what technology parents should send with their kids back to college this year, the thought of a radon monitor likely doesn't make the list. That off campus apartment your daughter and her friends rented is likely very old and potentially has high levels of radon gas. The Corentium radon gas monitor is a state-of-the-art measuring instrument combining ease of use and performance. Its LCD screen displays the average daily, weekly and long term concentrations of radon. Powered by 3 standard AAA batteries, the monitor makes it easy to take measurements from one room to another in order to get an overview of the concentrations of radon. The unit requires no annual calibrations throughout its useful life and is estimated at over 10 years. $199 (pro models are more costly)

Corentium Digital Radon Monitor

Blink Cameras - College students today have the ability to monitor their dorm room and apartment in an easy and cost efficient way. Blink has a trusted track record for being an ultra-affordable home security and video monitoring system that comes with free cloud storage. It is the ideal way for students to keep an eye on their possessions while they're at class or at a party. Blink is wireless, intuitive and easy to set up. It captures 720p HD video and includes a motion detector. $99 (1 camera and sync module) or $219 (3 cameras and sync module)

Blink Cameras

Max Flossolution - Oral hygiene might not be the first thing parents think of when sending their kids off to school this fall, but let's face it... we parents care about our kids' teeth and have a lot of our hard earned money invested in it (braces are expensive!). Max by Flossolution is the best oral hygiene technology on the market. It is the first of its kind flossing and brushing system utilizing patented Flossguard and Bite Bumper technology. The kit includes a charging base, a Sonic Motor, a Flossarm, and a cartridge of 14 reusable microflossers with a brush arm. Max comes with a rechargeable battery that lasts more than four weeks and provides five sonic power modes: Smart, Fresh, Bright, Happy and Healthy. I've been using Max for a few months now and my teeth are truly feeling healthier and cleaner. It's a really enjoyable teeth brushing experience. $99.99
Max Flossolution teeth brushing technology

XYZ Printing da Vinci 3D Pen - XYZprinting is a world leader in desktop 3D printers and has now entered the 3D pen market with the versatile da Vinci 3D Pen. Lightweight and mobile, this 3D pen allows you to move freely along a surface and extend your creation upwards to easily add dimension to your drawings. No computer or software is needed to create fun and impressive 3D art with the da Vinci. I've been very impressed with XYZ Printing's line of 3D printers so it's no surprise that their first 3D pen is a huge success. Students will be able to create amazing art while taking a break from the daily grind of homework at college this fall. $49.95

XYZ Printing da Vinci 3D Pen

BEZALEL Latitude iPhone Wireless Charging Case and Prelude Portable Charger - This Los Angeles startup develops and sells some very innovative wireless charging technology. Most college students use iPhones and know how frustrating it is at night after a busy day on the go when their phone has no juice left. BEZALEL's Prelude wireless charger renders charging cords, cables and Mophie packs obsolete. It's the first wireless charger that's also fully mobile (other chargers must be plugged into a power source to get juice). The Latitude fits iPhones like a glove and with the built-in Lightening cable connector it also makes it easy to sync and charge the old fashioned way. Prelude: $79.99; Latitude: $49.90

Bezalel Latitude iPhone 6 Wireless Charging Case & Portable Wireless Charger

Satechi Headphones Stand - Satechi makes great products. I've been using their 7 port Mult-Charging Dock, which allows members of my family to charge up to seven devices at once in a well organized and convenient station. I also love their phone holders, battery packs and travel wall chargers that provide extra USB outlets. Now, they've released the amazing headphone stand that provides simple storage for headphones, allowing you to charge the headphones or listen to music through the stand. It comes in four brushed aluminum finishes. $27.99

Satechi Headphones Stand

Quirky Pivot Power Genius - Smart technology doesn't have to be expensive. With so many electric gadgets in college dorm rooms and apartments, extra electrical outlets are a must. This power strip has four total outlets, but two of them can be turned on or off remotely from an app on your mobile device (manually or scheduled automatically from anywhere). Another advantage of the Pivot Power Genius I like is that the outlets pivot to accommodate plugs and adapters of all shapes and sizes. $23.99
Quirky Pivot Power Genius

Fizzics Beer Maker - Sure, most college and grad school apartments have a fridge well stocked with beer, but today's 21+ students have more refined tastes than previous generations of coeds. Enter Fizzics. This company sought to answer the age old question of why beer tastes so good fresh from the brewer's tap, but not from a can or bottle. The Fizzics Technology Platform improves the flavor, taste and mouth-feel of any carbonated beer. It's portable (4 AA batteries) and doesn't require CO2 or Nitro cartriges. $169.99

Fizzics Beer Maker

SodaStream Fizzi - What parent doesn't want their college student well hydrated throughout the day? Cans of carbonated beverages are unhealthy and tap water gets boring after a while. SodaStream's new Fizzi actually brings some excitement to water drinking with sparking water and flavoring that isn't bad for you. Fizzi Sparking Water Maker makes carbonating water easy with a quick snap-lock bottle insertion, making it ideal for the busy, on-the-go college student. It doesn't require electricity and it’s new slim design makes it ideal for any dorm space. $79.99

SodaStream Fizzi

Stringify App with Amazon Echo or Amazon Tap - Just when I thought I couldn't love my Amazon Tap any more along comes the Stringify app. It actually makes your smart things smarter and it's a really cool way to integrate IoT (Internet of Things) into your daily life. Parents (and certainly grandparents) won't recognize the college dorm or apartment of the 21st century. Everything is connected. Stringify takes that connectivity to the next level by making everything connected through an Amazon Tap, Echo or Echo Dot. Integration of such things as alarm systems, thermostats, light bulbs and speakers is only the half of it. Using Stringify's Flow Ideas, students can have a weather sensor send a notification to their phone to bring an umbrella when there's rain in the forecast or keep the side door unlocked when a roommate's Fitbit alerts it that she's on a run. The app is currently iOS only with Android coming this fall. Free download.

Stringify App with Amazon Tap

TomTom Spark Cardio + Music Fitness Tracker - I've long been a fan of Fitbit trackers and the Microsoft Band, so it takes a lot to get me excited about yet another activity tracker on the market. TomTom's Spark Cardio is extremely impressive and certainly got me excited. It's ideal for today's active student in that it's water resistant (up to 50 meters), has strong GPS and stores over 500 songs. The eight multi-sport modes cover a range of fitness activities including outdoor runs, outdoor cycle, swim, treadmill, freestyle, stopwatch, as well as the newly introduced indoor cycle and gym. $249.99
TomTom Spark Cardio + Music Fitness Tracker

Cassia Hub - Think about how many Bluetooth devices there will be in the typical college dorm room or apartment this school year. Cassia Networks new Cassia Hub allows them all to be controlled from one iOS device. The hub extends the range of all Bluetooth devices on the network. Users can set the mood using an iPhone -- that means study time will automatically brighten lights and put on some inspirational music, while party mood will dim lights and automatically setup the playlist for the night. The range is about 1000 feet which alleviates dead spots and multiple devices can be set up. $99.99 ($239.99 for the audio kit with 2 wireless speakers)

Cassia Hub

booq Daypack - College students will love any of booq's products. They are stylish, versatile and comfortable. booq's new Booqpad is an impressive and protective case for the iPad Pro. The booq product that really excited me this fall, however, is the Daypack. For years I've been lugging around a heavy Tumi computer case that has not been friendly to my lower back. I've since switched to the booq Daypack for both comfort and versatility. booq's comfortably cool backpacks provide a surprising amount of interior storage for everyday carrying. It has a slim profile and an interior that touts a large main compartment with multiple pockets including a slip pocket for a tablet and compartment for a 17” laptop. Daypack is available in four colors: blue-aqua, black-tarp, brown canvas and gray-red. It comes with booq’s Terralinq lost and found service and a five-year warranty. $90

booq daypack computer carrying bag
Originally published at the Huffington Post

1 comment:

Gary Miller said...

Great stuff.