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Be Back-To-School Cool With The Best Tech Gadgets

This post is from Melissa.

We’re at the start of a new year, and for many college students that means the start of a new semester. Students will need supplies before they return to campus, and in 2012 that means technology: laptops, tablets, smartphones and other gadgets that will help them stay on track and perform well in class. Whether you’re a student attending a large university or taking classes online, you’ll need tools that can make your semester easier and a little more fun.

Livescribe Pulse smartpen, $189.97 on Amazon

Livescribe Pulse smartpen

Many students still prefer to take lecture notes by hand, and the Livescribe Pulse smartpen makes plain old note-taking a multimedia experience. The Pulse has 2 GB of memory on which you can store notes, recordings or other programs. Along with the ability to record audio and sync it to the notes you take during class, the Pulse is also customizable: load an English dictionary for help with term papers, or a Spanish dictionary for language help.

Corsair 16 GB USB drive, $18.99 on Amazon

Storing notes, term papers and other school-related documents on a cloud drive gives you easy access from anywhere, but it’s always a good idea to have a “hard” copy of your data with you, just in case. And now that USB drives are more common, you can find a high-quality, high storage space drive at a very affordable price. Corsair’s 16GB USB flash drive has enough file space for documents, photos, MP3’s and files that might otherwise take a while to download from cloud storage. If you want or need a little extra security, Corsair’s Padlock secure flash drive will cost you a little more-it’s $49.99.

HP Pavilion DV6 series, about $600 on Amazon

Of course, if you’re a Mac person you’ll want to skip over this. But if you’re a PC person in the market for reliable laptop with just enough bells and whistles, consider the HP Pavilion series: it’s the perfect laptop for students on the go. The Pavilion’s integrated Bluetooth allows you to sync to your smartphone or print without physical hookups, and HP’s Coolsense technology means you can actually set this on your lap without it getting too warm. The price listed above may change, depending on how much hard drive space you need and the kind of processor you choose-but you’ll still get a decent laptop for less than a thousand dollars.

Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone, price dependent on carrier

Again, if you’re an Apple fan, skip this one too. If you’re an Android junkie, though, the Galaxy SII is the best smartphone currently on the market. With a 4.3 inch super AMOLED screen, you can comfortably read e-books and watch video for class without having to lug a laptop around. And with 16GB of memory, you can store everything from games to class materials on your phone. The Android Market has thousands of educational apps for college students, and many of them are free-you can make your Galaxy SII a portable school desk that fits into your pocket or purse.

Kindle Fire, $199 on Amazon

No, it’s not an iPad and it’s not trying to be. But the attractive price isn’t the only thing the Kindle Fire has going for it: in addition to being able to buy hundreds of thousands of e-books, you can also send and receive e-mail, watch videos and movies, listen to music, and transfer school files. And its size makes it easy to toss into a school bag or purse, which makes it an ideal choice for education. There are a few software glitches which Amazon is addressing with software updates but it’s still the best value tablet currently on the market.

Getting ready for a new semester doesn’t mean you have to break the bank on new toys, so choose wisely when shopping. But the gadgets listed above are sure to be useful educational tools for college students, no matter how many classes they’re taking.

Melissa Crossman blogs on behalf of AIU and lives in Indianapolis with her two cats.