Gadget Guide: Our Top Picks for Back to School

Gadget guide

We know it’s hard to believe, but it’s already time to start planning for the new school year. For those students moving into the dorms for the first time, or for the college veterans who are ready to upgrade their gadgets, we’ve got you covered. The best of everything you’ll need to make your time studying more enjoyable is right here. Let the lessons begin!

1. Best Buy - Next Class Laptop

Best Buy

Toshiba Laptop--M505-S4940

I have to admit, laptops scare me a little. I feel as if being so small, their ability to process everything that I need them to process at once (nothing too fancy, just all the Explorer tabs I have open at once while checking my online banking, Latina.com Facebook, work email, personal email, and maybe a bit of online shopping), will make them slow to a snail’s pace and frustrate me to no end.

That’s why when I started road testing this Toshiba notebook, I was beyond pleasantly surprised—this machine could handle it! The first thing that I noticed was of course the super cool design on the top cover and inside; it’s definitely a notebook with personality. The pricetag is incredibly fair for such a machine, especially considering the techie aspects of it: it’s super fast (the Intel Pentium dual core mobile processor T4200 makes it speedy); 4GB of RAM, so you can have as many programs as you want open; and the hard drive is 320 GB, lots of space for a small machine—enough to store plenty of my music (salsitas to my rock en español!) and my pictures. There are two USB ports, along with plenty of other ports for many different peripherals, like a slot for media cards.

The laptop itself is also really light and portable—weighing in at just a little more than 5 lbs. and only 1.5 inches thick—which I loved. Another great value for the money: this model comes with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, which includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and One Note (a program that helps you gather notes and information) and 15 months of Norton Anti-Virus. I like that—and these days any little bit of help to my wallet helps! Yuliana Gomez


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2. Best Buy - Nikon Coolpix

Best Buy

Nikon Coolpix S230 Review

Nikon’s Coolpix S230 is perfect for someone who is looking for a functional, lightweight and fun digital camera. With 10 megapixels it delivers a great image quality and the design is simple and stylish. But the standout feature of the S230 is its touch screen capability.

The S230 only has two buttons, for photo review and shooting mode and the on/off button. All of the rest of its features are accessible only through the touch-screen option and are pretty standard across the board for a point and shoot digital camera. My favorite standouts were the fact that you can use the touch screen to autofocus on areas while taking a shot, and Nikon's Best Shot Selector which snaps off 10 shots in lightning fast succession while the shutter is pressed and then automatically saves the sharpest image. Nikon’s even added a neat feature called D-Lighting, which provides an in-camera fill in flash that helps to illuminate detail in backlit photos.

The Nikon S230 is a great, sleek, point-and-shoot camera with the added convenience of an intuitive touch-screen interface that can be slipped into your pocket and used everyday. Mariela Rosario

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3. Best Buy - LG Rumor Phone

Best Buy

LG Rumor 2

Being a good student is all about being smart: You know how to multitask, save time and stay organized. It’s also about having the right gear, and few things help you stay in touch and on top of your game than a cell phone that does it all. The LG Rumor2 on the Sprint network has everything you need in a small, sleek, easy-to-use and hard-to-put-down package. Besides giving you a great cell with vivid display, simple interface and more than five hours of talk time, the Rumor2’s most noticeable (and impressive!) feature is a slide-out full keyboard with big, beautiful buttons. As soon as you crack it open, the message menu pops up, so you won’t waste any time firing off text messages—there’s even a dedicated emoticon button reserved solely for those must-use smiley-faces. :) But like any good multitasker, the Rumor2 doesn’t stop there: Snap pictures, send voice memos, access your e-mail and the Web, download awesome ringtones and games, even rock out with a media player and built-in speakers that can shuffle up to 16 gigs of your music on a MicroSD card. All in the palm of your hand! Now isn’t that smart? Chris Hermosilla

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4. Best Buy - iPod Nano

Best Buy

iPod Nano 16GB

I was in need of a new iPod after I lost my first Nano a few months ago and boy did I love test driving the new 16GB iPod Nano. My favorite feature was the “genius” setting which allows your iPod to shuffle through your iTunes and match songs that go great together; perfect for my morning run. I just picked one up-tempo song that I wanted to start out my workout with and the Nano matched the music for me the rest of the time I was running.  This Nano also has a cool feature called the “accelerometer” which means that your can shake the iPod and shuffle through your songs or turn it on its side for a different orientation for video and photo playback. If you’re using your iPod for video and photos, this is great.

Overall, I really loved the new iPod Nano 16G; it seems to be the absolute perfect size for someone like me. It can hold up to 4,000 songs, 14,000(!) photos or 16 hours of video, making it an ideal companion! Mariela Rosario

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5. Best Buy - Sony Bravia LCD TV

Best Buy

Sony Bravia L-Series 32-inch LCD TV

Real talk: A good television set is the cornerstone of modern student life. You’ll flip it on and veg out after a long day of classes, leave it playing in the background while you study, watch rented movies on it while hanging out with friends (or curling up with that special someone)—and boyfriends may come and go, but a reliable TV will last you for years and years. In the HDTV era, buying a set may seem a lot more complicated, but our easy student pick is the Sony Bravia L-Series 32-inch LCD TV. The screen size is great for a small to mid-sized room, and the whole set is light and under six inches thick—perfect for when space is tight in that cramped dorm room or cluttered bedroom at home, and you can even mount it on the wall. The LCD picture quality is excellent, whether you’re watching razor-sharp high-def video, regular DVDs or cable TV, and it’s got seven different video inputs so you can plug in all of your devices at once. You can even hook up your desktop or laptop computer and use the Bravia L-Series as a huge video monitor, or run a picture-in-picture setup so you can type up that research paper while watching the latest in guilty-pleasure reality TV. Whether you’re scanning channels, watching movies, playing video games or going online, this is the HDTV that can handle it all. Chris Hermosilla

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6. Best Buy - Nintendo DSi

Best Buy

Nintendo DSi

Being a student isn’t easy: You’ve got stressful deadlines, grueling homework, tough professors and, like, eight different things to do all at once. Take a break and have some fun with the Nintendo DSi, the newest handheld gaming system from the genius tech-toy wizards at Nintendo. There are hundreds of DS games and software for all kinds of interests, whether you’re running and jumping in “New Super Mario Bros.,” solving brain-teasers with “Brain Age,” practicing new dish recipes with “Cooking Mama” or screaming down the track in “Mario Kart DS.” And the DSi has a ton of other features beyond gaming: It has two built-in cameras that let you take pictures and mess around with them using its touchscreen display; it can play your music from an SD memory card; and it can go online with a Web browser that can access any open wireless networks around you, so you can hit up your e-mail and Facebook between classes. The DSi can even sync up with the Wii (Nintendo’s groundbreaking home console that’s taken the world by storm) to download game demos, view exclusive videos and more. So be sure to bring a Nintendo DSi along with all of your school gear—you know what they say about all work and no play. Chris Hermosilla

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7. Best Buy - Dirt Devil

Best Buy

Dirt Devil

Unless you’re taking your mom to school with you, you better learn to clean up after yourself.  Enter the handy Dirt Devil cordless 15.6 volt vacuum. First off, it’s super light, so I don’t need to lug it around every time I need to clean up a mess. Fully charged, the vac eliminated those crumbs in a snap and without me having to go over the area several times. It does need to be charged in a base for six hours at a time, but only about once a month. The handle also folds down, making storage easier—which is a nice touch and perfect for students who don’t have a lot of storage spaces in their rooms! At the end of the day, the Dirt Devil is perfect for quick cleanups in smaller spaces, like dorm rooms and bedrooms. Lori Hoffman

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8. Best Buy - Logitech Webcam

Best Buy

Logitech QuickCam

If you’re looking for a webcam that provides great quality and is simple to use, then check out the sleek Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000. It’s super quick to install: just pop in the software CD, connect the webcam and within minutes you’ll be ready to snap pictures, record videos in HD and set up a video conference call.

You can also upload videos onto YouTube or e-mail them to your friends with a click of a button. Camera shy? Then choose from a selection of avatars that will take your place on the screen and mimic your facial expressions and play around with filters and face accessories. When you need to feel closer to home while you’re off studying at school, you’ll appreciate the Logitech RightSound Technology, which ensures the best audio performance by canceling echo and reducing background noise.

And it’s not just your voice that will be sounding sharp. Your face will be crystal clear, too, thanks to the autofocus feature and the Logitech RightLight 2, which automatically adjusts the frame rate, color and exposure when shooting under unflattering lighting. And who doesn’t want a camera that makes you look good every time? Dorkys Ramos

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9. Best Buy - PNY Flash Drive

Best Buy

PNY Flash Drive

For the woman-on-the-go, the PNY Attaché High Speed USB 2.0 Drive offers a way to carry files in style. With a 4 GB capacity, storing, transferring and sharing documents, photos, music and videos will be a breeze. The pretty pink design also has an integrated cap holder in the back so lost caps are a thing of the past. And for every specially marked USB flash drive sold, PNY will donate $.50 to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Dorkys Ramos

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10. Best Buy - Compact Fridge

Best Buy

Haier Compact Refrigerator

Let’s face it, students need one thing handy when they’re knocking out all-nighters or skipping homework to chill with a group of friends: refreshments. And this little fridge is prepared to hold all of the required goodies. The small, sleek design ensures that it won’t get in the way, but it’s roomy enough to hold large bottles, frozen snacks and leftover takeout. One of the coolest features is the reversible door swing, which allows you configure the fridge according to your room’s layout. And you’ll appreciate the clean, white look of it. It’s a must-have for any stylish dorm room. Shani Saxon-Parrish

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