Back To School Gadgets

Thursday, August 25, 2011 - 9:33am

From laptops and smartphones to tablets and software, students need more than paper and pencils these days.

Back-to-school tech needs don't have to cost a fortune.

Kenny Molina, operations manager at the West Hollywood Best Buy store, said his back-to-school customers are picking and choosing their technology carefully.

Your "must-have" item is still a computer, of course.

But laptops are now in a price range where they're generally affordable, he said.

"You can get a laptop now for as low as $299 on certain Sunday specials," said Molina.

But what about tablets?

Molina said tablets offer greater portability and sometimes they offer faster online connections. But for your student's needs, a self-contained computer is really more crucial.

"This is more of a commodity, an extra," said Molina. "As opposed to a laptop, which is a little more of a need."

This is a good time of year to stay on the lookout for a "student" version of popular software.

For instance, Microsoft Office in the "professional" version retails for about $500.

The "student" version, with fewer functions, is only $150.

Don't forget to budget for all the other hardware needed for computers, too.

Surge protectors, for example, can be elaborate and expensive.

For a student, however, a basic $8 model is enough. Same for laptop cases, backpacks and sleeves.

With your student scrambling to get to class and across campus, a solid cushion will protect that laptop investment.

And what if your student wants a smart phone for school?

At higher grade levels, there might be a need.

Upper classmen in high school or college, for instance, can use one.

Don't forget, the smart phone can also double as a calculator.


Facebook, for tracking activities on campus, might be nice.

Personal banking and even downloading books for class might be good ones, too.

But parents should focus on bare essentials.

Essays, note taking at lectures and class presentations are a must.

And be prepared to say no.

What might be a good example of something that's not needed?

"They ask for Playstation 3," said Molina.

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