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Today’s students need a lot more than spiral-bound notebooks and pencils to make the grade. Everything revolves around computers and the Internet; and papers have to be created in a program and printed from a computer—pen and ink was the way your parents wrote for their classes. Assuming that your student already has a computer, there are many accessories that can help them get their work done cleanly and efficiently. All of these products make great gifts for the holidays.
Having the ability to burn data to an optical disc can save the day for a student doing research or completing a project. It’s quite possible that a student will have to copy a disc from a friend or teacher, perhaps notes from a missed class or even photos or video from a class in graphic arts or film production. In order to be prepared for anything, you need a disc burner that’s compatible with all popular disc formats; and today that would include Blu-ray.
Buffalo’s MediaStation 8x External Compact Blu-ray Writer is an external Blu-ray burner with a universal USB 2.0 interface. The drive can read and write Blu-ray discs, which have a capacity of 25GB per side. That makes the drive ideal for archiving old data and backing up new data. In addition to Blu-ray, the MediaStation can also read and write DVDs and CDs, making it pretty universally compatible. The drive comes with all the software you need to author and copy discs. The MediaStation supports Windows XP, Vista and 7 operating systems. It can even double as a Blu-ray player if supplemented with the required graphics cards.
Printing from a computer is the way students create research papers. Of course, they might also have to scan, copy or fax a page or two from time to time. A versatile, space-saving and inexpensive all-in-one is what’s needed, and the Canon PIXMA MX882 All-In-One Inkjet Printer fits the bill.
The MX882 is a multi-function printer, copier, scanner and fax machine. It offers 9600 x 2400 dpi color resolution and prints 12.5 images per minute in black and 9.3 images per minute in color, on paper up to 8 x 10". Numerous connectivity options are offered, including USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, direct PictBridge printing and a card reader compatible with all popular memory card formats.
Convenient features of the MX882 include a built-in 35-sheet automatic document feeder and built-in duplexing. A 5-color ink system enables the printing of lab-quality photos and laser-quality text, and you only have to replace those cartridges that run out. The MX882 is compatible with Windows XP, Vista and 7 as well as Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher.
Students and books go hand in hand. Students of all ages always have a lot to read, but they don’t always have enough time to read everything, and some reference texts can’t leave the library when your honors student needs to go back to the dorm. The Iriscan Book 2 Executive Scanner can help. It scans books, magazines, receipts, handwritten notes and photos at up to 600 dpi resolution without having to connect to a computer.
Powered by a rechargeable battery, the book scanner can scan flat surfaces up to 8.5 inches wide and then it saves scanned images in the JPEG format on the included 4GB microSD card. Once scanned, images can be transferred to a computer via USB or by popping the microSD card into a card reader. You can also send scans to other devices using a Bluetooth link. Once transferred to a computer, scanned pages can be converted to editable text files using the included Readiris 12 OCR software. The Iriscan Book 2 Executive Scanner is compatible with Windows 7, Vista, Windows XP and with Mac OS 10.5 (Intel processor only) or higher; Snow Leopard and Lion are also supported.
Sometimes all students need to meet their hectic deadlines is a little help from the Wizcom Technologies InfoScanTS Elite Pen Scanner. The handheld scanning device can scan and store up to 20,000 lines (500 pages) of text in its own memory, and it doesn’t need a computer to do so. Later on you can transfer the scanned text to a computer as a text file via USB. The Pen Scanner can also provide definitions of scanned words from the American Heritage Dictionary, or read scanned text to you in English through the built-in speaker or the included headphones.
Another handy function of the Pen Scanner is that it can be used to scan text directly into Windows applications. It supports five languages including English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. The pen has a small built-in touch screen that can display up to five lines of text or serve as a virtual keyboard for manually inserting words. The Pen Scanner has an automatic shut-off feature to save your battery, and the user interface can be adjusted for right- or left-handed use. The Pen Scanner requires Window XP or Vista, a CD-ROM drive and a free USB port.
It’s difficult to be productive working on a computer if you’re not properly seated. A computer workstation with good ergonomics is a must when you’re using a desktop computer and recommended even when using a notebook computer.
Students tend to need furniture that’s both sturdy and affordable. Meeting those two requirements is the Balt Brawny Table, which consists of a gray high-pressure laminated tabletop with a black metal frame. The tabletop is one inch thick, 36 inches wide and 30 inches front-to-back, and the frame height is adjustable from 25.5 inches to 33.5 inches. That should accommodate students of all sizes. Other features include a built-in cable trough, cable grommets and leveling glides. An optional CPU holder keeps tower systems off the floor and off the desktop.
A good backpack is a must when carrying a valuable notebook computer; even an inexpensive notebook computer has great value when it’s used to perform and store important work. Students carrying a notebook computer from class to class can depend on the Case Logic CLBS-116 Laptop Backpack. The backpack is also ideal for air travel. The leather and nylon CLBS-116 is designed to carry notebook computers with screens as large as 16 inches. A padded compartment protects notebook computers in tow while a file compartment protects paperwork, magazines and other gewgaws. A pocketed panel keeps pens, electronic gadgets, wallets, keys, flash drives, granola bars and other small items organized. The TSA-compliant backpack zips open and lies flat so there’s no need to remove the computer for airport security screenings.
If that notebook is larger than 16 inches, consider the Targus XL Notebook Backpack, which is designed to carry most notebooks up to 17 inches in size. It has a padded compartment for the computer, space for papers and folders and pockets for all the accessories. An audio-player pouch has a cutout for headphone cables. It also has an easily accessible water bottle holder that is placed safely away from sensitive electronics and important files.
If you prefer a bag with wheels to a traditional backpack, Targus has you covered with the TSB700 Rolling Laptop Backpack. Designed to fit notebook computers up to 15.4 inches in size, the TSB700 can be worn like a regular backpack, but it also has wheels and a telescoping handle for those times you’re hauling more weight than you want to carry on your back. It has a main compartment for magazines and documents, pockets for all of your accessories and a compartment with a removable laptop sleeve in the rear. An additional handle grip on the bottom of the case makes it easier to lift into a car or an overhead compartment.
If you want a sturdy backpack with a well-recognized brand name, go with the Samsonite Xenon Laptop Backpack. Designed to fit most laptops with a screen up to 16 inches, the backpack has an EVA foam-backed panel and a stylish color contrast embossed lining. It looks great and hasplenty of pockets for all your stuff.
For students in need of a smaller bag, something just big enough to protect a netbook or notebook computer, Ruggard netbook and notebook sleeves offer tremendous value. The sleeves range in size from small (for a 10-inch netbook) to large (for a 15-inch notebook). The sleeves feature weather-resistant neoprene exteriors, soft fleece-lined interiors and small storage pockets for accessories.
If you’re not sure what kind of computer bag you want, but you want something stylish, perhaps even to match a particular outfit or piece of luggage, check out the Tucano line of sleeves, bags, backpacks and accessories. There’s something here for everyone.
If your notebook computer runs particularly hot, or if you work with it on your lap often and you can’t stand the heat, the Antec USB Notebook Cooler is a flat pedestal with fans in it that you put beneath your notebook computer. These whisper-quiet fans draw hot air away from your computer to keep it running cooler. If you run the USB Notebook Cooler on battery power, it will shorten the computer’s run time; but for use in the dorm with AC power, you won’t have a problem.
It’s always good to have choices, and the Belkin Laptop Cooling Pad gives you one more choice in notebook cooling devices. The Laptop Cooling Pad, when placed beneath your notebook computer, pushes air up and away from it to keep performance at a maximum and prevent heat from building up in your lap. An angled design makes for easier typing, and rubber grips on top of the device prevent the computer from sliding off. The cooling pad is powered by USB, and the USB cable tucks away into the bottom of the unit when it’s not in use. Like the Antec unit, this Belkin device also cuts down on your mobile run time.
If you would prefer a more passive way to prevent heat buildup in your lap, one that doesn’t gobble up precious laptop battery power, Logitech’s Portable Lapdesk N315 is the solution. It’s basically a thin work surface for your lap, with a slide-out mouse pad for easy mouse operation in a classroom, plane, train or automobile. An anti-slip surface helps the computer stay put, and the panel prevents heat from reaching your lap. The device is sized for notebooks up to 15.6 inches in size.
An external hard drive is an essential peripheral for students—it’s an ideal place to store anything that won’t fit on your computer’s hard drive, and it’s also a great way to back up important files by creating redundant copies. Seagate’s 1TB FreeAgent GoFlex Desk External Drive is an external desktop hard drive with a USB 2.0 interface. The drive is pre-loaded with backup and encryption software, which is important for students. Optional connectors can convert the interface to USB 3.0 or FireWire-800. It is also Mac and PC compatible.
Juggling studies and keeping in touch with everyone often requires a bit of multitasking, and the B230 Voyager PRO UC Bluetooth Headset System from Plantronics makes that multitasking just a little bit easier. The Bluetooth headset works with computers and cell phones, and it has a range of about 30 feet. It can be paired with two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, and its ear-detection capability allows you to answer calls simply by placing the headset on your ear. The device helps cancel out background noise and wind noise, so that the only thing your listeners hear is the sweet sound of your voice. It has Call Answer/End, volume and mute controls built into the headset. The rechargeable cordless headset provides up to 6 hours of talk time or 5 days of stand-by time before needing a charge.
Sometimes it’s not just the teacher who has to make a presentation; students have to make them, too. The Kensington Wireless Presenter puts you in control of any presentation from up to 65 feet away. Not only can you control a computer with this device, but a built-in laser pointer makes it easy to direct the audience’s attention to where it needs to be. The device provides forward and back control of PowerPoint and Keynote presentations, and the tiny 2.4 GHz wireless USB receiver stores inside the controller when not in use.
Again, it’s always good to have choices. If there’s anything you don’t like about other wireless presenters, perhaps the Targus AMP13US Laser Presentation Remote will appeal to you. The wireless remote control has a 50-foot range and a built-in laser pointer, making it ideal for use in classrooms. The backlit buttons are easy to see in dark rooms, which is the typical ambience for group presentations. A KeyLock function can lock out any buttons you don’t want to press inadvertently.
Many laptop computers have low performance, built-in speakers. That’s just the way it is, even if you spent a lot of money on it. If you want more sound from your laptop, but don’t want to lug around a big set of speakers, consider the Z205 Laptop Speaker from Logitech. About the size of a large remote control, the Z205 is a pleasure to travel with and easy to use. A single USB cable pipes in power and sound, eliminating any confusing, time-consuming setup process. The stereo speaker system clips onto your laptop in use and stores in the included carrying case when not in use.
For a really small portable speaker system, ideal for use with mobile computers, MP3 players and cell phones, look no further than the Altec Lansing IM227 Orbit MP3 Ultra-Portable Music Speaker. This disk-like sound system features a 3.5mm mini-jack plug and comes with a 2.5mm adapter, so it’s immediately compatible with any device that has 3.5mm or 2.5mm output. Three AAA batteries will rock your world for up to 24 hours, and it’s easy enough to carry some extra batteries with you so you’ll never have to worry about finding an outlet to charge this speaker.
Compact speaker systems are fine for mobile use or, say, for camping, but when you’re near an AC outlet there’s no reason to skimp on sound. The VS2621 2.1 Stereo Computer Speaker System from Altec Lansing pumps out 28 watts of room-shaking sound to get that dormitory party started. The system offers 7.5 watts per satellite and 13 watts for the subwoofer. The shielded speaker system is designed for use with computers, but also works great with MP3 players. Volume, tone and power controls are easily accessible. Unlike the other speakers we’ve mentioned here, the VS2621 2.1 Stereo Computer Speaker System is a wired speaker system, not a wireless one, but it packs a lot of sound in a small package.
Getting loud sound when you’re near an AC outlet is easy, but it’s another matter entirely when you’re out in the field—or at the beach, in the woods, on a picnic and so on. The Logitech Rechargeable Speaker S715i is portable and rechargeable, so you can bring the party with you wherever you go. The device contains two 3-inch drivers, two ½-inch tweeters and four 2-inch passive radiators to unleash the bass. The rechargeable battery provides up to 8 hours of run time per charge. iPods and iPhones can dock right onto this speaker and be controlled via the included IR remote. Other devices can plug directly into the 3.5mm auxiliary input. The S715i comes with a travel case.
Sometimes it’s just not convenient to run wires from your audio source to your speaker system. In these situations you need a wireless speaker system, one like Logitech's Z515 Wireless Speaker. The Z515 uses Bluetooth technology to connect to computer systems, MP3 players, cell phones and any other devices that support Bluetooth. If you have a device that doesn’t support Bluetooth, you can connect to it using the included USB wireless adapter or you can plug directly into the speaker system via the 3.5mm auxiliary-input jack. The Z515 has a 50-foot wireless range and a rechargeable battery that lasts for about 10 hours. The Z515 also comes with a travel case.
At the end of the day, it’s time to kick back and relax and play games. In fact, sometimes students like to play games at the beginning of the day, too. And young people happen to be among the best gamers in the world. If you know a student who is a gamer, she or he would probably love to own the Turtle Beach Ear Force DPX 21 Dolby 7.1 Surround Universal Gaming Headset Bundle. It’s designed for the PS3, but also works with the Xbox 360 or PC and Mac gaming. The headset features an amplifier and DSS processor which delivers the Dolby 7.1 surround sound, and there are independent controls for game audio and chat volumes. Chat Boost turns the chat volume up as the game gets louder. The DPX 21 has a mute switch so you can turn off the microphone at any time. The DPX21 is comfortable enough to wear for hours while it blocks unwanted noise. And it’s powered through a 16-foot USB cable connection so you don’t need an external power adapter or batteries. Connectors include dual 3.5mm plugs, a 2.5mm Xbox Live cable and an optical digital cable.
The Cyborg R.A.T. 3 Gaming Mouse gives PC and Mac gamers an edge. The futuristic-looking USB mouse features a gaming-grade laser of up to 3200 dpi, with four custom dpi settings and a rocker switch that lets you toggle between the settings. Three programmable buttons plus the two regular mouse buttons provide numerous ways to execute your plan of attack. Programming software included with the mouse lets you change sensitivity, create custom profiles for different games and assign commands to the programmable buttons. This wired gaming mouse is powered through its braided USB cable.
Students who like to have wireless control over their computer, whether for gaming, home theater applications or just surfing the web, can really use a wireless keyboard. The palm-sized Logitech diNovo Mini Palm-Sized Wireless Keyboard lets you control your computer from up to 33 feet away. It uses Bluetooth 2.0 to connect to a PC and it’s compatible with Playstation 3. The 63-key backlit keyboard features an integrated ClickPad that can be used for pointing and clicking or to navigate menus directionally. A rechargeable Li-ion battery can power the keyboard for up to a month, and it recharges in about four hours. A fast-charge option lets you power the keyboard in just 10 minutes for a full day’s use.
Nothing beats a wireless keyboard for convenience. But batteries are often hard to find on campus. That’s why the Logitech K750 Wireless Solar Keyboard is so convenient. The wireless keyboard charges itself when exposed to light, and it retains its charge for up to three months, even in total darkness. It connects to your PC wirelessly using a 2.4GHz Logitech Unifying receiver.
Whether for gaming, online meeting with family and friends or to take part in online lectures, a webcam is an important piece of hardware. The Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 Webcam is ideal for all webcam applications, and it’s easy to use. The webcam connects to a computer via a USB 2.0 interface. It features a 2-megapixel sensor that lets you capture 720p HD video at 30 frames per second and it also captures high-resolution still images. A Carl Zeiss lens with autofocus and automatic face tracking does its part to keep the image sharp. Logitech’s Right Sound technology will keep your voice crisp and clear. The Pro 9000 Webcam is compatible with Windows and all popular IM clients including Windows Live, Yahoo! Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and Skype.
Another good webcam is Microsoft’s LifeCam Cinema WebCam, a USB 2.0 unit with a high-quality glass lens. The LifeCam can capture 720p HD video at 30 frames per second. It’s housed in an aluminum body mounted on a flexible stand that makes it easy to position the camera. The LifeCam will give good video performance in low light and uses noise cancellation for clear voice transmission. The autofocus works with all popular IM clients including Windows Live, Yahoo! Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and Skype.
When it’s time for your favorite student to plug all their powered equipment into AC outlets, you want to make sure the power is as safe as possible. APC’s Essential SurgeArrest 7-Outlet Surge Protector lets them power up to seven devices from a single outlet, and it protects those devices from surges of up to 840 Joules. A 4-foot cord lets them situate the seven outlets exactly where they’re needed. If they prefer a longer cord, the Professional SurgeArrest 7-Outlet 120V Surge Protector features a 6-foot cord.
Desktop computer systems are less of a target for thieves than notebook computers, making them ideal for use in dorm rooms and other highly populated living quarters. Unfortunately, unlike notebook computers, desktop computers can lose data if the power goes out, which can be a common occurrence on flaky campus electrical grids. Fortunately, the APC Back-UPS 350 CS Uninterruptible Power Supply, or UPS, can save the day—or your favorite student’s work, at least.
A UPS is a rechargeable battery box that connects to a computer. The device normally just conditions the power coming from the AC outlet, but in the event of a power failure, the battery power kicks in to keep the computer running. The idea is not to be able to continue running on battery power, but to buy enough run time to save data and shut down the system properly.
An alarm sounds during power failures, as well as to indicate when the battery needs replacing, which is typically many years. The device provides more than four minutes of battery backup for loads up to 210 watts, and the system can be configured for an unattended shutdown in case the computer is left running when nobody is around.
We hope we’ve provided you with some good gift ideas for the students in your life. If you have any questions about these products, please feel free to post them in the Comments section below.