Cutting the cord might be a little easier if everything weren't wireless.
For parents of students heading off to college or returning to dorm/starter-apartment life, you want to help out with the right tools for higher learning. But technology moves so quickly that bad buys are likely to end up quickly forgotten in a drawer. And unless you've won the lottery, you're probably already sweating all the collegiate expenses stacking up.
In putting together a list of some tech basics, let's lean toward items that aren't overpriced and impractical. (No college freshman, in my opinion, needs a
I've been doing this back-to-school tech guide for a few years and the same rules tend to apply every August: with laptops, you get what you pay for (and you should spring for that extended warranty); with accessories such as headphones and flash drives, good enough tends to be more than enough; and tablets such as the Apple iPad are great for a lot of reasons, but they haven't replaced computers.
With that in mind, here are a few recommendations and alternates for tech products in the most popular categories.
Not to harp on Apple, but except for very inexpensive laptops in the sub-$500 range, discussion must start with the
Dell has of late stepped up its design game and two of its laptops have caught my eye -- the XPS 13 (starts at
Another system with local ties is
Chromebooks, which run
Just a year or two ago, it seemed as if tablets were poised to leave the desktop and laptop computer market in the dust. But then a funny thing happened. iPad sales plateaued, a glut of tablet competitors failed to topple Apple's device and traditional computers made a comeback.
Still, don't count tablets out entirely. The Apple iPad Air (starts at
But for students who aren't Apple devotees, there are other options. For those who swear by their Android smartphones, there's the Google Nexus 10 (starts at
Smartphones are perhaps the most personal device a college student will have. It's the thing they reach for first in the morning instead of the alarm clock. Typically, the phone is the alarm clock.
So highly individualized are phones that I can't suggest springing a new device on a student without consulting them on what they need and want to use if they're not fine with the phone they already own.
If you're shopping together, you should know that Samsung's Galaxy phones are wildly popular, but their cheap-feeling plastic and unnecessary features have not been a big hit with me. Instead, on the Android side, I love the HTC One (M8), which sells for
Two phones I can tell you not to buy: the Amazon Fire Phone, which has interesting technology but feels like a very first-generation product (wait to see what its sequel is like, probably next year), or an iPhone. Apple is expected to make an announcement on its next iPhone, likely the iPhone 6, in early September, so at least wait that long to see what's new and for prices on old iPhones to drop.
Dorm odds and ends
We heard recently that a very large university somewhere in town was making students upset by proposing, then deciding not to implement, a fee for campus Wi-Fi service. Even without the fee, going over a university's Wi-Fi Internet service quota can be pricey. One option is to bring one's own Internet; the Verizon Wireless Jetpack MHS291L is a mobile 4G LTE hotspot that can connect up to 10 Wi-Fi devices at the same time. Pricing varies depending on whether you sign up for a service contract or pay month-to-month, but expect to pay under
For students who don't use their phones to wake them up in the morning, I like the look of the Tivoli Audio Albergo Bluetooth music player and clock radio. It's pricey at
And lastly, if you want to make one completely unnecessary but very fun dorm-furnishing purchase, you can't go wrong with karaoke.
Will your college student invite you to their all-campus karaoke party? Probably not, but don't take it personally. You did your best to raise them right and equip them well.
On the web
(c)2014 Austin American-Statesman, Texas
Visit Austin American-Statesman, Texas at www.statesman.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services