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Top gadgets for Students

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Today we look at some of the essential gadgets for students returning to college in the coming weeks. Cool but practical, affordable and somewhat essential, these are some of the hottest gizmos in town for an easier college life.

Students are starting to wind down their summer holidays now and are starting to get themselves ready for the college year ahead. In the coming weeks hoards of students will be filling out book lists, getting accommodation sorted and making sure they have their social calendar cleared for the year ahead. Here with some ideas as to how they can maximize both class and social time, is self-confessed techie nerd, Adam Maguire.
Adam Maguire is a Dublin born and based journalist and lecturer, writing mainly about technology for Business & Finance magazine as well as teaching on the Journalism course in Coláiste Dhúlaigh, Coolock. He also pops up irregularly on radio programmes like Today FM's 'The Last Word' and Newstalk's 'Culture Shock' and writes on various topics for other publications in Ireland.

Gadget 1:- The Samsung Netbook N310

"Even though it is one of the world's lightest mini-notebooks in its 10.1" class, weighing just 1.23kg with a powerful 4 cell battery, the N310's innovative design is packed with the latest technology for maximum mobility and productivity. It also incorporates a range of practical features, like a normal-size, ergonomic notebook PC style keyboard, to simplify life on the move. So when you need to stay in touch, but want to make a good impression the N310 makes complete sense."

The N310 is a "netbook" or ultra-portable laptop. It does almost everything a normal PC or laptop can do but is small, light and very well-priced.

Generally speaking netbooks can't handle really demanding tasks very well but for most users that's not a problem. When it comes to e-mail, surfing, writing text documents etc. they work a treat- which is perfect for students. They're also neat and tidy so they fit into backpacks really well along with books and files.

Most netbooks have the added bonus of a built-in webcam and mic, so you can chat via Skype or Gmail with friends and family over your internet connection. It also has bluetooth so you can transfer files to/from your phone.

The main down-side to the netbook is the lack of CD/DVD drive - it rules out using it to watch DVDs or transfer your music from a CD onto your computer.

There are cheaper and smaller netbooks out there than the N310 but the thing to look out for is the screen and keyboard size. If either are too small you may find the computers impossible to use, especially if you're going to be typing a lot.

Netbook, €302- €385,

Gadget 2:- Pocket Scanner

This is an ultra-portable, fast and efficient scanner that will end the need for photocopying or even borrowing notes from friends.
When someone missed a lecture in the past they may need to beg, borrow and steal to ensure they catch up. They have to get their hands on the notes for the class and then frantically scrawl them down themselves before the next class. With a pocket scanner they would not even need to take the notes away, they just run it over the page and it stores the information, ready to be uploaded to a PC at a later date.
The pocket scanner is quite expensive so it may not be as practical as a standard scanner but with this it is portable and can always be called upon at the drop of a hat. This snazzy RC800 is a colour scanner so really picks up on all that important info!
RC800 pocket scanner, €329, Peats World of Electronics

Gadget 3:- MP3 voice-recorder pen with FM radio

Keeping up with a lecturer can be hard work so any help a student can get is very welcome indeed.

This voice recorder/pen means students can record the lecture (with permission of course!) to an mp3 while they're taking notes, allowing them to go back over it later if they missed anything or just listening to it again as they prepare for exams.

To make things better the pen also works as an FM radio and mp3 player, so it makes a handy replacement for an iPod while also letting you keep on top of your studies.

When you're done recording files all you have to do is unscrew the pen and plug the USB plug inside into your computer - from there you can save recordings, delete them or put new files/songs on to listen to it later.

The pen we're featuring today packs quite a punch with a built in 4GB MP3 player, FM Tuner and Voice Recorder. You'll be amazed at the ability to record hours of audio from the high quality MIC, carry data safely from classes and still jot down a few notes while you're at it. Imagine writing notes from your professor as you listen to his recorded voice, or maybe making spy audio recordings of all your friends, or even just shocking people on the bus when you take out your pen and listen to music as you do the crossword.

MP3 voice recorder pen, €49.99, www.

Gadget 4:- Dragon Naturally Software

To work alongside your voice recorder, we recommend any self-respecting student with too much time on their hands should also have the ultimate software.
Dragon Naturally is basically voice recognition software which lets you talk rather than type.
There's a lot of software out there like this but Dragon has a strong reputation and promises to be very reliable - it also says it will get better the more you use it.
Once you get to grips with the software you could use it to dictate your work rather than type it - if you get a good enough recording you may even be able to have it transcribe a lecture you've recorded using the voice recorder pen or USB key.
Obviously for it to work you need to make sure you have a mic too - most netbooks have them built- in now and so do a lot of normal-sized laptops. Failing that you can pick up a headset or cheap PC mic for €10-20 in most electronics shops.

"Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Product Suite"

Most people speak over 120 words per minute but type less than 40 words per minute. What if you could create email, documents and spreadsheets simply by speaking? What if you could control your PC just by talking to it, starting programs, using menus, surfing the web?
This isn't Star Trek or HAL from the Space Odyssey saga; it's Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the world's best-selling speech recognition software. This revolutionary and easy-to-use product gives you everything you need to be more efficient with your PC. Turn your voice into text three times faster than most people type with up to 99% accuracy. It's so easy, you can use it right out of the box. It learns to recognize your voice instantly and continually improves the more you use it.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking works with the most commonly used desktop applications, including Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer, AOL and more! Just about anything you do now by typing can be done faster using your voice. Create and edit documents or emails. Open and close applications. Control your mouse and entire desktop.
The biggest reason more people worldwide rely on Dragon NaturallySpeaking: it works. With more than 175 awards for accuracy and ease of use, it's the undisputed leader in speech recognition software. If you want to get more done, more quickly, just say the word and Dragon NaturallySpeaking will transform your productivity. "

Dragon Naturally Speaking, 10 Product Suite, €159, Peats World of Electronics

Gadget 5:- Sony Reader:-

The heavy bag of books is always a nightmare faced by students but an eBook like the Sony Reader could solve that problem completely.

The Reader is basically a light, slim device with a black and white screen that lets you store thousands of books and read them at your convenience. It comes pre-installed with hundreds of classics and many more are available free online at places like There are even some regular text books available in eBook format, although you may need to pay a small amount of money for these (but it's likely to be less than the printed version's cost).

The Reader is designed in such a way that it uses very little battery power and also is easy on the eyes to read. There's not the same glare you get with a normal computer screen because there's no backlight shining out.

Many of the new Readers also have built-in Wifi and headphone jacks. This means you can download books wirelessly or in some cases even search certain websites - you can also use them as Mp3 players or listen to audio books via the headphones.

"The Reader Digital Book provides a new way to experience reading. It boasts an impressive 6-inch display utilizing breakthrough e Ink technology that's almost paper-like, making it easy to read even in bright sunshine. In addition, the screen allows for high contrast and high resolution, with a near 180° viewing angle. The text can also be changed between three different font sizes.
With an incredible lightweight design you can store over 150 books with its built-in memory. It also has a card reader so you can store extra books on spare memory cards. Battery life is so efficient it'll last for 7,500 page turns. You can even use it to view your digital photos and listen to your music.
. Stores over 150 books on built-in memory, memory card reader built into unit
. Revolutionary e Ink technology
. Incredible battery life as no power is required to maintain the image
. Large 6" display
. Carry and display your digital photo's"
. Listen to MP3 or AAC Podcasts (You can even listen as you read)

Sony Reader, €200 - €250, Sony Centre stores nationwide

Gadget 6:- INQ1 mobile phone from 3.

The INQI from 3 Mobile

The INQ1 is a cheap, easy to use phone from 3 that lets you make free Skype-to-Skype calls assuming you top up by €10 a month.

This makes it very handy for keeping in touch with family back home and if you and another friend both get the INQ1 you can call each other's mobiles for free too.

The phone also has Facebook integration - so you can add your contacts from Facebook to your phone and keep track of status updates and facebook messages on the phone. On pay-as-you-go, however, you have to pay for accessing facebook over the phone.

Besides that the INQ1 is a decent, basic phone. There are two new INQs coming out in the near future - both of which will have Twitter functions amongst other things - but exactly when and how much they will cost isn't known yet.

The INQ1 won the 2009 global Mobile Award for 'Best Mobile Handset or Device'. You can Skype with the INQ1, use Facebook on it and the You Tube facility is available also.

The big thing is the 'ease of access'. it is aimed at teenagers and people in their early 20's and it is dedicated towards those who are active in 'social networking'.
The main feature is the ease of use, and it is not over complicated. Then internet is readily available on the 'interface'. On many other phones, you have to enter the web address etc on the phone and it is a bit more complicated. It also comes with a memory card which is a big requirement for that age group (late teens, early 20's)

You can also upload directly from your phone to whatever site you are using - whether that is My Space or Facebook. The INQI also has an added feature; your Facebook, Windows Live and Skype contacts can be integrated with your SIM contacts on your phone, and you can merge the several contact details for the same person into one single entry in your phone book. Thereafter, every time your contact calls you their current Facebook profile pic is used as their caller ID image and it will change every time they change this photo on their Facebook profile.

The INQ1 have a built-in camera, and will play MP3 music files. The phone comes bundled with stereo ear buds which connect to the phone via the same mini-USB port used for charging.

INQ1 phone, €109 with €80 call credit, 3Mobile

Gadget 7:- 3G Dongles

O2 internet USB

The O2 internet usb clip works on the mobile phone network and can be plugged into any relatively modern computer - it's the ideal companion for something like a netbook, however!

In theory you should be able to make a connection anywhere your mobile phone works so it is a perfect way of keeping up to speed wherever you are be it college, cafe or park. If you're studying away from home you can even bring it with you when you visit your parents so you won't be letting it go to waste back in the dorm.

All the main mobile companies offer these kinds of connections and might have bundle deals in place if you already have a phone with them. The reason o2 might be best for students is because they offer a short trial (so you can see if it works where you're based before you sign up) and they've cut their monthly price to €10 for students (although you do need to sign up for 12 months - it's €13 per month if you just want it on a month-by-month basis).

"The Universal Serial Bus (USB) port is a small connector that allows a data cable to be attached so that, for example, pictures can be passed from a digital camera to a computer. On desktops, laptops, printers and other hardware, the USB port also allows for expanded functionality. Many hardware devices smaller than a pack of gum are made with one end designed to slip into the USB port. These devices are called USB dongles and can add features to the computer or machine that were not built in by the manufacturer."

A 3G or WiMAX USB dongle is a portable device that attaches to a USB port to enable a PC to connect to WiMAX and (or) 3G networks. These connectivity dongles are popular with mobile users who require broadband Internet connectivity while on-the-go. Add-in cards for WiMAX or 3G are also available for laptops.
O2 Mobile Broadband offers for students!
To avail of the offer, select 1 of the 2 plans below and go to either an O2 Store or visit our stand on campus.

Monthly Charge Monthly data allowance* Once off modem charge Modem type
€9.99 10GB €19.99 E1752
€12.99 5GB €19.99 E1752

*All O2 Broadband Plans have a data usage limit and a charge of 2c per MB applies for all usage in excess of the data usage limit on your plan.
Contract length for the €9.99 monthly plan is 12 months, or you can just connect for the length of the student year on the €12.99 plan which has a 30 day rolling contract.
See when we will be visiting your college:
You will need to bring
. Photo ID in the form of a valid 09/10 student card from one of the participating institutions
. Proof of address in the form of a utility bill or letter from the CAO or institution
. Bank details or credit laser card for direct debit payment
. Proof of date of birth