Vast array of modern conveniences becoming essential to students’ lives

A range of devices can help ease the load of a busy college life

 

With the start of the college term on the horizon, it’s time to start stocking up on the college essentials. Not the traditional essentials like notebooks and bags, but the tech essentials that you’ll need – or just want – to smooth your path through the college year.

Smartphones

But the good news is the phones are getting less expensive and better. Take a look at the One Plus, for example. The company, which put out its One Plus One “flagship killer” more than a year ago, has announced the One Plus Two, and both phones have comparable specs to high-end smartphones from the major manufacturers – but are less expensive. The One Plus One original is still the favourite around here, and €299 for a 64GB Android handset, it’s worth the money.

Vodafone’s Smart Ultra 6 is another good Android handset that won’t cost the earth – €170 on pay as you go. Budget doesn’t have to mean cheap and poor quality any more.

If you want something that will turn heads, look at the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. It’s bigger sibling, the S6 Edge Plus, is due to arrive any day now, but the original is still an attention-grabber thanks to the curved screen. You can pick it up relatively cheaply on contract but, sim free, it will set you back around €900 for the 64GB version.

Of course, you could go for one of the larger screened phones such as the iPhone 6 plus or the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which may eliminate the need for a tablet for most people. You can do some work on them, and they’re still small enough that you don’t feel quite as ridiculous as you would with a 6 inch phone clamped to your head.

Tablets

The iPad Mini is a favourite around these parts, but invest in a Bluetooth keyboard – try the Logitech Keys to Go – if you plan on typing up those essays on it. That will add an extra few euro to your eventual bill – about €70 – but it’s worth it.

Microsoft’s Surface tablets may have had a rocky start – particularly when it came to the Windows RT versus the full Windows version that caused a lot of confusion – but the newest tablets are worth a look. The Surface 3 is full Windows software, and comes with the latest version of the operating system – Windows 10. At €610, it’s probably a little more than you might be looking to spend, but you can tackle your college work on it, look at videos and play games, which covers pretty much anything you’ll need for your first year. Plus with Windows 10, you’ve got the Start menu back, so no more Windows 8 frustration.

Laptops

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The Chromebook is a no-brainer for students. Starting from €250, they are fast to start up, have decent battery life and allow you to get online and do all the obvious things like word processing and basic picture editing. You can start with the entry level Asus or Acer Chromebook or add a few extras into the Toshiba Chromebook 2 and spend up to €400 on the device. The high end Chromebook is the Pixel, which comes in at more than €1400.

If you want something that will work as both a tablet and a notebook, the HP Spectre X360 is one of the breed of hybrids out there – notebooks with touch screens that can also work as tablets – that is both decently powered and nice to use. It will cost you upwards of €1200 though, so it’s really only an option for those who have deeper pockets.

Dell also has a nice range of laptops that transform into tablets, while Lenovo offers the Yoga, which is as flexible as the name suggests.

Apps

Among the options are Dropbox, which gives you 2GB of free space and Box, which offers similar. However you can earn extra storage by getting friends to sign up or by buying certain devices that offer deals for additional space for a period of time – usually one or two years. That should be enough to get you through to your next smartphone upgrade when you can repeat the process

Of course, if you have a Gmail account – or a google account of any description – you already have access to a large amount of free storage online. Google Drive shares 15GB between your email account and online file storage, so you can upload your essays and projects to your Drive and access them across a number of devices.

There’s also the advantage of having Google Docs included in the mix – an online (and offline, if you use Chrome browser) word processor that eliminates the need to pay for a licence for Microsoft Word. There’s a spreadsheet option too – Sheets – and each comes with their own app for your phone or tablet.

Evernote, meanwhile, can help you organise the vast amounts of notes you’ll generate over your college career and put them into one place. The service is available free of charge – it’s only limited by number of uploaded notes per month – and you can organise your handwritten notes, saved web pages, documents and memos into different notebooks. It’s especially handy if you are using a tablet that supports handwritten notes through the use of a stylus; you can take your class notes on your tablet and upload them to Evernote, where you can share them or access them whenever and wherever you need them – internet connection permitting. You can also work collaboratively in Evernote, which is a big plus for students who may have joint projects to work on.

Once you’ve got those essays written, you’ll need to cite references. That can be hugely time consuming, but as you might expect, there’s an app for that. EasyBib will help you construct your bibliography, offering lots of different styles and the ability to scan the barcodes of the books you’ve used and generate the references automatically. Then all you need to do is email them to yourself or copy and paste into your document, and you can are good to go.

Accessories

The Livescribe 3 smartpen offers an easy way to digital your notes, sending them straight to your iPad or iPhone as you write. It will record your lectures – with permission, of course – and match them up with your notes, so you can at some point return to the original recording if your written records are an illegible scrawl.

One problem is that it uses special paper to record and digitise your notes, which can add up. However, if you have access to a laser printer, you can print off sheets of notepaper from Livescribe’s site to use with the pen.

And if the idea of walking around campus under your own steam is just too tiring, take a leaf from some Premiership footballers’ books, and invest in Uberboard. It describes itself as the love child of the Segway and the skateboard, and it will get you around with very little effort (but a lot of balance). It’s pricey, at £395, but it will go for up to 12 miles on a single charge.

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