Are you searching for the latest and greatest back-to-school tech gadgets? Tech lifestyle expert Andrea Smith reveals her seven must-have products that will make the school year a whole lot less stressful.
Lenovo's LaVie Z is the lightest 13-inch laptop you can buy right now, weighing in at just 1.87 pounds. It's super thin, but it has plenty of power with a 5th generation Intel core i7 processor and a 13.3-inch QHD display. There are plenty of USB ports, HDMI out and it comes with Windows 8.1. Battery life runs about 6-8 hours. Price starts at $1,399.
The Asus ZenPad is a great 8-inch tablet for back to school, running Android 5.0 Lollipop. It weighs about a pound, and has front and rear cameras for selfie pix and Skype calling. It also features color enhancement: The ASUS Splendid app can automatically enhance and adjust the colors on the screen. The ZenPad features a front speaker with DTS HD Premium Sound for listening to music and videos and the battery should last about 8 hours on a charge. If you're sharing this for younger kids, there is a kid's mode for safe browsing and app use. $199.
There's also the Z580CA which is the top of the line tablet with 2K resolution, for $299.
Wireless carriers are no longer subsidizing the cost of the latest smartphones. That means you may need to buy a phone at cost, and the $699 and up price tag for an unlocked flagship phone is definitely going to cut into the pizza budget. Motorola's new Moto G has a starting price of $179 even though its features make it seem like a more expensive phone. It has a 5-inch display and a great 13 megapixel camera for taking low light pictures. Its IPX7-rated water resistant for accidental drops in the toilet, and has an SD slot for memory expansion. Students will also appreciate the all-day battery life.
Few things are more frustrating than struggling to plug in a USB cable only to find it's upside down and won't fit. Even worse is when you're trying to plug it into an out-of-the-way port under a desk or high up. Tylt's FLYP- Duo Reversible Charge & Sync cable means you never have to flip it over to make it fit. The cables come in bright, fun colors like red and yellow and have both a micro-USB connector and an MFi certified Lightning connector so you can charge both Apple and Android devices. The cables sync as well as charge and come in one foot and 3.3 foot lengths, starting at $24.99.
Perfect for back to school, especially for people who like to top off their phone or tablet battery whenever they get the chance. The Belkin Lightning to USB clip is a portable charging cable that can be worn around your neck, hung off a backpack or used as a keychain for quick and easy charging on the go. Comes in a variety of colors. $35.
Whether they're listening to music and videos on their computer or talking on the phone hands-free, every student needs a good set of headphones. LG Tone Ultra is a wireless stereo headset that you wear around your neck instead of on your head. They look stylish, sound pretty decent and won't break the bank at under $60 on Amazon. The controls are on the front of the headset, easy to access so you can pause, skip, change the volume, and not worry about getting the earbud cords tangled. You can use the headphones as a headset for voice calls, the microphone is right up front. There's also ambient noise cancellation to cancel out background sounds and Google Voice integration for simple voice commands.
Parents need some back to school help too. They'll have peace of mind knowing their kids are home safe from school without becoming "helicopter parents;" calling and texting all the time. The Welcome Camera from Netatmo is a Wi-Fi home-monitoring camera that plugs into a wall outlet and keeps tabs on who's coming and going. It uses facial recognition so after a training period you'll start to get notifications on your iOS or Android device that your son or daughter is home safe. It will also let you know whether they've brought a friend home with them, as Welcome notifies you when there's an unknown person in the house. $199
You can also follow Smith on Twitter at @AndreaSmith.