Tech Guide
Aug 17, 2015

10 back-to-school tech essentials

By: Helen Racanelli
10 back-to-school tech essentials

Get back-to-school ready with the Microsoft Surface 3. Author: Microsoft

Tech Guide
Aug 17, 2015

10 back-to-school tech essentials

By: Helen Racanelli

Get back-to-school ready with the season's hottest new tech devices.


Where did the summer go? It's so hard to believe that school is once again right around the corner. Along with the purchase of Herschel backpacks, No. 2 pencils, spiral notepads and ballpoint pens, there’s a new reality for parents: back-to-school technology essentials. Laptops, tablets and smartphones probably aren’t absolute essentials for single-digit-aged kids, but by middle school, high school and definitely by university, these devices are a given. So with that in mind, we've rounded up and reviewed some of the hottest new tech devices for the upcoming school year.
 

Photo Gallery

prev next 1 of 10

10 back-to-school tech essentials

Microsoft Surface 3 and Windows 10

Windows 10 launched in the summer, and what better device to try it out on than the Surface 3, a tablet, that has an available clip-on keyboard and digital pen. When the keyboard is paired with tablet with a simple magnetic click, you have a really handy and portable laptop. Our six-year-old tester enjoyed drawing on the tablet with the virtual pen. The Windows 10 experience came with a learning curve but was ultimately more intuitive and touch-friendly than previous versions. Surface 3, Microsoft Store, from $639; pen ($49.99) and type cover ($129.99) sold separately.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Microsoft Store Credits: Style at Home

10 back-to-school tech essentials

iPhone 6 Plus

Beautiful (especially in gold) and slender but with a big screen, the iPhone 6 Plus was at first questioned for its seemingly too-big footprint. But it's actually the perfect size for university students to blend the necessity of a phone, the organizational help of a smartphone and the entertainment value of a tablet device. And unlike many other too-small-to-type-on devices, a larger screened phone can also serve as a word processing device in a pinch: part of this copy was written on an iPhone 6 Plus using the Google Docs app. iPhone 6 Plus, Apple, from $969.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Apple Credits: Style at Home

10 back-to-school tech essentials

ASUS ZenBook laptop

One of the newest entries into the laptop market by ASUS is the ZenBook, which employs high-end finishes and a large crystal-clear screen. The keyboard is easy to use and, for a laptop, quite comfortable. On top of which, for students inputting a lot of numbers, there’s a dedicated number pad on the right. It’s a substantial, aluminum-clad laptop with a wide touch screen, so maybe not the device for toting to class each day, but ideal for moving around the house with the performance of a desktop but the portability of a laptop. Like hopping from your study space to your bed to the dinner table, as high school students often do. ASUS ZenBook UX501, ASUS, $1,849.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: ASUS Credits: Style at Home

10 back-to-school tech essentials

iMac desktop with Yosemite

Little kids in the home still need to be supervised while on the computer, and in such cases a desktop in a common area of the home is a necessity. But because it will always be in plain sight, it's best when you can meld appealing form and function. The iMac with its good looks and easy-to-use operating system fits the bill. We were surprised how ably this most recent iteration also handled video gaming, too, as Macs aren't generally known for such performance. Yosemite, the new operating system, seems to have been designed with families in mind, offering Continuity, a feature that displays your texts on your computer (no more running for your phone), and the new ability to have your kids send you requests to make purchases remotely. iMac, Apple, from $1,299.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Apple Credits: Style at Home

10 back-to-school tech essentials

Fitbit Surge

Fitbits, little wearable bracelet activity monitors have experienced quite a few good years as a trendy gadget for health-minded adults. Tweens to college students are getting in on the action with more versatile devices like this new one from Fitbit, the Surge, that functions as a watch and a GPS and heart rate monitor for the student athletes in the family, and it monitors sleep too which can be a bonus if you’re concerned about it. It goes without saying that it also counts steps, and we were pleased to note that the app that goes with it is much improved from previous versions. Fitbit Surge, iStore, $300.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: iStore Credits: Style at Home

10 back-to-school tech essentials

Alarm

These sweet and simple digital alarm clocks are new offerings from Pottery Barn Kids and we love their cute looks and easy-to-use button. They're also a lifesaver when trying to teach little kids about punctuality, not to mention bedtimes and wake-up times. Having long put off using an alarm clock as a parent, after we tried out this version we wondered why we waited so long to bring one into the home seeing as it made bedtimes much smoother. This digital clock runs on batteries, which is great for travel too, and it has a screen that illuminates at night with the touch of the button but otherwise stays dark so as not to disturb kids’ precious sleep. Digital clock, Pottery Barn Kids, $47.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Pottery Barn Kids Credits: Style at Home

10 back-to-school tech essentials

Osmo Gaming System

The name of this tech device is a little misleading in that it’s not really about gaming (although it doesn’t hurt to let the kids believe that). It’s about learning and improving math, printing, spelling, drawing and even fine motor skills. Using a scanner widget and a stand, this game works with your iPad turning it into an interactive and educational device where you can move tiles around to copy a pattern, spell out words, or sketch an drawing with digital assistance – all skills that young kids need to practice. Osmo gaming system, iStore, $100. 

By: Helen Racanelli Source: iStore Credits: Style at Home

10 back-to-school tech essentials

Headphones

Headphones are a necessity for family car trips and for schools that allow personal electronics, and honestly, even when the kids are in the living room and you don’t want to hear their music or their apps. We appreciate that Pottery Barn Kids’ version features a variety of cute, age-appropriate patterns in small sizes with short cords perfect for connecting to a tablet or laptop (with an extender included for hooking up to desktop computers where you need a longer lead). Our six-year-old tester gave it a thumbs up for ease of use and good sound quality. Headphones, Pottery Barn Kids, $82.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Pottery Barn Kids Credits: Style at Home

10 back-to-school tech essentials

Braven Mira portable speaker

One thing that students love, unquestionably, is listening to music. A portable speaker that uses Bluetooth technology to stream music from their phone is sure to be a hit. Braven is known for its excellent sound quality and portability, and this speaker is no exception. It can be used in the shower, propped up on a table, out at the park, or just about anywhere you might need to blast some tunes and also need a bit of water-resistance. Braven Mira speaker, iStore, $109.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: iStore Credits: Style at Home

10 back-to-school tech essentials

Blackweb multi-task mouse

A good mouse shouldn’t be underrated for back-to-school. It might not have the glamour of some show-offy technology, but ergonomically it’s a must, and it’s one of those items that’s worth upgrading considering how much use it gets during the school year. This Blackweb multi-task mouse, a new item for fall, allows users to open the start screen with a simple touch, it has backward and forward buttons that allow you to more easily navigate web pages, and works on a variety of surfaces like glass, wood, and even your skin! We appreciate the comfortable shape and affordability of such an essential tech tool. Blackweb Multi-Task Mouse, Walmart, $33.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Walmart Credits: Style at Home
Share X
Tech Guide

10 back-to-school tech essentials