Tech toys for cool kids going back to school

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      The most wonderful time of the year for us gadget geeks is late summer, when it’s time to consider what tech toys will incite envy among our friends and colleagues. Whether you’re a teacher like me or a student, here is the gear that will solidify your standing as the one who sits closest to the power outlet and always knows the password to the network.

      D-Link DIR-505 SharePoint Mobile Companion
      ($59.99; Best Buy)

      Just as zombies are a fact of life, so are dead zones. The D-Link DIR-505 SharePoint Mobile Companion is a handy travel router for your tablet or smartphone for those times when using your phone’s hot spot isn’t convenient. These D-Link routers used to be the size of a netbook but they’re incredibly small and compact now, about the weight and shape of a tablet charger. The router will get you instant access to a wireless connection wherever a wireless network exists, and it’s the perfect tool for libraries and coffee shops where the signal is frustratingly slow. A bonus feature is the built-in charger for your smartphone.

      Apen A5 for Ipad
      Typing on the iPad without a separate keyboard is a pain. One smart alternative is the Apen, a pen-shaped stylus. You connect the pen to an iPad by plugging a patented receiver the size of two fingers into the 30-pin connector on the top of the device. The pen makes it easy to draw and write even in small spaces like on contracts or in digital textbooks. The handwritten text is digitized in real time, and documents can be PDF’ed and sent by email or shared on social-networking sites like Facebook. Now if only the iPad came with a penholder, so you wouldn’t always be wondering where you left this compact pen.

      Blue Microphone Tiki
      That annoying guy who sits behind you in the lecture hall with the sniffles and slurps his juice box? A cone of silence was meant for those distracting noises. The Blue Microphone Tiki won’t drown out all annoying sounds, but it does a pretty good job of minimizing background noise. Billed as “theworld’s first USB microphone”, the Tiki has built-in technology that uses voice isolation and noise-cancelling filters to mimic the intelligence of human hearing, the hearing that tunes out questions about whether you want a second helping of quinoa but takes in the suggestion of chocolate, almond, and peanut butter ice cream.

      Puma Keg in-ear headphones
      ($39.99; Future Shop)
      An even more discreet way of tuning out the outside world is these new in-ear headphones. If summer was all about blasting tunes on the Beats Wireless By Dr. Dre headphones, then time in the library and dorm room calls for something more sedate to help you keep your focus.

      Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500
      ($24.99; Future Shop)
      Microsoft may have been overshadowed by Apple over the last few years, but the company still makes the best mice on the market. For years, I’ve been using the Microsoft Arc Wireless Mouse; its curved design makes it the smoothest-feeling mouse around, in my opinion. But if I were tempted to change, the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 would be my pick. Its eight months of battery life is very appealing, and the shape and responsiveness of the unit could mean it’s time to switch.

      Logitech Android wireless keyboard
      ($79.99; Logitech)
      Like the Android tablet but feel something is missing from the relationship? The Logitech keyboard-and-stand combo is a wireless version designed to travel easily and set up quickly that’s sturdy enough to keep the tablet upright and stable while you’re typing.

      Maxell's Airstash wireless USB Flash drive
      (8GB for $149, 16GB for $179; Future Shop)

      In the category of studying smarter is this compact wireless drive that lets you carry files wherever you go and share them with up to eight devices simultaneously with a secure-encryption option. You can also export photos and videos from the camera roll on your iOS device directly to the AirStash as a way of backing them up. While it makes group work easier and even employs a time stamp whenever a file is created, there’s no guarantee that everyone will pull their weight even when they have access to the same files.

      HP Envy Ultrabook and Asus Ultrabook
      (HP Envy $899, ASUS Ultrabook $1,099; London Drugs)

      The biggest trend right now in laptops is the so-called ultrabook, powerful and lightweight, with super-long battery life. Proximity to an electrical outlet may be the holy grail these days, but these laptops can outlast even a long night in a library where all the outlets are taken up by power-sucking iPhone users. The 14-inch HP Envy Ultrabook comes equipped with a third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 8GB of system memory, and a 500GB hard drive. The ASUS Ultrabook, with a slightly smaller screen at 13.3 inches, comes with a third-generation Intel Core processor and starts up on Resume in two seconds.