Bullz-Eye’s Back to School Gift Guide

It may sound strange, but while I miss being a student, I don’t miss school.

I try to compensate for this by taking every opportunity presented to me to still learn, but there’s just some things that can’t be recreated outside of the school environment, one of which has to be the first day back to school. I know, I know, it means the end of summer and the beginning of classes again. But what if I could tell you that there were steps you could take to ensure that this is the best school year ever, and the year in which you really stand out and make a name for yourself? Even better, what if I told you that you could accomplish it, without any of that self improvement stuff, or without having to apply earnest effort?

I’m talking about coming back to school with the sweetest swag available. Not just any ordinary swag, though, but swag that will be easy to show off and actually aid you in the school year as well. It’s like having your cake and rubbing it in everyone’s face too.

Here are some gadgets and gear that no student should be without this school year.

Google Nexus 7

One day, perhaps, all schools will be able to provide tablets for their students for the ultimate learning experience (and to help create an awesome sci-fi learning environment). Until that glorious day, though, you’ll just have to supply your own.

While the iPad is still the overall better buy, the Nexus 7 gets the edge for a student. Why? Well, its $199 price tag doesn’t hurt, but it’s the Nexus 7’s smaller size that gives it the advantage for every day, on the go use. Plus, in the smaller tablet market, the Nexus 7 is far and away the best available spec-wise at the moment, as even trendsetter Amazon is having to update their Kindle Fire ahead of schedule in order to keep up.

The Nexus 7 features over 600,000 apps, incredibly long battery life (9 hours HD video, 10 hours web browsing), and all of the e-book, email, video download, and online services you would expect from a tablet. Put it all together, and you have a tablet that succeeds where Amazon failed, and manages to provide a true budget alternative to the iPad. It’s hard to imagine a more useful overall back to school device.

Bose MIE2i Mobile Headset

I know that the over-the-ear, in-ear headphone debate is an eternal one that has yet to claim a true victor. However, for whatever my two cents are truly worth, I personally side with in-ears. What you lose in style and comfort, you gain back tenfold in convenience and portability.

So let’s say you agree with me and have decided to finally invest in a set of in-ear headphones that don’t come with your iPhone or from the back counter of a convenience store. Let’s also say that you’re not into the Beat headphone mini-craze and want a set of true quality buds. If so, then I’d like to be the one millionth person to recommend you go with Bose.

For what Bose headphones lack in flash, they make up for everywhere else that matters. The MIE2i have always been one of their best sets as they feature the usual frighteningly good level of sound quality and noise cancellation you expect from Bose, but also offer unrivaled comfort (you hardly notice them, and they always stay in place) and sustainability in the in-ear field. If you’re looking to make an investment on a set of headphones that will actually last, and allow you to discretely listen to the Black Keys in class, look no further than these beauties.

Quirky Crates

Students looking to maximize the limited amount of space in their dorm rooms will love Quirky’s latest (and perhaps greatest) product yet: a fully customizable modular storage system with a seemingly endless supply of possibilities. You start out with a heavy-duty milk crate and begin adding accessories from there, with a variety of options to choose from, including double drawers, shelves, wooden legs or metal casters, a dry erase board or cork board, a cushioned seat, an all-purpose hook, and plastic links to connect additional crates from top-to-bottom or side-to-side. It’s pretty amazing that no one thought of it sooner, because this is exactly the kind of storage solution that every college kid needs. And the best part is that after they’ve graduated and moved out into a bigger apartment or house, they can continue to use the Quirky Crates by reconfiguring them to fit their new living space, making it the gift that keeps on giving. – Jason Zingale

IOGear Digital Pen GPEN 300

Hey, it’s like I said, one glorious day all school work will be done via built-in, standard issue tablets. Until that day, though, students everywhere are still stuck with archaic means of education, such as books, teachers, and of course, paper and pens.

But the good news is that you don’t have to let the system hold a technologically advanced person such as yourself back anymore. I say you go buy a 20-pack of those cheap BIC pens, walk right up to your teacher, and scatter them over their desk. As they ask what your problem could possibly be, you pull out the IOGear Digital Pen and listen to the sound of silence that follows.

What kind of pen could stun an entire classroom into beholding its wonder? The GPEN300 is a digital pen that allows you to save whatever notes, graphs, or doodles you write to an accompanying USB drive. Via the drive, whatever notes you wrote can then be transferred back to your computer for permanent storage and editing. It’s the best of the handwritten and mobile worlds in one device, and unlike its competitors, it actually allows you to write on any standard notebook paper.

Although I hope you don’t really follow my suggestion about the pen dumping. I mean, c’mon, you’re a student. Be smarter than that.

Kingston Data Traveler 410

Ever since they became the successor to the floppy disk, USB flash drives have become a must-have item for just about anyone that uses a computer in their daily lives. Yet, most people buy one with about the same care that they buy a plastic cup, with the only considerations being price, how much they hold and maybe color.

Let me offer another buying factor: Security.

Not to go Fox News terror alert on everyone, but as the recent Gizmodo hack proved, no one is immune from technological breaches on any level. As easy as a flash drive is to use, one lost or stolen provides anybody that’s not you with potentially serious or sensitive information. The Kingston Data Traveler helps to prevent that by offering users the option to save certain data in an encrypted format that can only be accessed via password. Plus, it includes above average transfer speed, 24-hour customer service support, and a sleek design that prevents the need for an easy to lose cap.

Even with the 32GB option, there are definitely larger USB drives on the market. Plus, in general, Dropbox offers all of the services of a flash drive without the physical reliance. However, you should always have a flash drive handy, and few offer the same level of reliance as the Kingston.

SLAPPA M.A.S.K. Jedi Mind Trix Backpack

To call this stylishly designed bundle that contains a mini galaxy of storage options a backpack doesn’t conjure the necessary image that you need to fully appreciate SLAPPA’s latest offering. In fact, calling it a backpack almost insults the efforts of other, lesser manufacturers that sell a product called a backpack, because despite their well intentioned efforts, they have no way to compete with the Jedi Mind Trix. In addition to their seemingly limitless storage capacity, the SLAPPA models are also known for their incredible style, and this one is no exception. It features the same customizable face, linings and graphics options as the other models in the M.A.S.K. line, and in many ways reminds me of the wide range of customization options available for the Alienware line of computers. It uses its sense of style not as an excuse to raise the price point, but rather as a natural extension to the superior product that lies underneath. Simply put, if you’re in the market for a new backpack, you need the Jedi Mind Trix.

Quirky Pivot Power Mini and Converge

It’s not the most exciting gadget in the world, but the Quirky Pivot Power Mini is a great way to charge your smartphone, tablet and other electronics without the need for a power strip. Transforming a single socket into four different power sources (two grounded electrical outlets and two USB ports), the device can also fold up into a more compact, travel-friendly size and offers surge protection from unexpected outages.

When paired with the Converge docking station, you could even potentially have six USB charging ports while still only taking up a single wall outlet. The Converge’s sleek, Apple-like design and hidden cable management makes it fairly easy on the eyes, while the faint glow of the power indicator even doubles as a handy nightlight. The fact that it’s not compatible with some Blackberry units or the Barnes & Noble Nook means that some people won’t get the full use out of it, but those that do will save space and look good in the process. – Jason Zingale

Keurig Coffee Maker

I don’t want to encourage substance abuse for anyone here, but as a student, if you are going to take advantage of a series of chemicals that combine to form a temporary beneficial feeling of bliss, then you should definitely consider caffeine.

Of course, I’m probably just preaching to the caffeinated choir here as more than 80% of Americans drink some form of caffeine. But if you’re still relying on sodas, Red Bulls, and 5-hour energy shots for your fix, I’ve got to say that it’s time to graduate to coffee. And if you’re looking for your first coffee maker, or just a better one, you have to go with the Keurig.

The Keurig is a single-serving coffee maker that uses pods of coffee grounds in various flavors. Pop in a pod, make sure there’s water in the tank, select a brewing size, and in seconds you’ve got coffee. There is nothing faster or more convenient on the market, and the pods come in a wide variety of enjoyable flavors. Even better, there is an optional grinder for beans, and available tea flavors.

Now, the Keurig is pricey, and the flavor pods can also set you back if you don’t buy in bulk. However, I’m afraid that once you use one, there’s simply no going back to traditional coffee makers.