Do your homework for back-to-school gadgets
Gone are the days when back-to-school shopping meant buying only notebooks, pencils and backpacks. For most high school and college students, some form of technology is on the "must-have" list.
"With so many options available, it's important for parents to shop smart and choose the tools that will really meet their student's needs," says Jamie Breneman of www.TheSavvyShopperBlog.com. "Many of these devices can be used throughout high school and college, so you want to make sure you're getting the best value for your investment."
Check speed, memory
No matter what electronic device you're looking into, make sure it will do what your student will need it to do. When shopping for a laptop or notebook computer, for example:
Check the processor speed. A good laptop should have a speed of at least 1 gigahertz (GHz).
Look for RAM. RAM, short for random access memory, is what laptops use to store temporary data. The more RAM, the less time it takes to get information, and you can do more tasks without slowing down the laptop.
Compare hard drives. The storage capacity of a hard drive is measured in gigabytes (GB), and you'll find laptops that range from 40 GB to 500 GB. Storing text documents won't take up much of the hard drive, but storing photos and videos or running games will.
You'll also want to read reviews — both independent reviews and reviews from people who have used the device you are considering. The website www.CNet.com offers independent reviews, while sites such as www.ConsumerSearch.com offer a mix of independent and user reviews.
Do a reality check
Sure, students may want the newest gadget out there, but will it really meet their needs? For example, eReaders and iPads are popular ways to get regular books — but will they be able to get the required textbooks on these devices? Not all textbook publishers have made their catalogs available in electronic form yet. Yes, that laptop looks good, but does it come with all the software the student will need? Check before purchasing.
Protect your investment
"Electronics can get pricey," says Breneman. "And portable devices are more likely to get damaged. So more and more parents are taking advantage of service and replacement plans that come with coverage for accidental damage from handling to make sure they're covered for unexpected repair costs." Most service plans offer support outside of normal business hours, including tech support and troubleshooting, which can be a boon to busy parents and students.