Back to school tech 

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Knowing what kind of technology to buy when heading off to university is tough — do you get a laptop and try to use it for everything, or a desktop and use it in combination with other technologies?

In a way it depends a lot on the courses your taking. For example, people taking math and sciences tend to take a lot of notes by hand, drawing diagrams and formulas — something you just can't use a laptop for.

For those people I seriously recommend getting an Evernote account and a Livescribe pen ( The pens allow you to export your notes directly to your Evernote account and organize them however you choose, and come with neat features like the ability to do calculator functions on the fly. And if the professor is talking too quickly for you to keep up then simply press a button and you can record the audio. When you look at your notes later, and have no idea what's going on, you can listen to every word that was said.

There are too many features to discuss, so go to the website and watch the demo videos for yourself.

If you're taking class notes via Livescribe then you might not need a laptop. A better option might be a desktop computer, which are generally more powerful, have more storage and are often better value as well. You can select your own screen, picking something large for multitasking and use a full-sized keyboard as well.

Big screen also allows a desktop to double as a movie/TV/gaming hub during downtime, so you don't need to bring a TV to school with you. Or a stereo — just plug in a surround sound system or sound bar and your entertainment is taken care of.

All-in-one desktops don't take up a lot of space, and are comparable in power to most desktops. Dell, for one example, makes an XPS 27-inch all-in-one with a 2550x1440 touch display that can easily double as a gaming computer — and the price tag, $1,600 for the base model, is only slightly more than a MacBook Pro with a 13-inch display, while the 15-inch models start at $1,800. If you're an Apple person, then their 27-inch iMacs, which are seriously nice, also start at $1,800.

If a student decides to go the Livescribe/desktop route they might find that they need something during the day to send emails, surf the web, call home, etc. An inexpensive tablet could fill this gap. You wouldn't write an essay on one, even with a keyboard attachment, but they're fine for light work.

For students in arts, or those who spend a lot more time listening to lectures than keeping up with what's happening on the chalk/white board, a laptop is probably the best device. They're not great for multitasking, which is why you probably need to invest in a second monitor that you can plug your laptop into in your dorm room at night, along with an external keyboard and mouse. Laptop trackpads suck.


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