Back-to-school tech guide 2010

Looking for a student's going-away gift or shopping for yourself? These highly useful gadgets and apps will ease the transition back to campus.

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Digital photo frame

Kodak Pulse digital photo frame
Kodak Pulse digital photo frame

There are a lot of digital photo frames out there, so what makes the Kodak Pulse ($129.99) special? The fact that it's Internet- and Wi-Fi-enabled and has its own e-mail address. That means you can transfer photos to it from your computer wirelessly and send new photos to it from your mobile phone as soon as you take them. In addition, the Pulse has a USB port and two card slots for more standard ways of adding images.

Better, the connectivity options mean you can get photos from family and friends without having to do anything. Mom can send you the photos of the latest family gathering, or -- maybe better -- your BFF from high school can send you shots of her latest escapades, just by e-mailing them right to the frame. You can also link the Pulse to your friends' Facebook profiles and receive new photos they upload. A digital photo frame that surprises you with new pictures -- that's pretty special.

E-book reader

Amazon Kindle
Amazon's Kindle

We're quite taken with Amazon's third-generation Kindle -- not least because of its new price point. Last year we recommended the then-new Kindle DX, but at $489 it was firmly in the "ask your parents" section. This year, the new 6-in. Kindle comes in at a relatively modest $139 ($189 with 3G in addition to Wi-Fi), an amount conceivably within a student's budget.

We don't really need to explain the benefits of an e-reader: It gives you the ability to carry thousands of books in an 8.7 oz., 4.8-by-7.5-in. package. The new model is easier to hold and use than the old one, and the display is brighter and crisper.

One alternative to a dedicated e-reader would, of course, be an Apple iPad; the several excellent e-book apps available make it a decent e-reader on top of its wireless Web abilities. At $499 and up -- way up -- the iPad is definitely outside the range of our student budget. But we've noticed that the people who want an iPad want an iPad regardless. Who are we to stop them?

Jake Widman is a freelance technology writer in San Francisco.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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