Forget books, binders and backpacks — today's students also need access to three other B's: broadband, blogs and Bluetooth.
High school and college-bound students, in particular, can take advantage of the latest high-tech tools for productivity, communication or entertainment to ensure a smooth transition back into classroom this fall.
Here are a handful of gadgets and gear that are sure to make the grade.
Lap it up
While they cost more than a regular laptop, "ultrabooks" are hot in the computer world because of their super slim and lightweight bodies, instant-on access and all-day battery.
The new 15-inch Samsung Series 9 ($1,399.99), for example, is a top-of-the-line pick for on-the-go students. It is powered by a third-generation Intel Core i5 dual-core processor and 8 gigabytes of system memory (RAM). Ideal for work and play, this sleek and silver machine lasts up to 10 hours between charges. Upgradeable to Windows 8 for free this October, this Windows 7 PC also includes a stunning LED screen (at 1600 x 900 resolution), 128GB of solid state memory and backlit keys for late-night cramming.
Those who prefer a mobile Mac, however, should opt for Apple' MacBook Air, from $999 for the 11-inch model (or from $1,199 for 13 inches). Despite its mere 0.68-inch frame, this 2.38-pound MacBook Air boasts the latest Intel Core i5 processor, faster flash storage than its predecessor (up to 128GB for the 11-inch model) and up to 8GB of system memory. Along with two USB 3.0 ports, the MacBook Air also includes a versatile Thunderbolt port to connect the laptop to an external monitor, hard drive or other devices, plus it houses an integrated 720p HD webcam for FaceTime or Skype calls.
The MacBook Air ships with the just-launched OS X Mountain Lion, Apple's most advanced desktop operating system.
Thanks for the memory
You don't need to be a straight-A student to know how important it is to back up your files — but today's external hard drives can do so much more.
Western Digital's My Book Live (from $159.99 for 2 terabytes) can be connected to your broadband Internet connection, allowing you to access these files anywhere inside — or even outside — your home or dorm room. PC or Mac users can securely access files via a password-protected site, while those on a smartphone or tablet can use free WD2go apps for Apple iOS, Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry devices. Consider it your own personal "cloud," with no monthly fees.
Wish your smartphone and tablet had more capacity? Connect the GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless ($199.99) hard drive to your computer via USB cable, drag and drop files onto it (such as up to 300 high-def films), and then unplug and go about your business. Now, up to three students can wirelessly access content from the 500GB drive, from any Wi-Fi device, all at the same time. No Internet connection is required as this battery-powered portable drive creates its own local Wi-Fi hotspot.
Not mousing around
If your hand is getting cramped from your laptop's limited trackpad, consider an "ergonomic" mouse that comfortably fits the contours of your right or left palm.
As the name suggests, Microsoft's Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 ($49.95) doesn't require a transceiver to be snapped into a valuable USB port on your laptop. As long as your computer has Bluetooth technology, simply pair this mouse with your laptop once. After that, every time you flick the "On" switch it will be wirelessly connected.
Designed for both Windows PCs and Macs, this mouse uses high-definition laser technology for precise and smooth tracking. A small status indicator on the mouse starts to glow red when the battery is running low.
Tab, you're it
Students will find many tempting touchscreen tablets on the market today, each of which are ideal for fast and comfortable note-taking and lecture recording, homework help, Web research, and much more.
Apple's new iPad (from $499) is still at the head of the class for nomadic students, thanks to its stunning 9.7-inch "Retina" display, superfast processor, iTunes and iCloud support, dual cameras, 10-hour battery and access to the App Store and its more than 800,000 apps (of which 250,000 were designed specifically for iPad).
If you're on a tighter budget or prefer the Android platform (or both), consider the Google Nexus 7 (from $199), a 7-inch tablet with access to the Google Play store (formerly Android Market) and about 600,000 downloadable apps.
If the aggressive price wasn't tempting enough, bundled on the tablet is a copy of the action flick Transformers: Dark of the Moon, as well as ebooks and music, plus you get a $25 credit to spend on Google Play, too.
Powered by a zippy quad-core processor, the Nexus 7 was jointly developed between Google and Asus.
Budget permitting, you might consider picking up a cool tablet accessory or two, such as a cover that protects the screen (and flips open to prop it up for typing), a stylus pen for note-taking or a speaker dock for listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks.
Caught in the Web
We're not quite paperless yet, but some products are fusing the old world with digital technology.
The HP Photosmart 5510 e-All-in-One ($99.99), for example, isn't just a printer, scanner and copier in one machine — it's a Web-enabled printer that lets you print documents or photos, remotely and wirelessly, from any computer, smartphone or tablet. So now you can have your lecture notes or essay printed out while walking back to your dorm room — and it's ready for when you get there.
Alternately, give this e-All-in-One to your folks and send them pictures of yourself studying away in the library — while you're hanging out in the school pub. This Energy Star-certified multifunction printer can print up to 22 pages per minute (black) or up to 21 pages per minute for color jobs.