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Five great tech gifts for grads

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Rick.Broida)
at 10:00AM Tuesday May 28, 2013
under Stuff We Like

It's graduation season, the time when middle-schoolers move on to high school, high-schoolers move on to college, and college grads move back in with their parents.

You can ease all these transitions by outfitting your once and future student with fun and functional tech. Here are my picks for the ultimate gifts for grads:

The "it" smartphone (for this month at least), the One bests the more-hyped Samsung Galaxy S4 at nearly every turn, packing a 4.7-inch screen, stereo speakers, and advanced camera into a breathtakingly slim and stylish metal shell. CNET called it a "near-ideal smartphone"--your favorite grad will inevitably refer to it as "the precious."

That clunky old laptop that got your grad through school? Time for something newer to get him or her through whatever's next. The Asus VivoBook X202E offers a near-perfect blend of power, portability, and affordability (Amazon currently sells it for $399, down from $599 just a couple months ago.)

The X202E is an 11.6-inch laptop with a decent processor, plenty of storage (500GB), a touchscreen (perfect for grads weaned on smartphones and tablets), and a travel-friendly design: 0.8 inches thick and around three pounds. Plus, it looks way cooler than any laptop should at this price.

A boring and predictable choice, perhaps, but the iPad Mini remains the top mid-size tablet for one key reason: It's an Apple product, and therefore instantly familiar and accessible to any grad who already owns an iPhone or Mac.

Sure, you can get a slightly larger Amazon Kindle Fire HD or Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ for less money--$269 each for the 16GB model, versus $329 for the entry-level Mini--and there's a chance Apple will roll out newer, better Minis at next month's WWDC event. But make no mistake: this is the tablet your grad wants. Just ask.

Portable hard drives are great for backing up school papers, sharing large files, and so on, but the MobileLite Wireless is no average drive. When plugged into a PC, it's an SD card reader. When unplugged, it's a wireless storage unit accessible by up to three devices. Just plug in an SD memory card or USB flash drive and you've got virtually limitless mobile storage for storing and streaming movies and photos, backing up files, and sharing data.

The MobileLite also doubles as a portable charger, with an 1,800mAh battery you can use to recharge smartphones and other mobile devices. Speaking of which...

One thing students never have enough of (besides money): battery power. My favorite portable power pack ever, the Peak 6000, can recharge a smartphone, e-reader, tablet, or nearly any other mobile device.

Granted, lots of portable chargers can do that, but this one is entirely self-contained: it plugs right into a wall outlet to charge its own 6,000mAh battery, then powers your other hardware via built-in ports and connectors (USB, microUSB, and Apple 30-pin). So at most you might need to bring along your existing USB cable, but many users won't even need that.

Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and, and also writes for PC World and Wired.