2015 Back-to-School Tech Tools Guide – Part I

2015 Back-to-School Tech Tools Guide – Part I

Editors Note: Our man Chris Rauschnot found so many great Back to School Tech Tools, that we decided to break his massive missive up into two parts! WHEW! You can find Part II Here.

Heading back to school, starting as a freshman or a graduate student? These tech tools, gadgets and backpack should get you through a full day of learning, updating, participating and letting off some steam afterwards.

MiPow PowerCube 4500 Gold $49.99


Aluminum clad exterior with a gold finish surround this handy battery pack. Small rubber feet on the bottom keep it from sliding around. Provides up to 2x of an iPhone 5S battery. There are 4 LED lights to show charge level. Between 4 to 6 hours of charging time to top up via a micro USB port and an aluminum on and off button. Full sized USB port for charging external devices. It provides 5V at 2.4A of output charge. It can charge faster than most external batteries via its 1.5A enabled micro USB port.

Visit the MiPow Website

MiPow M3 Headset $79.00


With the MiPow M3, you get a choice of color, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connectivity and 10m distance included. A retractable stereo cable connecting two A2DP source devices is embedded in the headset. One key tap phone call answering for smartphones is programmed. A nice aluminum alloy control panel on one side has all of the buttons easily accessible.

Connect to a tablet and a laptop simultaneously via multi-point HFP connection. This headset has two 40 mm speakers, 32 Ohm resistance and 90dB sensitivity with a rated 20 ~ 20000 Hz frequency range. The 310 mAh rechargeable internal battery is rated to last about 15 hours and has a standby rating of about 600 hours. While this headset is not for audiophiles, its value and design far makes up for that. They sound good and look nice at the same time.

Visit the MiPow Website

Power360 Panamax Wall Charger $39.99


The P360 Dock provides six protected AC outlets, 2 USB charging ports, SmartGuard, a three LED circle of protection display and an indentation on top that works as a charging cradle. The USB ports output a maximum of 2.1A, perfect for a tablet or larger smartphone.

There are three power plugs on the front and three on the bottom to keep cords out of the way. If you plug in two smartphones, the 2.1A will be shared between both USB ports. If you need to charge more gadgets, try Panamax’s longer protected power strip.

Purchase the Power360 Panamax Wall Charger at Best Buy

Braven 705 Bluetooth Speaker $99.99


Braven makes great speakers. I named their BRV-1 as my top choice for Bluetooth speaker on The Huffington Post a few years ago. Their 705 does not disappoint. It comes in multiple colors, offers a modern design with rounded corners, is IPX5 water resistant rated and has a 1,400 mAh battery that lasts up to 12 hours. It connects wirelessly via Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR up to 33 feet.

If you connect the Braven 705 to your smartphone, incoming calls will pause the music and you may use it as a speakerphone. The large side mounted control buttons make it easy to find the right button to push each time. It pumps out tunes loud enough to fill a large room.

Visit the Braven Website

Inateck MarsBox Bluetooth Speaker FM Radio $59.99


Quality mobile tunes are important. Listening to your streaming service of choice on a portable sound system is a nice luxury. A portable speaker with Bluetooth 4.0 should provide the cleanest sound. The MarsBox from Inateck has two 5W speakers and a nice bass response. This is one of the only Bluetooth enabled portable speakers I have tested that comes with an FM tuner. The sound is decent and the 2,200 mAh battery is rated to last between 10 to 15 hours.

Visit the Inateck Website

Inateck Dual 2x USB and Lighting Cable $19.99


Charging iPhones, iPads and a navigation screen simultaneously in a car usually requires three different kinds of adapters. Most of the time, the cheaper car chargers do not provide enough amperage to charge iPads. Inateck knows that the struggle to charge everything at once is real and has engineered this fast charging car adapter with 6.6A, 33W and an attached lightning cable.

Visit the Inateck Website

Linearflux Lithiumcard Air (wallet sized 1k mAh) $39.99 & Lithiumcard Pro $79.99 (3x thick, two integrated cords, 3k mAh)


Finding a wall outlet in the middle of class, on a flight, or a bus is still not an easy feat in 2015. That is why Linearflux’s handy Lithiumcard with 1k mAh of charging power is one of my new must have portable batteries. It fits snugly in wallets too.

Those that need 3k mAh of backup battery power should look to their Lithiumcard Pro. It comes with integrated power cords that fit micro USB devices. Their NanoStik tech utilizes nanosuction to keep Lithiumcards virtually stuck to your device. It does not use adhesive and may be cleaned with warm water to refresh stickiness.

Visit the LinearFlux Website

Withings Activite Pop $149.95


You have heard about it, maybe even experienced it. The Freshman 15 is that extra weight gained when starting college or after going for that extended degree. With the Withings Activite Pop analog smartwatch and the Withings fitness-tracking app, keep an eye on daily activity to keep pace with set goals.

The watch may look analog but it is very smart. Now it can track swimming. A French company who knows their technology makes it. I have been using their Pulse O2 activity tracker for many months now. The way their app presents activity graphs are clear and easy to understand.

Visit the Withings Website

Withings Home $199.95 (Keep an eye on the dorm during class and late night study sessions)


Keeping an eye on your portable tech in the dorm while at the library, in class or collaborating on projects is nearly impossible. Even if you trust your roommates, friends of theirs will probably be making their way into your space.

The Withings Home personal security video system gives you a 135-degree field of view, has environmental sensors that alert you on loud sounds and air quality. A two-way audio system and an app for the Home allows you to talk with people in the same space as the device.

Visit the Withings Website

Karma Go Pay As You Go WiFi Hotspot $149 & $14 per 1GB


I have tested pay-as-you-go mobile WiFi hotspots before and while they are fun to use, Karma’s Go is the most innovative yet. Karma utilizes Sprint’s 4G LTE Spark network and towers for service. Your mileage may very on signal strength as with any carrier.

The data you buy sticks with the account until it is used. There are no monthly fees on the hardware or service. Top up the Go for $14 per 1GB at any time. It shares a 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n WiFi connection with up to 8 devices and the battery is rated to last between six and eight hours depending on devices connected and signal strength. Normally, this is where I would mention caveats. So far, I have not found any. Instead, it has a special feature so you may earn 100MB per new hotspot signup.

I have shared the Internet from the Karma Go in airports, on the Las Vegas Strip, in basements of hotels and amazingly enough, people signed up in each location. More than 10 people were helped with fast Internet access when they needed it. Earning over 1GB of data feels like a good accomplishment. That data will stay on my account until I use it. The sign up process for new users is easy and works well on smartphone screens. This would be great for anyone traveling, at a big event or at late night study sessions. (Photo from Design Milk)

Visit the Karma Go Website

OWC USB 3.0 Envoy Pro Mini 240GB Memory Stick $199


Saving important project files to the cloud is a fine way to backup your most important data. As with any true backup plan, a secondary backup is also necessary. I have seen multiple backup drives fail in the same day. Have a solid secondary local backup plan so as not to get caught in cloud storms where excuses for missed deadlines will not be tolerated.

The OWC USB 3.0 Envoy Pro mini is both designed to work with the newest MacBooks and provide 240GB of local storage space. Backup movies, music, financial aid info and important school work this high capacity external drive from OWC. Everything is solid state, so no worries about spinning drives.

Purchase the OWC USB 3.0 Envoy Pro Mini 240GB Memory Stick

Disclosure: I have been sent the products above at no cost for review. I have not been compensated for the review roundup. All thoughts and opinions are mine.