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Yes, I know. You’re still out there enjoying the sun at the beach, maybe tossing the Frisbee around or playing a little volleyball. Unfortunately, it won’t be long before you’re sitting behind a desk again, listening to some talking head yammer on about socioeconomic stratification or the mating habits of ring-tailed lemurs. As you get ready to go back to school, Futurelooks is here to help you find the technology that will make the experience a little easier, a little more comfortable, and maybe even a little more stylish too.

Given the nature of the “starving student” syndrome, I’ve approached this guide from two different (but related) perspectives. First, I wanted to make sure that every item I picked for this back to school guide would be affordable. You won’t find some ultra-baller gaming notebooks here, nor will you find any Swarovski crystal-encrusted iPods. I’ve kept your wallet in mind. Second, students typically don’t have a heck of a lot of room in their dorms, so the tech has to either be small or very portable. It’s not exactly practical to shove a 60-inch HDTV into a room that is less than a 80 square feet.

What do you need to survive another year at college, university, trade school, or wherever else you are heading this September? Let me pave the way.

Dell Studio 15 Laptop

Naturally, it starts with your main computer. This is where you will be busting out those world-class emails, exchanging emails with your professor, and maybe chatting with some study buddies via instant messenger. You might get in a few quick sessions of online poker on the weekends too, but don’t let that get in the way of cramming for the big exam!

The Studio series from Dell is relatively new and it is clearly designed for the consumer market. You can get the front cover in a variety of different colors and designs, letting you fully express your personality beyond simple wallpapers and startup sounds. Don’t be afraid to add a little “flair” by way of stickers and decals too. You’re in school. You’re allowed to be edgy.

At the time this guide was written, the base configuration on the Dell Studio 15 started at $799. For that price, you got a 15.4-inch glossy widescreen display, Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 processor, 2GB of DDR2-667 RAM, 160GB SATA hard drive, integrated 2.0 megapixel camera, Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100, slot-loading CD/DVD burner, Microsoft Works, back-lit keyboard, biometric fingerprint reader, and Windows Vista Premium.

If you prefer something a little more compact and conservative, you may want to consider the Dell Vostro 1310. Also equipped with a Core 2 Duo processor, the Vostro 1310 has a 13.3-inch WXGA display, 2GB of RAM, and 160GB hard drive. Prices start at $699.

VIZO Mini Ninja Notebook Cooling Stand

Now that you have yourself a decent notebook at an affordable price, you’ll want to provide yourself with an ergonomic typing angle and an adequate cooling solution. Laptops can get pretty hot, and I find that active solutions (with working fans) tend to work a lot better than the passive coolers.

The VIZO Mini Ninja may not be the most exciting product in the world, but it gets the job done. Built from a solid sheet of black aluminum, the Mini Ninja comes with a couple of adjustable 70mm fans. These fans can slide from left to right to best accommodate your notebook.

Although it is powered by USB, the Mini Ninja comes with a T-adapter so that it doesn’t actually hog up one of the USB ports on your notebook. A new revision was just released adds in a four port USB port for even more value. As you can imagine, there is virtually no installation or setup needed. Just prop it up, plug it in, and say goodbye to fiery hot laptops.

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