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Microsoft Brings Back Their Back-To-School Deal– But Is It Worth It?

windows xbox college deal

Well it’s that time of year again. Yup, the school year is almost over, summer vacation is just weeks away and you know what that means: time for back-to-school deals to begin. Last year at this time Microsoft was just taking the wraps off of their back-to-school Windows PC deal and it was so good that this year their bringing it back. Yes, Microsoft will be giving away free 4 GB Xbox 360s with all new PC purchases of $699 or higher as well as a $15 upgrade to the all new Windows 8 when it comes out later this yearAnd like last year this deal applies to both high school and college students and all you gotta do to get this offer is show your Student ID if your buying in a store or a enter your .edu email address if you’re buying online (this is the email address your college gives you once you enroll).

Unlike last year however, this deal is available in more stores than just the Microsoft Store and Best Buy. In fact Best Buy, Dell.com, Fry’s Electronics, HPDirect.com, Microsoft Stores, and NewEgg.com are all partaking in this years deal.

windows 8 samsung series 5 hybrid 1The Samsung Series 5 Windows 8 Hybrid– one of the many new tablet/laptops you can expect later this year (pic via The Verge)

Now here’s the real question– is this deal worth it? Usually we’d say its a pretty much no brainer of a deal– I mean, you’re getting a brand new computer AND a free Xbox– but with Windows 8 coming later this year things are a bit more complicated. Windows 8 is a major upgrade over Windows 7, with one of its biggest updates being it’s completely optimized for tablets. Now that’s not to say that it doesn’t work well on “traditional” mouse and keyboard computers that don’t have touchscreens, just that later this year we can expect all new computers that look to combine the best of a tablet and a laptop (like the upcoming Samsung in the pic above. Think of it as having all the best of a tablet– apps, awesome battery life and really thin designs– combined with all the power of a normal Windows PC). So for $700-$800 you can get a full Windows computer AND a very good tablet in one.

The downside to this of course is that Windows 8 PCs and tablets aren’t expected to come out until September or October (or around the time school actually starts), so if you’re looking for a new PC we really would recommend to try to wait until then (and if you’re planning on buying a Mac we’d also recommend waiting a week as Apple is rumored to be updating its entire Mac line next Monday at their annual WWDC conference). If you need a new computer right now and can’t wait, then by all means this is stll a solid deal, if not for the Xbox then for the fact that you’ll get Windows 8 for just $15.

Again though, if you can, try to hold out a couple more months– trust us, it’ll be worth it.

A Student’s Take on the iPad

Since Apple announced the iPad last week, opinions are abound, with many predicting failure for a device whose capability seems to lie somewhere  between Apple’s  MacBook and iPod Touch in the company’s attempt to replace or reinvent the traditional computer. In that regard the iPad isn’t well suited in its current stage: it lacks a video camera so you can’t iChat, there is no iLife for content creation, for some reason multi-tasking is still a no-show even with the iPad’s bumped-up specs, and in terms of using this for browsing the web, it’s good but not great, lacking the Flash support that is used on many web sites across the web, like ESPN and Hulu.

As a student, though, even with all these flaws I see a lot of potential for the iPad. I actually believe that this could be a great device, and am really eager to pick one up for this reason alone—this could finally be the perfect school computer.

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iPad Accessories- The Break Down

Last week we covered exactly what the iPad is, now let’s take a closer look at some of the accessories Apple plans on rolling out alongside the new device. Apple announced 5 main accessories along with the iPad; let’s take a close look at what exactly they are:

  • Keyboard Dock— This is a must have add-on in my book—a dock that props up your iPad for ideal vertical view, as well as including a full-sized, physical QWERTY keyboard. The dock, which comes with a keyboard very similar to the Apple wireless Bluetooth keyboards for Macs, also gives you a iPod 30 pin connector for syncing with your computer, charging, or using other add-ons like the ones below, as well as an audio jack let’s you connect to better speakers if you want. If you plan to use the iPad as, say, your computer in school for taking notes or writing papers (for example, using the Pages app), this truly is a must-have, even at it’s price of $69.

  • iPad Case— This is Apple’s case for the iPad, that not only protects the screen while keeping it usable for typing and, well just using the device, it also has a built-in stand that can be used in many different ways, such as setting on a table for viewing slide shows or videos. The iPad Case will be priced at $39, though we’re sure there will be many other cases coming out for much less than that.

  • iPad Dock— Pretty much the Keyboard Dock, minus the keyboard. It’ll cost $29.

  • iPad Camera Connection Kit— This takes the regular iPod dock connector on the iPad and turns it into either a USB port or SD card slot for importing pix from your digital camera right to your iPad. This is some of the most basic functions found on even the cheapest netbooks and we would’ve really liked Apple to have put both of these into the iPad from the outset, but I guess thinness has it’s price. The price for this add-on kit is also $29.

There also is an extra power adapter for charging off of a regular outlet (with a greater range, thanks to a 6-foot cable) and a VGA connector for hooking this up to a computer screen or TV with a VGA port available.

So there you have it—a round-up of all the iPad accessories Apple plans to sell alongside the new iPad. The big thing here of course is the new keyboard dock, which should definitely throw a whole new dimension on what this device can do (we all know how much people wanted a real keyboard on the iPhone).

Live From IDF: Hands on with the Archos 9 Windows 7 Tablet

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The Archos 9 Windows 7 Tablet

For what seems like forever, there’s been talk of Apple making an all touchscreen tablet for the Mac. Now see, if you’re a Windows user (even though now there is talk of Microsoft making their own tablet…. but we’ll cover that another time), you can pretty much point and laugh at every Apple “fanboy” who freaks out with each Apple event and rumor hoping for said inevitable tablet—as thanks to Archos, you got a real, and really nice looking Windows tablet that’s ready to make full use of the upcoming Windows 7’s improved touch features.

archos pic 2

Playing Hearts with your fingers!

At IDF, we made sure to stop by Archos’s booth and check out the Archos 9 for ourselves, and we came away pretty impressed. The Archos 9 tablet looks great and is insanely thin and light that taking it around wherever you go should be a breeze.

Archos did though do a couple things interesting with the tablet—for one, it doesn’t use a capacitive, more finger friendly touchscreen like those on the iPhone and iPod touch, instead going with a surprisingly very responsive resistive touchscreen (usually with resistive screens they only work well if you use a stylus or pen like object to tap the screen– but if we hadn’t known before that this was resistive we would have definitely thought it was a capacitive screen. That’s how good it is with just using your fingers! Though that lack of a capacitive screen also means no gestures like “pinch to zoom” etc). It also has a lot of the netbook type specs like 9 inch touchscreen, 1 GB RAM, 1.2 GHZ Intel Atom processor, 1.3 megapixel webcam, Bluetooth, 60-120 GB hard drive…, but all this isn’t a terrible thing, as Archos is planning to sell this at a very solid price of $499 when it launches with Windows 7 on October 22nd.

Oh, and if your worried about using an all touchscreen device like this to write long reports or take notes in school, don’t be. Archos plans to be selling a very thin wireless Bluetooth keyboard along with the Archos, which also is pretty solid and will definitely make things a whole lot easier.

archos pic 3

For more info on the Archos 9, see Archos’s site here.