Geek Quad: 4 must-have tools for the modern Illini

Busy with school, clubs and the everyday challenges that college life entails, students need the best of the best gadgets to get them through their semesters as smoothly as possible.

Each year brings new or improved tools to the technology table. Here are some of the new and useful gadgets for this fall.

MacBook Pro


The popularity of this beauty around campus has grown rapidly, and a lot of its appeal lies in the sleek design.

The aluminum casing of the MacBook Pro is an upgrade from the plastic model. It is much nicer and more recyclable, said Tim Braun, director of operations at the Illini Tech Center.

The practicality of the laptop has also grown tremendously. For example, the laptop comes with a backlit keyboard, ensuring its user the capability to see in various lighting situations.

“The 13-inch MacBook Pro is also $150 more than the MacBook, but it also has more memory as well as two times the random access memory (RAM) of the MacBook. The RAM also has the ability to be expanded,” Braun said.

Most students choose the 13-inch laptop over the larger options because it allows for easy carrying and compactibility. It also has am extremely long battery life of about 10 hours, Braun said.



Smartphones shouldn’t be underestimated. They are powerful pieces of technology that can fit into the palm of your hand ­­— it’s like having a miniature laptop available for use at any moment.

“Having a full web browser is unbelievable for the Internet. It has definitely helped me with classes too since I am able to access websites such as Compass and Enterprise anywhere at anytime,” said Brad Silverman, a junior in Business.

Newer models of smartphones offer new features, like Facetime for iPhone 4. This application allows for people to video chat by phone.

“I think Facetime is a cool feature, but I haven’t used it, because although it seems unbelievably cool, if I am going to be in any situation where I would use Facetime, I would rather use Skype instead,” Silverman said.

Applications for Smartphones


What may be even more important than a smartphone’s standard qualities are the tools that you can add to it through its readily available applications.

Apps aren’t just for games anymore; there are a myriad of apps that can be beneficial for a college student.

“I have an app called RedLaser where you can scan barcodes of any item and see comparable prices,” Silverman said.

Other useful apps include note-taking applications like Evernote, Cram for making flashcards, iStudiez Pro to make schedules and many more.

Faucet Filters

It’s doubtful that students (other than my roommate) will boil their water and let it cool before they take a sip. Refilling water filter pitchers can also be problematic when a roommate forgets to refill it. A simple solution lies in an improved way to filter water — by filters that attach to your faucet.

“The filter I have connects to our kitchen sink and filters the water,” said Mandy Pardys, senior in Education. “Tap water tastes really bad and it can also be unhealthy. Everyone knows clean water is really important and the filter helps with that a lot.”

Another reason some students choose this method of filtering is cost. Anything that helps students save money is a must have. Faucet filters generally cost around $20. They save students money and are more eco-friendly when comparing them to the alternative — buying water bottles.

“Buying water bottles for the apartment gets really expensive and having the filter right on the sink makes water one less thing to worry about,” Pardys said.