Back-to-school gadgets need to be tough to survive the daily wear and tear of student life. Laptops are useful tools because of their flexibility and portability but net books reign supreme due to their cheaper price and smaller size. Although netbooks are not powerful enough to handle high-end games and photo editing programs, they are suited to schoolwork basics such as word processing and other office applications. Netbooks are also web ready for e-mail, research and instant messaging. Storing and organising your schoolwork often involves a mess of wires or a stack of binders, so investing in a thumb drive is also a worthwhile buy for any student swapping documents and files from home and school. Thumb drives range from HK$30 to more than HK$600, depending on the storage space - 1 to 32 gigabytes. These digit-sized devices are the perfect way to store piles of documents easily without weighing down your school bag. For graphics and arts students whose files can run into many gigabytes, bulkier 250GB to 1,000GB external hard drives may be more suitable. They cost HK$300 to HK$1,000. Unlike thumb drives, external hard drives have moving parts and may not be as sturdy as their smaller cousins. Some may need their own power source. There are many cheap and simple digital video recorders on the market for video artists just starting out. A digital camcorder is a hassle-free way to record video without needing to convert from tapes, discs or cassettes before downloading. An all-in-one scanner and printer is also a good bet for students dealing with a lot of paperwork. Some also offer wireless printing and faxing and can be found for about HK$350 at computer fairs. The Hong Kong Computer and Communications Festival wrapped up last week, but the Hong Kong Electronics Fair gets under way on October 13 and the annual Sham Shui Po outdoor computer fair takes place in January. Alvin's personal picks Netbook: The HP Mini 5101 is a good model for students on the run. Sporting a sleek yet sturdy design, it has an anodised aluminium and magnesium body. Although it's not the most powerful of netbooks at its price, its 7,200 rpm hard drive means that its read and write speeds outperform most of its competitors. USB: The rugged mid-range Flash Voyager is covered in rubber and includes a blue lanyard that easily catches the eye. It's great for the forgetful user who keeps losing small gadgets. Video: Camcorders such as Kodak's Zx1 are perfect for school projects because they are easy to use and relatively cheap. You don't sacrifice too much video quality either - perfect for the amateur video shooter.