Feature Index | Mid-range | Money's no object

So you're heading to school -- congrats! But you've probably already realized that it's an expensive prospect, right? So maybe you don't want to break the bank outfitting your dorm room (or maybe the bank's already broken!). Well, there are still plenty of lower-cost options out there -- and we've chosen some for you to consider. All of the items listed here have been chosen with price as the determining factor -- but we didn't ignore performance, either (we're Engadget, we never ignore that). We've chosen stuff we think you'll either want or need as you head off to school -- laptops, netbooks, mobile phones, e-readers, alarms / docks, printers, digital cameras, laptop bags and televisions (plus some miscellaneous fun stuff) -- in order to try and help you out. Of course, not everyone needs one of each of these -- but we figured we'd give our best recommendations in each category.


Laptops

Netbooks

Mobile Phones

E-reader

Dock / Alarm

Printer

Digital Cameras

Laptop Bags

Television

Fun Stuff!

Laptops

Acer Aspire Timeline 8000

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Acer's laptop choices are pretty overwhelming, but its newest offerings -- the 8000 series -- balance features with value. They're not gaming machines, but they're customizable, so you can add things like better graphics, 3G, and multitouch to the trackpad if you're willing to see a bump in price.

Key specs: 1.4GHz Core Solo SU3500, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive.

Price: $546 from Amazon

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Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Gateway NV NV5214u

One-touch backup and power-saving features plus a nice range of color options.

Price: $529 from Gateway

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Dell Inspiron 15

Ultra-low price, tons of options, and very popular.

Price: $379 from Dell

Netbooks

Acer Aspire One D250

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

The Aspire One is wildly popular for its super low price -- slimmed down form, quick boot times and nice trackpad beef it up. The 10.1-incher has a three-cell battery which won't last for hours on end, but it's lightweight for lugging around campus.

Key specs: 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270, 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, a 150GB hard drive.

Price: $299 shop now

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Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Dell mini 10v

Really nice keyboard and Linux options make this a great alternative.

Price: $299 from Dell

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Gateway LT2001u

Nearly identical specs to other netbooks in this range, different form factor.

Price: $299 from Best Buy

Mobile phones

T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8520

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

RIM's just launched "starter" BlackBerry Curve 8520 boasts a great keyboard, and a rubber backing which should resist wear and tear, three dedicated media buttons, and an optical trackpad instead of the traditional trackball (which we happen to really love). It's got WiFi but no 3G (meaning you'll have to get by on EDGE data), and the QVGA screen is a bit dimmer than we like, but the price is pretty unbeatable and the 2MP camera is pretty sufficient, boasting a nice optical zoom.

Price: $50 with contract from Walmart

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Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

AT&T Nokia Surge

Featurephone with a great keyboard for texting, but the browser and email support leave a little something to be desired.

Price: $79.99 with contract from AT&T

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Verizon HTC Ozone

WiFi and a great battery make this Windows Mobile QWERTY a great option.

Price: $49.99 with contract from Verizon

E-reader

Astak EZ Reader PRO

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Astak's just-launched, economically-priced EZ Reader PRO boasts a 5-inch screen, PDF file support, text-to speech capabilities, weighs in at 6 ounces and comes in a rainbow of colors. The text-to speech feature will allow documents and books to be read aloud to you -- so you don't have to do all the reading! No WiFi on this one, but the price compared to other readers is hard to beat.

Key specs: 400MHz processor, 512MB of memory, SD slot, 8-level grayscale e-ink screen, replaceable battery good for 8,000 page turns per charge, MP3 player

Price: $199 from Astak

Dock / Alarm

iLuv iMM153

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

iLuv has an exhaustive range of iPod docks which do double time as alarm clocks, and this one "shakes the bed" too! It's got an FM Radio plus 10 programmable presets, an auxiliary line input for other devices, and a 3.5mm jack. It's basic, a nice size, attractive, and best of all -- it won't break the bank.

Price: $59.99 from iLuv

Printer

Canon Pixma MP490

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Printers are always useful to have -- if you have the space. The Canon Pixma MP490 is an all-in-one that's still compact, and the price couldn't get much better. It's easy to use, so you won't need to fiddle with it too much, and can also print high quality photos, too -- if you're into that. It scans up to 1200 x 2400 dots per inch -- and we can't imagine you'd need more dots than that!

Price: $99 shop now

Digital Cameras

Nikon Coolpix S560

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Great image and color quality are standouts for this point and shoot, as is the lens. Portability and a nice aesthetic (and color options) make it an attractive camera for the price.

Key specs: 10 megapixels, 5x optical zoom, autofocus, 2.7-inch LCD, 5 shooting modes.

Price: $150 shop now

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Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Samsung SL202

10 megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom in this sleek little camera.

Price: $115 shop now

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Casio Exilim EX-Z29

10 megapixels plus WVGA video shooting with straight-to-YouTube settings.

Price: $115 shop now

Laptop Bags

Timbuk2 Blue Light Backpack

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

The Blue Light Backpack from Timbuk2 offers a durable nylon exterior and an interior that'll accomodate almost anything you can throw in it. It fits most 15-inch laptops and has tons of pockets and compartments for keeping your stuff organized.

Price: $80 from Timbuk2

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Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Cocoon Innovations CPS400

On a totally different wavelength than a backpack -- maybe you're looking for something a little more rugged. Cocoon's cases feature the GRID-IT organization panel which holds all your stuff in place inside the bag. Airport-friendly, too!

Price: $69.99 from Cocoon Innovations

Television

Samsung 22-inch LCD HDTV LN22B350

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

This 22-inch LCD from Samsung has a built-in HDTV tuner, supports 720p broadcasts, and has a plethora of inputs to connect almost anything you can throw at it. It has a game mode (for those times when you're just studied out), and has parental controls for all the neurotic parents -- but we'll just keep those features between us.

Key specs: 21.6-inch screen, built-in HDTV tuner, 8ms response time, ultrathin 3.5-inch thick design

Price: $279.99 from Best Buy

Fun Stuff!

Roku Digital Video Player

Engadget's back to school guide on the cheap

Connect this little box to the internet and to your TV, and you'll be able to watch streaming movies from Netflix, Amazon Video, and now MLB.com as well. You can choose from over 50,000 titles and -- depending upon your internet connection -- start watching within 30 seconds. It might not be the best study tool, but for when you need to relax or blow off some steam, this set top box is enough to get the job done.

Price: $99.99 from Roku

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Engadget's back to school guide: on the cheap