Welcome to Engadget's back to school guide! The end of summer vacation isn't nearly as much fun as the weeks that come before, but a chance to update your tech tools likely helps to ease the pain. Today, we're getting our game on -- and you can head to the back to school hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the month. Be sure to keep checking back -- at the end of the month we'll be giving away a ton of the gear featured in our guides -- and hit up the hub page right here!

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It's time to balance out that daily grind at school with some well-deserved leisure. Fortunately, many of our choices walk that fine line between work and play -- if you're willing to stump up some more cash beyond a normal laptop, you could get something capable of handling the latest PC titles. Some of our other choices may be a harder sell in the education stakes, but we all need some stress relief, right? And with bigger consoles nearing the end of their life cycles, there's never been a more wallet-friendly time to get involved. Jump in after the break for our favorite gaming choices. If all your money's been earmarked for learnin', then you should certainly enter our sweepstakes. Leave a comment after the break for a chance to win, and visit our giveaway page for all the details.

On the cheap

Nintendo DSi

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While we've already reached the second generation of 3DS hardware, there has been more good news from Nintendo since last year's guide. Yes, this time, the camera-toting DSi got a substantial price cut -- down to around $100, depending on your color preferences. There's still a raft of respectable games for the elder statesman of Nintendo handhelds and the DSi was also the first to connect to Nintendo's online store, with an increasing selection of mini-games and retro titles available for download over WiFi.

Key specs: Dual 3.25-inch displays, two cameras, SD card slot, WiFi.

Price: $124 on Amazon

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Nyko Power grip for Vita

Nyko says its Power Grip will double your handheld play time -- a boon for the otherwise precarious battery life of the PS Vita. The extended handles should also make those longer gaming sessions a cinch, though the rig's unlikely to fit in your pocket anymore.

Price: $30 on Amazon

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XBox 360 two-year subscription bundle

Granted, you'll have to be willing to pay an additional $15 per month for the two-year term, but for a lot of us, that's a pretty manageable price for the best-selling console in recent history. Rounded out by a Kinect, it's a very solid package for a $100 entry fee.

Price: $100 on MicrosoftStore.com

Mid-range

Sony PlayStation Vita

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There's no handheld with quite as much power as Sony's latest effort. It's also been around for a few months now, with several appealing game bundles now making the rounds and Sony's online game catalog continuing to expand. A capacitive touchscreen and dual analog sticks arguably make it the gamers' handheld console, while those feeling slightly more flush have the option to pony up a little more cash for the 3G version.

Key specs: 5-inch OLED display, dual analog controls, dual touchscreens, WiFi, backwards compatibility with PSP titles online.

Price: $250 on Amazon

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Nintendo 3DS XL

We're still a week away from Nintendo's newest handheld appearing on US soil, but that didn't stop us putting it through the review wringer ahead of its launch. A bigger screen, more pervasive 3D effect and longer battery life make it a noticeable improvement over the original 3DS.

Price: $199 on Nintendo.com

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PS3 320GB Call of Duty MW 3 bundle

Sony's console doesn't seem to be shaking things up as much as its Microsoft rival when it comes to pricing, but the latest Modern Warfare bundle now manages to duck under the $300 mark. This nets you a 320GB system, a controller, a copy of MW3 and, naturally, an embedded Blu-ray player.

Price: $300 on Amazon

Money's no object

Maingear Pulse 11

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This 11-inch gaming portable surprised us with a potent showing in benchmarks and real-life use. Not that we should have been all that surprised. The laptop packs an Intel third-generation Ivy Bridge processor alongside an NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M. Given the paucity of 11-inch gaming laptops, the Pulse 11 seems to be a winner if bag space is at a premium. Naturally, all that power will ensure it's also more than capable of handling those weekly essays and web-based research projects.

Key specs: 11.6-inch 1,366 x 768 display, Intel's Ivy Bridge processor, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M, 250GB hard drive.

Price: $999 on Maingear.com

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Apple iPad (2012)

Apple continues to offer a rich selection of gaming wares in its App Store -- so many titles, in fact, that its firmly landed itself in gamer territory. If you have the money, then the third-generation model could be worth the extra investment over older flavors, with a super-crisp display and a battery life that's likely to last 'til the final bell.

Price: $499 on Apple.com

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Alienware M17x

For gaming laptops that could dominate your backpack, Alienware's latest refresh fits the bill. Now customizable with the latest NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M and still compatible with 3D Vision, the M17x is powered by Intel's new Ivy Bridge processor range, and offers support for PCI Express 3.0 and several hybrid storage drive options.

Price: $1,499 on Dell.com



Engadget's Back to School Giveaway
Official Rules
No Purchase Required to Enter or Win

Eligibility: Engadget's Back to School Giveaway (the "Giveaway") is open only to individuals who are legal residents of the fifty (50) United States (including the District of Columbia) and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 years of age or older. Employees of Weblogs Inc. LLC, AOL Inc., their advertising or promotion agencies, those involved in the production, development, implementation or handling of Giveaways, any agents acting for, or on behalf of the above entities, their respective parent companies, officers, directors, subsidiaries, affiliates, licensees, service providers, prize suppliers any other person or entity associated with the Giveaways (collectively "Giveaway Entities") and/or the immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings and children) and household members (whether related or not) of each such employee, are not eligible. All U.S., federal, state and local and Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal laws and regulations apply. Void in Quebec, Puerto Rico and where prohibited by law.

Sponsor: The Giveaway is sponsored by Weblogs Inc. LLC, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 ("Sponsor").

Agreement to Official Rules: Participation in the Giveaway constitutes entrant's full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules and the decisions of the Sponsor, which are final and binding. Winning a prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.

Giveaway Period: The Giveaway begins at 12:00 pm ET on August 6, 2012 and ends at 12:00 pm ET on September 7, 2012 (the "Giveaway Period"). The Giveaway Period shall be divided into fifteen (15) separate Entry Periods:

Entry Period 1 begins at 12PM ET on August 6, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 2 begins at 1PM ET on August 6, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 3 begins at 12PM ET on August 7, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 4 begins at 12PM ET on August 8, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 5 begins at 12PM ET on August 9, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 6 begins at 12PM ET on August 10, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 7 begins at 12PM ET on August 13, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 8 begins at 12PM ET on August 15, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 9 begins at 12PM ET on August 17, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 10 begins at 12PM ET on August 20, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 11 begins at 12PM ET on August 22, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 12 begins at 12PM ET on August 24, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 13 begins at 12PM ET on August 27, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 14 begins at 12PM ET on August 29, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 15 begins at 12PM ET on August 31, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.

Entry: During the Giveaway Period, go to engadget.com/2012/08/06/back-to-school-giveaway and follow the instructions to submit your entry. The use of any agencies or automated software to submit entries will void all entries submitted by that person.

Drawing: At the conclusion of the Giveaway Period, Sponsor will select the name of one (1) Grand Prize Winner from each of the fifteen (15) Entry Periods in a random drawing of all eligible entries received during each Entry Period. The odds of being selected as a potential winner depend on the number of eligible entries received during the applicable Entry Period. Potential Winners will be contacted via email and asked to provide their full name, age and mailing address within a specified time period. If a potential winner does not respond within the timeframe stated in the notification email, the Sponsor may select an alternate potential winner in his/her place at random from all entries received during the Entry Period. Non-winning entries from one Entry Period do not carry over into subsequent Entry Periods.

Requirements of the Potential Winners: Except where prohibited, the potential winners will be required to complete and return an affidavit of eligibility and liability/publicity release (the "Affidavit/Release") and IRS W-9 form within seven (7) days of being notified. If a potential winner fails to sign and return the Affidavit/Release and W-9 form within the required time period, an alternate entrant may be selected in his/her place in a random drawing of all entries received. Acceptance of a prize constitutes consent to use winner's name and likeness for editorial, advertising and publicity purposes without additional compensation, except where prohibited by law. In the event the potential winner of any prize is a Canadian resident, he/she will also be required to correctly answer a time-limited mathematical question to be administered by email, mail or phone to receive the prize. Limit one (1) prize per household.

Prizes: Fifteen (15) Grand Prize Winners will each receive a Back to School Prize Pack containing the following items: HP Envy Ultrabook 4, Sony NEX-F3, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0), Samsung Galaxy S III (AT&T), Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, AiAiAi Capital headphones, Western Digital My Passport (1TB) hard drive, Timbuk2 Commute Messenger laptop bag, Flying Alarm Clock, AOC 16" USB monitor, Spotify Premium subscription (1 year), Satechi Energy Station, Edifier Tick Tock, Satechi 12-port USB hub, NuForce Cube, Withings WiFi Scale, Powermat 24-hour system, Carbonite Backup (1 year), AViiQ Ready Chips, and Targus Defcon 1 lock. Approximate Retail Value of each Prize Pack is $3,203. Subscriptions are subject to issuer's terms and conditions. Activation fees and monthly service fees not included with any smartphone/digital devices. No cash or other substitution may be made, except by the Sponsor, who reserves the right to substitute a prize or portion of a prize with another prize of equal or greater value if the prize is not available for any reason as determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion. Winners are responsible for any taxes and fees associated with receipt or use of a prize.

General Conditions: In the event that the operation, security, or administration of the Giveaway is impaired in any way for any reason, including, but not limited to fraud, virus, or other technical problem, the Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, either: (a) suspend the Giveaway to address the impairment and then resume the Giveaway in a manner that best conforms to the spirit of these Official Rules; or (b) award the prizes at random from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment. The Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual it finds to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Giveaway or to be acting in violation of these Official Rules or in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner. Any attempt by any person to undermine the legitimate operation of the Giveaway may be a violation of criminal and civil law, and, should such an attempt be made, the Sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law. The Sponsor's failure to enforce any term of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of that provision. In case of a dispute as to the owner of an entry, entry will be deemed to have been submitted by the authorized account holder of the screen name from which the entry is made. The authorized account holder is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet access provider, online service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address.

Release and Limitations of Liability: By participating in the Giveaway, entrants agree to release, defend indemnify and hold harmless the Giveaway Entities from and against any claim or cause of action, including without limitation, any third party claim, arising out of participation in the Giveaway or receipt, use or misuse of any prize, including, but not limited to: (a) unauthorized human intervention in the Giveaway; (b) technical errors related to computers, servers, providers, or telephone or network lines; (c) printing errors; (d) lost, late, postage-due, misdirected, or undeliverable mail; (e) errors in the administration of the Giveaway or the processing of entries; or (f) injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant's participation in the Giveaway or receipt, use or misuse of any prize. Entrant further agrees that in any cause of action, the Giveaway Entities' liability will be limited to the cost of entering and participating in the Giveaway, and in no event shall the Giveaway Entities be liable for attorney's fees. Entrant waives the right to claim any damages whatsoever, including, but not limited to, punitive, consequential, direct, or indirect damages.

TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, THE PRIZES AND ALL ELEMENTS THEREOF ARE PROVIDED "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF ANY KIND. SPONSOR DISCLAIMS ALL EXPRESS AND IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, TITLE AND/OR NON-INFRINGEMENT. Some jurisdictions do not allow the disclaimer of implied warranties. In such jurisdictions, some of the foregoing disclaimers may not apply to you insofar as they relate to implied warranties.

Disputes: Except where prohibited, entrant agrees that any and all disputes, claims and causes of action arising out of, or connected with, the Giveaway or any prize awarded shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, and exclusively by the appropriate court located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, entrant's rights and obligations, or the rights and obligations of the Sponsor in connection with the Giveaway, shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules (whether of the Commonwealth of Virginia or any other jurisdiction), which would cause the application of the laws of any jurisdiction other than the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Giveaway Results: To request the names of the winners, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Engadget Back to School Giveaway Winners, 770 Broadway, Attn: J. Turi, New York, NY 10003. Requests must be received by September 30, 2012.

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