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. The good news? We're on to the fun stuff, the gear that isn't always practical but will definitely help you let off some steam after a tough mid-term. 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!
Laptops, phones and e-readers might be slick pieces of tech, but they'll all be used for business while you're buried in term papers during the semester. We're rounding up a set of gadgets meant purely to lift your spirits -- whether it's zapping fellow froshmates in a game of Lazer Tag or an electric motorbike to blast through the countryside on a long weekend. We've even got a few borderline sensible gadgets, such as a robot that will clean up after a wild party at the dorm. Jump past the break for our full collection of antidotes to the end-of-summer blues.
On the cheap
Playing a first-person shooter on a game console is for rookies. Lazer Tag brings the action to real life with a modern twist on the light gun formula: that iOS device dock allows for player health, shields and scorekeeping elements that you'd never have seen in the original 1986 version. Just be sure to spur a few purchases among friends if you want a more action-packed experience.
Key specs: Light blaster, dock for an iPhone or iPod touch, single-player and multiplayer modes.
Price: $40 for one, $75 for two on HasbroToyShop.com
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Remote-controlled helicopters are perennial favorites for a burst of fun during downtime -- and this year, you won't have to worry too much if your aircraft crashes into a roommate. The low price makes it easy to pick up a pair of Jada's Battle Heli for some dogfighting, and the sensors allow you to take down your target. Also look at the Battle Quad if you prefer wheeled duels over blades.
$30 on BattleMachinesRC.com
Exercise tracking isn't just for those on foot. If you regularly pedal your way to campus, the Blue SC will keep pace and send the results to the iPhone in your pocket. And support that extends to other apps may prove to be an extra incentive to go out for one more ride each week.
Price: $40 on WahooFitness.com
GPS watches are seemingly a dime a dozen, but the Fenix stands out for its completeness. It'll track your run like its peers, but it'll also plot the paths out and back during that Indian summer camping trip. Wireless support puts the watch in a connected universe, and the rugged design will keep the Fenix ticking if that rafting trip (or pool party) gets out of hand.
Key specs: GPS watch with trail navigation, ANT, Bluetooth wireless support, scratch resistance and waterproofing.
Price: $400 on Amazon
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Another watch, you say? Not quite: the MOTOACTV is more of an MP3 player for the athletically inclined. The device has seen a price cut even as it adds extras like Facebook and Twitter connections, so Motorola's wearable wunderkind hits a sweet spot for runners that want music and a bit of feedback -- including from classmates.
Price: $133 on Amazon
Let's face it: if you want the ultimate in remote-control diversions, Parrot's AR.Drone 2.0 is the way to go. It's pricier than Jada's aircraft, but how often do you get a quadrocopter that can record its exploits in HD, on top of taking its control from an Android or iOS device? Flying one of these just might be relief on a bleak day.
Price: $300 on Amazon
Money's no object
College-goers can attest to that sinking feeling after waking up to a floor covered in grime from the previous night's festivities. While it might not help you remember what happened, iRobot's Roomba 790 will at least make sure the floor is clean. You might not even have to get out of bed: wireless control will start the vacuuming without requiring a walk to the robot itself. The 790 isn't cheap, but it might be worth the cost if it leads to more studying than scrubbing.
Key specs: Robot floor cleaning with multi-room navigation, wireless remote control.
Price: $700 on Hammacher.com
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Sometimes, skateboarding isn't all about popping ollies. The ZBoard might be the slickest way to get to class, and in a way that won't wear out your legs or the world's oil supply. The Classic model is the point of entry; in this category, though, our money's on the lighter and faster Pro.
Price: $650-950 (after pre-orders) on ZBoardShop.com
There had to be at least one dream gadget in the mix. Brammo's Empulse R is one of the fastest ways to go green without a roof -- and yes, it'll seat your special someone. At $4 of energy for every 400 miles, it might even save frequent riders some money in the long run.
Price: $18,995 on Brammo.com
Engadget's Back to School Giveaway
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.