Welcome to Engadget's back to school guide! Today we're talking gaming gear. 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; in early September, we'll be giving away a ton of gear, including some of the picks in our guides.
You probably shouldn't be playing video games in school, y'all. A certain back to school guide writer had his Game Boy and copy of Pokémon confiscated by a certain English professor in high school and, needless to say, it was a rough year. Thankfully, today your tablets and smartphones are often part of the educational experience -- all we had was Oregon Trail and Karateka. Oh man, Karateka! But back to the goods: head below for our back to school gaming suggestions -- if you convince your parents to pick this stuff up ahead of the first bell, perhaps seek out a career in law?
On the Cheap
The OUYA may not be the most thrilling of gaming devices, but it does have a massive game library (some of which is totally free to play). And hey, you can't really beat the $100 asking price. That said, you may wanna sell the terrible gamepad that comes packed in and snag a wired Xbox 360 controller for a better experience.
Key specs: 1.7 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, ULP GeForce GPU, 8GB flash storage, Android Jelly Bean 4.2.
Price: $100 on Amazon
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PlayStation Plus has grown tremendously since its initial inception as a competitor to Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold subscription. It's become the most consumer-friendly deal in modern gaming: pay a subscription to Sony's service, get a handful of free games on both your PlayStation Vita and your PlayStation 3 every single month. And it sounds like things are getting even better on PlayStation 4.
Price: 12-month subscription for $50 on Amazon
Kill Screen / Edge
Nothing quite says "Back to School" like a subscription to an excellent, educational, well-written publication. We'd be fools not to mention the likes of Kill Screen and Edge Magazine in this regard; each is excellent for its own reasons, though both feature consistently intelligent reporting and critiques on the world of video games.
The Vita continues to be an excellent gaming handheld. It's loaded with great games, still feels modern and acts as a far better movie-viewing device than most phones. The recent $50 price cut makes things easier to swallow and the Vita is hard not to suggest for every other reason.
Key specs: Quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, 5-inch (multi-touch) OLED screen.
Price: $199 on Amazon
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NVIDIA's Shield is quite a little handheld... if you've got the beefy PC and robust WiFi to facilitate its coolest feature: PC game streaming. It's also great for catching up on various digital media, and excellent as a weird-looking boombox. If you're thinking of an Android tablet, consider this a great alternative.
Price: $299 from NVIDIA
Despite having just suggested an Android gaming device, the iPad mini comes with the better games. It's also an easier argument for students, given that the iPad has become synonymous with education. Little do they know it can also be used for, like, hundreds of hours of Super Stickman Golf.
Price: $329 and up from Apple
Money's No Object
Tiki PC, Falcon Northwest
Falcon Northwest's Tiki PC is delightful. Yep, we're calling a black computer box "delightful." It's fast, smooth, quiet and powerful. The design of the box itself is enough to pique anyone's interest, taking the hyper-minimalist route and keeping the (overabundance of) ports out back. Even in the modern world's ever-moving push to faster processors and more complex GPUs, the Tiki PC will assuredly last most students through the four years of high school or college on the horizon. (Oh, and -- surprise! -- it's a great gaming PC.)
Key specs: Intel Core-i5 / i7 chipsets, NVIDIA GeForce 600 / 700 / Quadro series GPUs, up to 16GB 1866MHz DDR3 RAM.
Price: From $1,741 on Falcon
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Razer's gaming laptop may be the finest gaming laptop on the market. It's slim, relatively light (comparatively, at least) and a tough, powerful little computer. Is it a hard sell to any parent, even of the Warbucks variety? You bet. But maybe you had an especially lucrative lawnmowing stint this summer? Or you robbed a bunch of people? Perfect!
Price: $1,800 and up from Razer
Xbox One and the PlayStation 4
It's highly likely that both Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 will be hard to find come launch time this holiday. As such, you should probably get in early and plunk down your name -- plus some ducats -- to reserve one for yourself. How else are you gonna get that A in Chemistry? With books? Psssht.