Back to School Guide 2014

Back-to-school shopping is so much more than picking out a new backpack or trapper keeper — though those are still very important accessories — because with a new semester comes the opportunity to switch out your old laptop, smartphone or tablet for some fresh hardware. We’ve broken our recommendations into three budget categories, so there’s something for everyone. Click the gadgets below to explore our picks.

Photographer: Will Lipman, Editor: Sarah Silbert, Photo Editor: Jon Turi, Art Directors: Joseph Volpe and Christopher Trout

Chromebook 2

Samsung

Chromebook 2 $299+

If you're shying away from Chromebooks because you think they're merely a modern version of the netbook, just look to Samsung's Chromebook 2. It has the trappings of a proper laptop, including a great keyboard, a decent 1080p display and a comfortable trackpad. If your budget is tight and your computing needs are relatively simple (read: no CAD programs for design courses), this machine could fit the bill.

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C720P Chromebook

Acer

C720P Chromebook $299

While some specs fall short of Samsung's Chromebook, the Acer C720 offers a Core i3 processor option -- that should net you some additional power for getting coursework done. Another bonus? Acer's Chromebook can be configured with a touchscreen.

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IdeaPad Yoga 2 11

Lenovo

IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 $450+

Lenovo's improved its original Yoga 11, ditching Windows RT in favor of Windows 8.1 and bringing down the price. What remains, of course, is the flexible-hinge design that works in a variety of modes. You'll have plenty of configuration options, too, with a Celeron processor on the low end all the way up to a Core i5 chip for more horsepower (and a higher price to match).

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MacBook Air

Apple

MacBook Air $855+

The starting price for the 11-inch MacBook Air is what lands this product in the mid-range category, but you could certainly pay more for better specs or the 13-inch version. In any case, though, Apple's latest batch of ultra-thin laptops boasts a new, faster processor -- and battery life should be a bit better this time around, too.

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IdeaPad Yoga 2 13

Lenovo

IdeaPad Yoga 2 13 $900+

The Yoga 2 13 is a great option for those who can't afford to splurge on the Yoga 2 Pro (also featured here) with its sharper screen. And this model's hardly a slouch; the design is nice and slim and -- oh-so-importantly -- the price is more palatable than ever, with configurations starting at $900.

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Inspiron 7000 series

Dell

Inspiron 7000 series $650+

Dell really brings the value with its Inspiron 7000 series of thin-and-light laptops -- even the 15-inch model starts at the surprisingly modest price of $650. You're getting some good looks for the price, too, with all-aluminum surfaces and backlit keyboards. If you don't need the nice extras, check out the 5000 series, which also includes 14-, 15- and 17-inch versions.

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ATIV Book 9 Plus

Samsung

ATIV Book 9 Plus $1,200+

With the ATIV Book 9 Plus, Samsung can lay claim to one of the best Ultrabooks out there. From the ultra-thin design to the brilliant 3,200 x 1,800 display and solid audio quality, this model ticks all the boxes for a high-end machine. If the 13-inch screen isn't big enough for you, give the 15-inch ATIV Book 9 2014 Edition a gander.

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Yoga 2 Pro

Lenovo

Yoga 2 Pro $1,100+

The Yoga's form factor is no longer new -- and different models have already made appearances in this very same guide -- but the latest Pro version's display is. The 3,200 x 1,800 screen is brilliant, and the design's now thinner and lighter. And even though the Yoga 2 Pro falls within the higher-end budget category, it's still relatively affordable. Our only remaining qualm: The battery might die before your last class.

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MacBook Pro with Retina display

Apple

MacBook Pro with Retina display $1,299+

Almost as light as the MacBook Air and with similarly long battery life, the 13-inch Pro stands out for its ultra-crisp Retina display. (Duh.) Performance is more than fine on this model, but you'll need to step up to the 15-incher if you require discrete graphics.

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XPS 15

Dell

XPS 15 $1,550+

We'd recommend the XPS 15 to anyone looking for a laptop as thin and powerful as the MacBook Pro with Retina display, but with Windows instead of the Apple ecosystem. And unlike the MacBook Pro, this model gives you a touchscreen.

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Moto E

Motorola

Moto E $130

For such an affordable price, the Motorola Moto E brings a lot to the table. The curved design is comfy and grippable, and the 4.3-inch display is plenty bright for a phone in this price range. So while you don't get high-end specs, you get a solid Android experience in a refreshingly budget-friendly package.

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Lumia 520

Nokia

Lumia 520 $100 and up

Let's get the bad news out of the way first: There's no front-facing camera on the 520, nor is there a flash module for the rear shooter. But you wouldn’t be considering this cheapie if you needed superb photos, anyway. For even less than the Lumia 620, this guy makes a great first smartphone -- especially for a student who just needs the basics and won't push battery life to the limit.

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OnePlus One

OnePlus

OnePlus One $299

You're sure to find plenty of iPhones and flagship Samsungs on campus, but the OnePlus One? They'll be few and far between. A slick, $299 piece of hardware from a fledgling Chinese company, this phone's still in stealth mode -- you need an invite to get one -- but if you're lucky enough to join the club, we'd recommend doing so. We like the hardware, and the custom CyanogenMod firmware lets you tweak settings to your heart's content.

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Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony

Xperia Z1 Compact $450

Usually, any phone with “mini” or “compact” in the name indicates watered-down specs, but that’s not the case with the Xperia Z1 Compact. Here, we get a well-built device with a great camera and long battery life. It’s a bit more expensive than other “mini” phones, but it’s short on compromises.

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Nexus 5

LG

Nexus 5 $349+

The OnePlus One is encroaching on this territory, but the LG-made Nexus 5 is still king when it comes to inexpensive phones with flagship specifications. You'll love the high-res display and the quad-core processor's reliable performance. What else would you expect from a phone with Google's name on it?

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Moto X

Motorola

Moto X $350+

We don't blame you if these mid-range options are all catching your eye, but if you're into customization, the Moto X might just be the phone for you. True, the bamboo-wood backing (just one of many options available through the Moto Maker tool) might have lost some novelty by now, but even if colors and textures aren't your thing, you'll appreciate the long battery life and helpful display notifications.

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LG G3

LG

LG G3 $598+

LG's been on a roll with phones lately, and the G3 is our favorite thus far. The quad HD screen is brilliant; the camera turns out great images; and battery life doesn't leave much to be desired. Those with small hands might want to pass -- it has a 5.5-inch display, after all -- but most other Android fans will find the G3 to be among the best options.

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Galaxy S5

Samsung

Galaxy S5 $750+

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the top Android phone-maker's flagship phone, and that about sums it up. It's a solid device, with a great display, good battery life and a comfortable, if uninspired, design. Some features, including the fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor, are still a bit half-baked, but if a reliable Android handset is what you're after, the S5 fits the bill.

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One M8

HTC

One M8 $649+

The M8 is an even better version of 2013's HTC One -- already a very solid phone. We appreciate the improved performance and battery life, and we think HTC One fans will, too. What's more, photography buffs will have fun with the Duo Camera feature for tweaking depth of field and adding other post-production effects. The design's a bit too slippery for our liking, though, so we'd advise against mixing the M8 with alcohol.

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Lumia Icon

Nokia

Lumia Icon $499

Currently a Verizon exclusive, the Lumia Icon hits all the right notes for a top-of-the-line Windows Phone. That means a lovely 1080p display, long battery life and the stellar imaging experience you'd expect from Nokia. Its 5-inch screen is also more manageable than the Lumia 1520's 6-inch display.

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iPhone 5s

Apple

iPhone 5s $649+

The iPhone 5s is a well-made, fast-performing device, and it's also pretty dang popular. The Touch ID fingerprint scanner works as advertised, and there's global LTE support on board. That said, there are plenty of great devices running Android or Windows Phone, so it comes down to your software allegiances. Oh, and the iPhone 6 is pretty much just around the corner, so there's that to consider. Once that handset's available, the 5s and 5c will likely be available at a discount.

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Nexus 7

ASUS

Nexus 7 $229

The Nexus 7 remains something of a golden standard when it comes to budget tablets, with a great display and good performance despite a modest price. If you want to keep things cheap and prefer the Android ecosystem to the iPad's, the Nexus 7 is definitely the way to go.

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Kindle Fire HDX

Amazon

Kindle Fire HDX $229+

Amazon layers plenty of its own features over the traditional Android software on the Fire HDX, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. You get on-demand customer service with the Mayday button, and Second Screen lets you watch tablet-based content on your TV. The device can double as an e-reader, though the glossy display doesn't translate well to outdoor settings. Finally, you'll have to sideload Android apps since the HDX doesn't come with Google Play store access.

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MeMO Pad 7

ASUS

MeMO Pad 7 $149+

The Android-powered MeMO Pad 7 may not have the name recognition of the Nexus 7 (also an ASUS-made device, by the way), but its value speaks for itself. The display may have a modest 1,280 x 800 resolution, but it's crisp and bright, and the battery can see you through almost 10 hours of use. Just don't expect great images from the cameras or any real gaming chops -- this is a sub-$200 tablet after all.

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Iconia W4

Acer

Iconia W4 $217+

Here's something for the Windows users in the room. With a slightly bulky, ho-hum design, Acer's 8-incher isn’t an overachiever, but you'll find a solid display along with decent everyday performance. The Iconia W4 does impress on the battery life front, with a runtime just short of 10 hours.

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iPad mini with Retina display

Apple

iPad mini with Retina display $350+

If you want to bring an iPad along to school and it's a toss-up between the Air and the mini, we'd probably sway you in the direction of the mini. It's less expensive, for one thing, and the 7.9-inch Retina display still gives you plenty of screen real estate to enjoy apps, videos and more.

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Lumia 2520

Nokia

Lumia 2520 $570 (Contract-free)

The Lumia 2520 is one of several tablets in this guide that attempts to pinch-hit as a laptop. And like its fellow ambitious slates, this device falls short -- the typing experience isn't quite good enough. That said, if you want a tablet for watching movies, taking decent photos and enjoying music and maps offline, this is a strong option. One fact that may dissuade budget-conscious college students: There's no WiFi-only option, so you'll be paying for data.

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Transformer Book T100

ASUS

Transformer Book T100 $379+

For students who want an ultraportable tablet that can see them through lectures and even some essay-writing, the T100 is a prime pick. The 10-inch Windows slate comes bundled with a keyboard dock -- quite the value, considering most companies sell these as separate accessories -- and performance is strong enough to handle some lightweight desktop apps. Don't ditch your laptop or anything, though; the hardware keyboard is better than nothing, but it's still far from perfect.

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iPad Air

Apple

iPad Air $499+

Want a tablet that won't weigh down your backpack? Okay with the 9.7-inch screen size, and -- most importantly -- down with Apple's OS? The iPad Air is your guy. True, this slate isn't cheap, and the inevitable iPad refresh is likely just a few months away, but the Air's comfortable design and solid performance could be worth the cost depending on your needs.

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Surface Pro 3

Microsoft

Surface Pro 3 $799+

In theory, at least, Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 can pull double duty as both a tablet and a laptop, but we'd recommend nabbing a machine with a better keyboard for writing term papers. Whether you choose to use the Pro 3 as a slate or as a do-it-all device, though, you'll love the thin and light design, which includes a versatile kickstand.

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Xperia Z2 tablet

Sony

Xperia Z2 tablet $500+

There are a handful of high-end Android tablets worthy of your consideration, but Sony's Xperia Z2 will appeal especially to those who want a clean software experience. Unlike offerings from Samsung and others, this slate keeps UI modifications to a minimum, with just a smattering of entertainment apps to remind you of Sony's media prowess. Bonus: The Z2 is waterproof, though probably not beer-proof.

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PowerShot ELPH 340 HS

Canon

PowerShot ELPH 340 HS $179

Canon's $179 pocketable point-and-shoot sports a 12x optical zoom lens, letting you get closer to the action at guest lectures and football games alike. The ELPH 340 HS also includes WiFi, so you can upload images to Facebook and Twitter with only a few clicks.

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QX10

Sony

QX10 $168

Sony's unique QX10 uses your smartphone as the viewfinder -- there's no integrated LCD and very few hardware controls. With an integrated clip mount, this "lens camera" essentially adds a 10x optical zoom lens to your handset, giving you significantly boosted image quality for 200 bucks.

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GoPro Hero3 White Edition

GoPro

GoPro Hero3 White Edition $200

GoPro's latest action cam can shoot still images, but it's primarily a video camera, letting you capture high-quality clips in a variety of settings. Optional mounts let you position it above the net at basketball games or on the side of your boat for crew practice, or you can stick it on a tripod to capture the party scene or use it as a second cam for class projects.

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Alpha 5000 with 16-50mm lens

Sony

Alpha 5000 with 16-50mm lens $498

This Sony mirrorless camera is incredibly versatile, with a powerful 20.1-megapixel sensor, an interchangeable lens mount and great low-light performance. You can use it to capture casual gatherings, but with a variety of manual control options, it's also a great fit for classwork, letting you snap sharp shots every time.

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Olympus Stylus TG-3

Olympus

Olympus Stylus TG-3 $350

Sure, $400 is a fairly hefty price to pay for a point-and-shoot camera, but Olympus' new Tough shooter can handle just about anything you throw its way. It packs standard ruggedized-camera features, such as a waterproof housing and impact resistance, but integrated WiFi and a unique add-on macro light guide make it more flexible than the rest.

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RX100 III

Sony

RX100 III $798

Sony's third-generation RX100 is the best compact point-and-shoot camera money can buy, but it's anything but cheap. A cool 800 bucks nets you a 1-inch, 20.1-megapixel sensor, a very high-quality 24-70mm lens and a pop-up OLED viewfinder. You also get WiFi, a flip-up LCD and support for XAVC S video encoding for super-sharp 1080p clips.

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E-M1

Olympus

E-M1 $1,299

Yes, $1,300 is a hefty price to pay for a mirrorless camera, particularly one that excludes a lens, but if you need the best, this is the cam to get. Image quality is spectacular and focusing is incredibly fast, so you'll never have an excuse for missing the shot. For prime performance, add on the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens ($999).

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D610 with 28-300mm lens

Nikon

D610 with 28-300mm lens $2,797

If you have even more cash to spare, Nikon's D610 kit is where it's at. The full-frame sensor delivers fantastic image quality and the bundled 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 will have you covered for shots near and far. This is our go-to liveblog-shooting rig -- we count on it to capture a perfect image every time, and you should, too.

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Pressy

Pressy

Pressy $27

Cut down on the time spent digging through your phone's settings menus with this little button. Pressy fits into your Android handset's headphone jack and works as a shortcut key for a number of actions, from toggling the flashlight on and off to snapping a photo.

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64GB Cruzer Extreme USB 3.0 Flash Drive

SanDisk

64GB Cruzer Extreme USB 3.0 Flash Drive $50+

Trust us, this little guy will come in handy at some point during the semester. Whether that means backing up your essay from a computer-lab PC in a pinch or collecting materials for a last-minute presentation, SanDisk's pocket-sized memory stick is super fast and super convenient.

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Konstruktor Starter Pack

Lomography

Konstruktor Starter Pack $43

It's not gonna cut it for photography class, but the build-it-yourself Konstruktor turns out analogue images -- dorm-room wall decorations, anyone? This kit comes with the plastic SLR camera and 35mm film to get you started.

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Rubik's Cube Light

ThinkGeek

Rubik's Cube Light $40

It's an oversized, playable Rubik's Cube that also functions as a light. Need we say more?

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Tablet Trapper Keeper

Kensington

Tablet Trapper Keeper $30

If you're reading this guide, the original Trapper Keeper was likely before your time. Kensington's reinvented the accessory for the digital age. The cases will accommodate tablets up to 10 inches in size, and you can choose from a variety of designs. Sadly, no Lisa Frank -- yet.

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Slim XL Backpack

Cocoon

Slim XL Backpack $100

The Slim XL is made to hold pretty much everything, with compartments for a laptop (up to 17 inches) and a tablet in addition to grid-style pockets for holding your power brick, headphones, snacks and whatever else you need on the go.

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Korg Synth Kit

littleBits

Korg Synth Kit $159

This synth kit's small enough to fit on your sliver of a dorm desk, with connections for your speakers, computer and headphones. Sure, it may look a little intimidating at first, but you'll get hooked once you start experimenting with different instruments and styles.

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Space Pack 64GB

Mophie

Space Pack 64GB $250 (64GB)

Made specifically for the iPhone 5 and 5s, the Space Pack adds a whopping 64 gigs of storage while protecting and charging your mobile device. That's enough room for 18,000-plus songs, people! The case is definitely our pick for overachiever of the year.

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Dolores Chiller Messenger

Timbuk2

Dolores Chiller Messenger $112

Yes, this messenger can hold books and other serious accoutrements, but it's really made to accommodate the beer you most certainly will be chugging. The design's even based on the Sapporo logo, for Pete's sake. A fully insulated interior will keep 12-plus bottles cold.

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ES3 Espresso Machine

Strietman

ES3 Espresso Machine €1250 (about $1,670)

Just as beer plays an important part in most college experiences, caffeine figures heavily into the equation. If your budget knows no limits, the wall-mounted ES3 is just about the most elegant way to get your espresso fix. A little over the top? Definitely, but everyone knows sharing coffee's a great way to make friends.

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UltraSharp 32/24 Monitors

Dell

UltraSharp 32/24 Monitors $1,000+

If you need a second screen and your pockets are deep, Dell's UltraSharp 4K monitors are a great choice. Image quality and color accuracy is as good as you'd expect at this price point (read: excellent), so they're especially well-suited to those majoring in graphic design, film or anything else remotely visual.

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Cintiq Companion

Wacom

Cintiq Companion $1,649+

Another fancy option for artistic types, the Cintiq Companion is a high-end Windows tablet bundled with Wacom's Pro Pen for creating on the go. Luckily, you're getting high-end specs for the steep price; it packs a Core i7 processor and SSD storage, and Wacom thoughtfully threw in nine replacement nibs for the pen.

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Form 1+

Formlabs

Form 1+ $3,299

Do you need to bring a 3D printer to college? No. Would it be awesome to have one in your dorm? Obviously.

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Chromecast

Google

Chromecast $35

Provided your TV has an HDMI port, this $35 dongle gives you access to apps including Netflix, HBO Go, YouTube and Pandora. Even a year after it was first introduced, the Chromecast is hard to beat for value in the living dorm room.

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Roku 3

Roku

Roku 3 $89

As far as media streamers go, it doesn't get much better (or easier to use) than the Roku 3. For less than $100, you can stream more than 1,000 channels to any HDTV — and you can even plug headphones into the remote to appease an early-to-bed roommate.

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BDP-S3200 Blu-ray player

Sony

BDP-S3200 Blu-ray player $90

It's not as comprehensive as new media streamers, but Sony's budget Blu-ray player includes WiFi connectivity along with 200-plus apps for Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video and more.

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PN43F4500 43-inch, 720p plasma

Samsung

PN43F4500 43-inch, 720p plasma $300

This plasma set is by no means high-end, but 43 inches is a huge step up from watching Netflix on your puny laptop screen.

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Slingbox M1

Slingbox

Slingbox M1 $150

The M1's a great, affordable option for "slinging" TV and DVR content to your laptop, TV (with Roku or Apple TV) or mobile devices, no matter where you're watching from. Built-in WiFi means you won't have to worry about finding an Ethernet cable to keep watching your hometown sports teams. The only thing this can't help you with? The price of out-of-state tuition.

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55LB6300 55-Inch 1080p

LG

55LB6300 55-Inch 1080p $1,099+

Someone else better bring the popcorn, because you're doing more than your share by bringing this sizable 1080p model to campus. As you'd expect, the set lets you stream content from all the biggies (Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, etc.) -- you'll even get a free year of Netflix if you purchase it through Amazon.

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UN55H6203 55-Inch 1080p

Samsung

UN55H6203 55-Inch 1080p $848

Samsung delivers smart TV features in a relatively affordable package, complete with the ability to control content via your mobile device. Apps may not open instantly, but you could always add a Roku 3 to the equation if you can't wait a few seconds for streaming to start.

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LC-60SQ15U 60-inch 1080p

Sharp

LC-60SQ15U 60-inch 1080p $1,597

This is the kind of HDTV you'll want to keep when you settle into your first post-grad apartment. Colors are accurate; picture quality is great; and the 60-inch size is more than respectable.

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Shield Portable

NVIDIA

Shield Portable $200

An Android-powered portable handheld from one of the biggest names in graphics? NVIDIA knows its audience, and serious gamers will love the PC-quality experience and the console-style gaming controller.

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PS Vita

Sony

PS Vita $200

The Vita's another way to get your gaming on the go, and this bundle entitles you to a download of Borderlands 2. The included 8GB memory card lets you stock up on other titles, which will come in handy for the inevitable downtime between classes.

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PlayStation 4

Sony

PlayStation 4 $399

We mean it when we say this $400 console is worth it, but we're also assuming that you're a die-hard gamer. Sure, services such as Hulu Plus, Netflix and Music Unlimited are on board, but it's really all about the exclusive titles. Luckily, you get a top-notch wireless controller for enjoying them.

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Xbox One

Microsoft

Xbox One $399+

The Xbox One's starting price is now on par with its Sony rival, and Microsoft delivers plenty for that $400: a great gaming experience with excellent multitasking and very few snags. Plus, the $500 Kinect bundle adds face recognition and the ability to turn on both your console and TV by saying, "Xbox: On!"

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Wii U

Nintendo

Wii U $300

The console's great for enjoying Super Mario Bros. in HD, and the Wii U's GamePad controller includes interesting extras such as a stylus and universal-remote functionality along with the standard four-button layout and d-pad. It's an interiguing setup, but if you want your console to function as your media center, check out the two other models in this section.

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Alienware 17

Alienware

Alienware 17 $1,700+

You won't want to take this to class -- your back won't be happy -- but depending on your configuration, the Alienware 17 can be one of the most powerful gaming rigs out there. If you can afford a dedicated in-dorm gaming machine, you won't be disappointed.

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Blade 14

Razer

Blade 14 $2,399+

The Razer Blade 14 could theoretically double as your work laptop, as it's portable enough to bring to class and it offers longer battery life than Alienware's machine. That said, you're looking at fewer configuration options and a higher price point.

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E1 headphone amplifier

Creative

E1 headphone amplifier $50

You don't need a headphone amplifier as big as a brick to get high-quality sound, as the E1 demonstrates. It's light enough to throw in your bag, and it offers two headphone jacks so you can listen with a friend.

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Play:1

Sonos

Play:1 $199

Billed as a "bookshelf speaker", the Play:1 won't steal too much real estate from your textbooks. All your favorite music services, from Spotify to Rdio, are supported and the Sonos Controller app lets you play DJ on your phone or tablet.

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iAudio E3 16GB MP3

Cowon

iAudio E3 16GB MP3 $95

If you're going to bring along an MP3 player on your runs, why not choose one that counts your steps, too? There's even a voice recorder on board, because who knows what brilliant thesis ideas you'll come up with mid-workout?

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Streamport Universal

Bayan Audio

Streamport Universal £59.99 (about $100)

Turn any audio system with a 3.5mm or RCA audio input -- from a sound dock to a HiFi system -- into a wireless setup. You'll be able to stream music from your mobile device or laptop without being tethered down.

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On-ear Sync Sport

SMS Audio

On-ear Sync Sport $230

Look elsewhere if you're seeking a pair of understated headphones, because these on-ears are nothing if not bold. For a workout-friendly set of cans, though, they're just right; the neon accents fit with the sporty theme, and the sweatproof inner chamber helps keep things clean. If you don't want to be weighed down, you could spring for the in-ears instead.

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Pill XL

Beats

Pill XL $300

If you need sound that can hold its own against the loudest of beer pong tournaments, the Pill XL is your guy. More than that, though, the speaker offers clear audio with decent bass. The 3.3-pound design isn't the easiest to carry around, but you'll be happy to have it on hand should the occasion arise.

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UE Boom

Logitech

UE Boom $200

For a mid-range portable speaker, the UE Boom hits all the right points. Sound is very solid, and it’s small enough to tuck into a bag and bring along wherever the party takes you.

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Werkstatt-01 Kit

Moog

Werkstatt-01 Kit $329

You don't have to pay too much to get that iconic Moog sound. Once you've screwed the pre-assembled synth into its case, you can get to work experimenting with the variety of knobs and switches for controlling glide, LFO, envelope and more. And in case you needed some justification, Moog bills the Werkstatt as an "educational tool for etching electronics assembly."

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BeoPlay H6

Bang & Olufsen

BeoPlay H6 $399

The H6 over-ears are more than a little luxurious, with leather-wrapped memory foam padding and crisp sound thanks to 40mm drivers. The cans are super light, too, making them ideal travel companions.

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GS1000e

Grado

GS1000e $995

There's no wiggle room -- either you shudder at the idea of spending a grand on headphones, or you already have a few handcrafted models in your collection. For those in the latter group, the GS1000e will be pretty tempting. The cushion design is all about comfort, and the mahogany earpieces are specially designed for optimal audio quality. (They look pretty sweet, too.)

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Wireless Speakers

Bang & Olufsen

Wireless Speakers $3,990+

The cheapest in this trio of speakers will set you back $3,990, but trust-fund types will get a veritable piece of art along with some high-end sound. B & O's first wireless speakers feature MoMA-worthy designs, all with support for the WiSA audio standard. The floor-standing BeoLab 18, with a slatted wooden panel, is especially striking.

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MS-20 mini

Korg

MS-20 mini $600

Korg's updated its classic analog synth for the modern age, updating the tech and shrinking things down in the process. Thanks to a USB-MIDI jack, you can connect to your computer and play from a sequencer.

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Push

Ableton

Push $595

Ableton's software controller is made to work specifically with its Live production software, and it even adds an instrument to the equation with its 8 x 8 grid providing a variety of drum sounds in addition to a step-sequencer and clip-length control. A worthwhile investment for your college band, if we do say so ourselves.

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Aspire S7-392

Acer

Aspire S7-392 $1,299+

Acer’s top-of-the-line Ultrabook is a nearly perfect piece of equipment, with a wafer-thin design and a screen that offers wide viewing angles. Other laptops may offer better battery life at a slightly lower price, but the S7 beats them when it comes to the display and general performance.

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