Engadget's back to school guide 2011: gaming

Welcome to Engadget's Back to School guide! We know that this time of year can be pretty annoying and stressful for everyone, so we're here to help out with the heartbreaking process of gadget buying for the school-aged crowd. 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!

Let's be honest, balancing coursework with recreation is just as important as maintaining a balanced food diet -- perhaps even more. After you spend countless hours hitting the books, cramming for tests, and writing papers, you're just going to need something to turn your brain to mush. Don't worry, we have just the thing: video games. It doesn't matter how many midterms you have, we're sure we can find something to help you slack off. Of course, it's not going to be easy; you'll have to wait until next semester (at least) to get your hands on the PlayStation Vita, but that doesn't mean that you don't have options now. Jump past the break -- we can probably help you find something to get you through mid-terms with your sanity intact. Don't want to shell out cash to have fun this semester? Enter our back to school sweepstakes! Simply leave a comment below for a chance to win, and drop by our giveaway page for more details.

On the cheap

Nintendo DS Lite


The Nintendo DS isn't just one of the best selling handheld consoles of all time, it's also one of the best alarm clocks you'll ever own. This dual-screen wonder's built-in alarm will tell you exactly how many hours, minutes, and seconds you have before you have to wake up for that big midterm you should have been studying for. But hey, you caught 'em all -- that counts for something, right?

Price: $99 from Walmart

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Nyko Power Pack+ 3DS

The 3DS just doesn't have the endurance of its older brother -- if you want to make it through that between-class stretch, you'll need a bigger battery. This easy-to-install replacement nearly doubles the console's battery life and provides extra grip for adult-sized hands.

Price: $15 on Amazon


Nyko Zoom for Kinect

We have enough trouble playing Kinect in full-sized living rooms, and you want to take that thing to college? Fine, but this doohicky will let you get much closer, reducing minimum distance by 40-percent.

Price: $24 on Amazon


Xbox 360 4GB console


If you still haven't gotten in on the current generation of gaming consoles, the 4GB Xbox 360 S is a great place to start. Last year's refresh produced an affordable, sleek machine, packing built-in WiFi and dropping some of the more aggravating problems that plagued its predecessor. Sure, Microsoft is hyping a whole new gimmick these days, but you've got six years of modern classics to stand on. Besides, you're on a budget -- Kinect can catch up with you later.

Price: $199 on Amazon

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Nintendo 3DS

Sure, you could just get a really big DSi, but thanks to lackluster sales and an unexpected price drop, you can score stereoscopic depth perception for the same scratch. Even if Nintendo's next generation handheld didn't hold your interest at $250, it's worth a second look at $170.

Price: $169 on Amazon


Mad Catz Cyborg RAT

If you're the sort of person who will steadfastly argue that the mouse and keyboard combo is all it takes to make PC gaming superior to console gaming, then you might appreciate this highly customizable transforming input device -- so aggressive, it refuses to be called "mousy." Available both with, and without tail.

Price: $130 on Amazon

Money's no object

Dell Alienware M18x


Kids these days sure love their consoles (and so do we!), but there's still no substitute for pure, unadulterated power. At the end of the day the most powerful gaming experience you can cram into your dorm will be molded in the form of a massive, 18-inch gaming laptop. The world of gaming-centric desktop-replacements is fairly diverse, but we've always stood by Alienware -- and the M18x is no slacker. A customized rig with a factory-overclocked Intel Quad Core i7 CPU at 4.0GHz, 32GB of DDR3-1333 RAM, Dual 2GB GDDR5 Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M, 256GB SSD, and a handful of other tweaks can set you back as much as $6,000 -- but you'd be hard pressed to find a more capable mobile gaming monster. Of course, you could always opt for a smaller, more affordable alternative. We won't judge.

Price: $2,000-6,000+ from Dell

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PlayStation 3 320GB bundle

This high-end PS3 bundle comes in various flavors - from inFamous 2, to PlayStation Move Sports Champions. Packaged accessories are great, but what you'll really love the PS3 for is in its core experience: a great library of exclusive games, free online play, and a baked-in Blu-ray player.

Price: $299-349 from Sony


Xbox 360 250GB Console with Kinect

If you're a competitive online gamer, Xbox Live is where you belong -- not to say that you've forgotten your casual side. Go ahead and optimize for awesome -- your hardcore edge could use some Kinect augmentation. Besides, it's great for parties, and you are in college -- aren't you?

Price: $399 on Amazon

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 12PM ET on August 2, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011 (the "Giveaway Period"). The Giveaway Period shall be divided into fifteen (15) separate Entry Periods:

Entry Period 1 begins at 12PM ET on August 2, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 2 begins at 12PM ET on August 2, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 3 begins at 12PM ET on August 3, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 4 begins at 12PM ET on August 5, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 5 begins at 12PM ET on August 8, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 6 begins at 12PM ET on August 10, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 7 begins at 12PM ET on August 12, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 8 begins at 12PM ET on August 15, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 9 begins at 12PM ET on August 17, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 10 begins at 12PM ET on August 19, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 11 begins at 12PM ET on August 22, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 12 begins at 12PM ET on August 24, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 13 begins at 12PM ET on August 26, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 14 begins at 12PM ET on August 29, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.
Entry Period 15 begins at 12PM ET on August 31, 2011 and ends at 12PM ET on September 9, 2011.

Entry: During the Giveaway Period, go to 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 Pavilion dm1z laptop, Sony NEX-C3 digital camera, Samsung 7" Galaxy Tab, Motorola Photon 4G (Sprint) smartphone, Altec Lansing Octiv 650 speaker doc, Bowers & Wilkins C5 headphones, Nook E-reader, Timbuk2 Command Messenger bag, Elgato HDHomeRun TV tuner, Kingston Wi-Drive, 1-year Premium Spotify subscription, Scosche: goBAT II, iMainGo: X, G-Form 11" Extreme Sleeve, Canon X Mark I Mouse Lite, 1-year Premium Skype subscription, Sonic Bomb Alarm Clock, Red Swingline Stapler, Toddy Smart Cloth and Pogo Sketch. Approximate Retail Value of each Prize Pack is $3,141. 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.


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, Zach Honig, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003. Requests must be received by September 30, 2011.