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Back to School Gadget Guide

Using the right gadgets can make your life more efficient, simpler, and more enjoyable. But which ones are right?

Before you shop, stop and think: What do I want these devices to do for me? Then, decide which gadgets meet those needs (and which ones you can afford). The good news is that if you do your homework you can find what you need without maxing out your credit cards.

(Click any of the headers below for a more thorough guide to that particular class of gadgets.)

Smartphone

You really shouldn’t leave home without one. They do so much it’s hard to imagine what life was like without them.

To minimize your hassle and expense, choose a smartphone that integrates easily with the software and services you already use. Be sure to include the cost of monthly voice and data fees as you shop for devices and carriers.

Gaming System

When it’s time to relax, what’s better than a cool game? A PC can act as a gaming system, but many titles are unique to consoles like the Xbox One or the PlayStation.  A game console can also be a complete home entertainment system, playing DVD or Blu-Ray movies, and streaming other content straight to your TV.

See our Guide to Gaming Systems for more info.

Headphones

A good pair of headphones is a must. When you’re on the go, think earbuds. If your budget allows, buy a decent set of headphones — preferably one that includes a microphone—to use with your PC or gaming system so you can hear every note and be heard when you’re Skyping.

Hard Drives

As you create documents, buy music and movies, or capture photos, you need adequate space to store all of those bits and bytes. A good solution: an external drive. Be sure to buy one that’s bigger than you think you need, because you can never have too much storage.

Desktop Computer

There’s a vast array of computers to choose from, and there is something out there for virtually any task and budget. Desktop computers generally offer more processing power, storage, and expandability than their portable cousins, but a notebook or Ultrabook gives you the flexibility to take notes during class or finish your homework on the bus.

Tablet

Tablets have the same features and capabilities as a smartphone, but with a larger display to work with. With the right apps, a tablet can do most (though not all) things you would normally do on your computer. In a pinch, it could replace a laptop.

Some tablets—like the Surface Pro, or Dell Latitude 10—are really hybrids because they run Windows and Windows software, but are lighter and more portable than laptops.

Laptop

The student’s go-to tool is his or her laptop.  It will go with you everywhere and host all of your important projects and media.  Along with considering price, size, speed, and performance, you’ll also want to make sure you thought about compatibility.  Setting yourself up with an ecosystem of self-syncing devices can make your life a lot easier – so if you’ve got a Windows phone, why not a Windows laptop?  Or an iPhone and a Macbook?

This story, "Back to School Gadget Guide" was originally published by BrandPost.

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