HotHardware's 2015 Back To School Tech Gear Shopping Guide

Accessories And Assorted Gear

Amazon Echo: $179.99

The Echo smart speaker doubles as a digital assistant and home entertainment device. It’s an always-connected, always-available Siri or Cortana-like device designed for your home that can provide answers to common questions, play music, provide traffic updates, control your lights, read audiobooks, and much more. Because it’s tied to your Amazon account, the Echo can also be used to reorder products you’ve previously purchased from Amazon.

Simply put, the Echo is very impressive. The voice recognition and long range speech detection work incredibly well. We were also very pleased with the speed of Echo—often, there was little to no delay between asking a question or making a request and receiving an appropriate response. Although sound quality of the Echo may not compare to high-end dedicated speakers, we feel the overall sound quality is still very good and appreciated the Echo’s added functionality as a worthwhile trade-off.

Apple Watch
: Starting at $349

From a technology standpoint, Apple didn't reinvent the wheel with its watch, but it certainly has a way with marketing and its legion of fans cannot be ignored. The Apple Watch isn't the smartwatch that no one else could build, but it is the first to operate seamlessly with the iPhone -- a fairly big deal in a market saturated with them.

If you're not currently a smart-watch wearer, the Apple Watch is a comfortable timepiece that is quite stylish. Some of the more elaborate models are fit for a night out, and I'm sure Apple will have some success selling to those who value fashion over technology. But, it's safe to say that style isn't a problem. It looks good, it feels good, and there are enough band options to match just about any wardrobe.

NVIDIA Shield Android TV: $199 ($299 for Pro Model With Added Storage)

The new SHIELD Android TV console is a relatively small, thin device. It has angular lines across its lid, with a lighted green, right-angle strip running along the top. The SHIELD console is powered by the NVIDIA Tegra X1 SoC -- undoubtedly the star of the show.

In addition to its relatively powerful 256-core Maxwell-based GPU, the SoC is capable of full 10-bit, 4K encode and decode at up to 60Hz. The combination of the Tegra X1's multiple ARM cores, Maxwell-based GPU, and video engine, make the device about twice as powerful and an Xbox 360, while consuming only about 1/5 of the power. This is also the only device certified for 4K Netflix streaming and NVIDIA offers a ton of games via its GRID streaming server. Of course, the SHIELD can also access any game on Android and stream games from a GeForce GTX equipped PC too.  If you're looking for a lower-cost way to blow off some steam post-exams, this is it.

GoPro Hero4 Session
: $399

GoPro effectively engineered the small, go-anywhere camera movement. Given that your next semester will surely be one worth capturing, grabbing the smallest and lightest GoPro yet may be wise. The Hero4 Session is 50 percent smaller and 40 percent lighter than other Hero4 cameras, making it highly wearable and mountable -- perfect for recording tailgating parties and buzzer-beaters.
Plus, when you head out for Spring Break, you can rest assured that this guy won't crumble under the waves.

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