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Back to school TV guide

The sun is setting earlier, the morning air is getting crisp, and those dreaded retail commercials are popping up: There’s no sense in denying, it’s back to school time. But just because the homework is coming, and those pesky classes will be getting in the way, that doesn’t mean it’s all bad news. After all, each year offers a fresh start. And more importantly, it’s a great time to pick-up a few new gadgets to spruce up the dorm or bedroom.

In that spirit, we’ve put together a list of some of our (affordable) favorite tech toys to help students take advantage of that down time between classes, and maybe even score a few new friends.

Roku TV ($500)

Roku TVWe begin with the obvious. For those packing it up this fall sans TV, we can’t think of one that’s jam-packed with more awesome than TCL’s new Roku TVs, which can be pre-ordered on Amazon now ahead of their forthcoming release in a few weeks. Roku TVs are loaded with all of the good stuff from the popular streaming devices – including over 1,700 apps of all varieties. And best of all, they are seriously cheap, costing less than a lot of dumb TVs. But beware: your new roommate may never leave your dorm room.

(Note: If your new roommate has a TV, don’t forget the affordable standalone Roku devices, like the powerful/affordable Roku Streaming Stick)

Google Chromecast ($35)

Google ChromecastFor those already armed with a TV, the $35 Chromecast is a no-brainer. The affordable HDMI dongle is ideal for any student with a newish TV and a mobile device. Offering an exploding lineup of excellent apps that support it, the compact HDMI dongle just keeps getting better. From Netflix, to Videostream, Chromecast is the easiest way to get all the good stuff from your phone, PC, or tablet onto the big screen.

Mohu Leaf indoor HDTV antenna ($40 – $70)

Mohu Leaf indoor HDTV antennaUnless you’re attending one of the lucky schools hosting Comcast’s free new cable service for students, Xfinity On Campus, cable probably isn’t in the cards. But if you want to catch a dose of traditional TV in sparking HD, there are few digital antennas on the market as reliable as the low-profile profile Mohu Leaf. Spawning a host of copycats, the Leaf’s paper-thin surface allows it to hang most anywhere and pick-up all the local HD channels – for free, no less.

Mohu Channels ($150 – coming soon)

Mohu ChannelsTaking things a step further, Mohu’s new Channels device is your all-in-one media hub. Designed to meld apps and live TV into one intuitive interface, the device comes with one of Mohu’s top-rated antennas, hosts all of your favorite streaming apps, and even allows you to make “Channels” out of your favorite websites for easy access from a single interface. It’s not out quite yet, but for those with a bit of patience, this device promises to be the new hotness for the cord-cutting student.

Monoprice RedMere HDMI cable ($13 – $68)

Monoprice RedMere HDMI cableThis one’s for those taking it back to the old school … at the new school. There’s nothing wrong with wiring up to share your favorite PC content on your TV – especially if you’re looking to do some latency-free gaming. And the Redmere cables come in varieties of 3 feet in length and even longer, allowing you to veg from bed in your off time.