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Back to school: Best tech under $500

Willing to spend a reasonable amount of dough on some back-to-school gadgets? Here's a look at some top tech picks that cost less than $500.

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carnoy-headshot-2019-2

David Carnoy

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1 of 11 Sarah Tew/CNET

Asus VivoBook X202E

We don't recommend all that many laptops under $500, but the Asus VivoBook X202E is an exception. It's a touch-screen Windows 8 that's quite decent for the price. Normally it retails for $599, but Amazon has it for less than $500.
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2 of 11 Audioengine

Audioengine 2 powered speakers

For pure audio performance, we like the more expensive Audioengine 5+ speakers. But we've always had a soft spot for the smaller and more affordable Audioengine 2 speakers, which come in white and black and retail for $199.
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3 of 11 Sarah Tew/CNET

Audyssey Wireless Speakers

They might not sound as good as the Audioengine 2 speakers, but as their name indicates, these Audyssey Bluetooth speakers are wireless, enabling easy audio streaming from tablets and smartphones. Plus, they work as computer speakers.
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4 of 11 Sarah Tew/CNET

Canon SX260

As far as megazoom cameras go, the Canon SX260 is one of the best available for the price, especially now that you can get for less than $250 online.
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5 of 11 Sarah Tew/CNET

Parrot Zik headphones

Parrot's Zik headphones are about as high-tech as headphones come, featuring not only wireless streaming capabilities but active noise canceling and touch controls.
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6 of 11 Sarah Tew/CNET

Vizio E320i-A0 32-inch 720p 60Hz LED Smart HDTV

It may be a 2012 model, but this Vizio E320i-A0 32-inch TV is still a bargain at a shade less than $300 online.
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7 of 11 Sarah Tew/CNET

3M Streaming Projector

Pico projectors keep improving year over year, and one of our favorites from late 2012 was the 3M Streaming Projector, which has an integrated Roku Streaming Stick, so you can stream Netflix and Amazon Instant movies right from the projector.
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8 of 11 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony PS Vita

The Vita hasn't exactly been a big hit and its game library isn't expanding quickly enough. But it's still a next-gen gaming experience in the palms of your hands, and Sony may put resources into it once the PS4 arrives this holiday season (the two consoles will be more integrated).
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9 of 11 Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple iPad Mini

A new, larger iPad (iPad 5) may be just around the corner, but until it shows up, the iPad Mini is a safe bet. And if your grad doesn't like it, he or she can always return it at an Apple Store (unopened) and exchange it for something else.
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10 of 11 Sarah Tew/CNET

Contour ContourRoam2

Though it doesn't have the name recognition of GoPro, Contour turns out some very nice action cams. For what the ContourRoam2 lacks in fancy features, it makes up for in simplicity and mounting options.
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11 of 11 Sarah Tew/CNET

Slingbox 500

Now here's a product that Dad (or Mom) could buy for the home and have Junior put to use while away at school. The Slingbox 500 allows you stream your home cable or satellite feed to mobile devices and computers (it's great for following your local sports teams while on the road).

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