Best Tablets for Back to School

By Tracey Dowdy

My youngest brother started Kindergarten the day I started university. Our school supply lists looked a little different but I think it’s safe to say we were equally excited about our backpacks!

Today, instead of pencils and paper, backpacks contain technology that makes my Texas Instruments calculator look like a sundial. Since students depend on their smartphones and other devices to assist with everything from research to note taking, your first thought may be to go for a new laptop, but these days there are several lightweight, feature-packed tablets that give laptops a run for their money.

Before choosing a tablet, it’s important to consider factors like the age of the student, how the tablet will be used, whether you will need Wi-Fi capability, and the size of the display. Specifications vary widely between devices and savvy consumers should do their homework before they purchase.

Fire HD 7 Kids Edition

firehd_kidsedition250The Amazon Fire HD 7 Kids Edition comes with the “first ever” two-year worry-free guarantee, perfect for your child’s first tablet. It also offers a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, Wi-Fi, app approval or blocking, a durable case with a fully detachable cover, time controls, a web browser for kids, a webcam, a fingerprint resistant screen, 8 hours of battery life and 8GB of storage. (Price: $189)

Lenovo TAB 2 A7-10

lenovo250Starting at just $79, the Lenovo TAB 2 A7-10 is one of the more affordable tablets. Perfect as a first tablet for younger students, the A7-10 runs the Android 4.4 operating system, has a 7-inch touchscreen, a 1.3 GHz, quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage and a front-facing camera. It definitely offers fewer features than other tablets on this list, but many students won’t need all those features and the price is hard to beat. (Price: from $179)

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0

samsung-tab-8250Newly released, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 is a solid piece of technology at a great price. The A features front and back cameras, 1024 x 768 pixels of HD resolution, 1.5 GB of RAM, as well as 16 GB of built-in storage. Users also have the option of adding a micro SD expansion card. It runs Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and is lightweight at just 11 ounces. (Price: $229)

iPad Min 3

ipad-mini3250The iPad Mini 3 is a smaller, less expensive version of Apple’s iPad Air. The iPad Mini 3 features iOS 8, Touch ID security, a 7.9-inch high-def touchscreen, a 64-bit A7 processor, front and back cameras, and weighs just under 12 ounces. Prices range from $399, $499 or $599 for 16, 64 or 128 GB of built-in storage and adding wireless capability will cost an additional $130.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Surface250Starting at $799, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is definitely at the high end of the price range but its ability to bring together the best of both tablets and laptops makes it worth the investment for students looking for a feature-packed device. The Surface Pro 3 comes with a full 12-inch, 2160 x 1440-pixel touch-screen display, an adjustable kickstand, a backlit Type Cover that can be magnetically propped  and angled, full Windows desktop productivity applications, and a pen feature that allows users to write directly on the screen for easier note taking. (Price: from $799)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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