Tablets are a relatively new trend in computing when compared to laptops or desktops. But they’ve already established themselves as incredibly popular and useful pieces of technology.
For students this is doubly true.
Tablets allow students a powerful but portable technology that they can use to make notes, browse the internet, and record lectures.
As such, a good tablet is a must-have for the modern student.
Nowadays, there are hundreds of different tablets available. This both a good thing and a bad thing.
On the upside it offers a ton of choice. Meaning that you’ll always be able to pick a tablet that fits your needs.
On the other hand, it makes it difficult to work out which is the best one. Too much choice can be confusing, and deciding which tablet is the best for students isn’t easy.
That’s where we come in. We’ve spent the last couple of weeks going through a load of different tablets. Our aim was to find the best tablet for college students.
We’ve had plenty of time to review, and our favorite was the Apple iPad Air 2. The Air 2 offers incredible portability, great battery life and more than enough power than most students will need.
In this article, we’ll explain why we like the iPad so much. We’ll also discuss what we liked and didn’t about the other tablets.
How we chose the best tablet for college
In order to find out the best tablet for college, we knew we needed to ask students what they thought.
I mean, none of us are students, so trying to decide what the best tablet for school was ourselves, would have just been stupid.
So that’s what we did. We surveyed students in order to find out what they thought were the most important things to consider when buying a table for university.
They gave us the following list:
- Battery life
We determined this final list by surveying the students, and talking to them about what features they would need their tablet to have.
The five best tablets for school
Here’s a list of the five best tablets for college:
|Apple iPad Air 2 MGTX2LL/A...||Check Price on Amazon|
|Apple iPad Pro (256GB, Wi-Fi, Space...||Check Price on Amazon|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5-Inch...||Check Price on Amazon|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab A SM-T580NZKAXAR...||Check Price on Amazon|
The most important consideration when choosing the best tablet for college is portability
The students we talked to valued portability extremely highly.
Most students lead very busy lives, they go from lecture to lecture, and typically have to carry books and other materials with them.
So tablets are ideal, because where laptops are heavy and require their own specific carry cases, tablets are nice and light enough to just carry in your hand.
Portability was so important because otherwise students may as well just get laptops instead.
Therefore, for college students, unless a tablet is portable it’s pretty much useless. So we rated that as the most important consideration.
To be portable, a tablet has to be relatively light, and not too bulky.
All the tablets we look at here are pretty portable. Some are much heavier than others, but where that’s the case, we’ve indicated so.
Also, the heavier tablets do tend to be more powerful. So there’s a trade off in terms of portability and power.
It’s up to you to decide which feature you consider more important, although our group of students prioritised portability, probably because most of them already had laptops, and were looking for something they could take to lectures, rather than replace their main computers.
Other considerations when choosing the best tablet for college
Power came a very close second to portability in terms of importance to our students.
The reason it didn’t come first, is because most of our students weren’t looking for a tablet that was powerful enough to replace their laptops.
Instead, they wanted something convenient to carry around with them, that they could take to lectures and seminars, and use to make notes.
So most of them weren’t necessarily looking for a ton of RAM, or something they could game on.
They just wanted a light, portable computer that they could take to campus and use for their studies, as well as browsing the internet.
However, some students were interested in getting a tablet to replace their laptops.
Certainly not a massive number, but a significant minority of students were looking for something they could take around with them, but could also function as their laptop for home use as well.
This means it would need much more power for gaming, design, coding, or anything else they use their laptops for. While still being portable enough to carry around without much difficulty.
Because the students were divided into these two groups, it was difficult to know where to rank the tablets we looked at. Because in essence we had two primary criteria.
We solved this problem by including quality tablets of each type in our list.
So some of the tablets we look at are designed more with portability in mind, and you shouldn’t get these if you’re looking to replace your laptop.
And others are designed more with power in mind. These tablets have much more kick and you probably could replace your laptop with them – but be sure to check out the specs before you do!
This is quite a vague term, and initially we didn’t exactly grasp what our students meant by it. But once they explained it we realised what they were getting at.
By functionality they just mean kind of apps and other features available on the tablet.
So, is there a program you can use to make notes? Can you buy a tablet keyboard that’ll make it easier to type on? Is there an audio record feature for recording lectures?
That kind of thing.
Although functionality definitely isn’t the same thing as power, there is some crossover in that the more powerful units tend to have these kinds of features as standard, and the cheaper, less powerful ones sometimes lack them.
As these kinds of features are very important for students, we’ve made sure to only select tablets that have a good amount of functionality.
However, if you’re interested in one particular feature, and aren’t sure whether it’s included on a particular model, then please check before buying. We wouldn’t want you to buy one and later realise it lacked some key thing you were after.
Battery life was another important consideration for the students we talked to.
While chargers aren’t exactly heavy, they are another thing you have to think about. And they’re very easy to forget.
Therefore, it’s just reassuring for your tablet to have a decent battery life.
If it doesn’t, at some point you’ll almost certainly end up either running out of battery half way through a lecture, or you’ll have to take the long walk back to your dorms just to grab your charger.
Neither of these is ideal.
So you want any tablet you’re carrying about with you to have a decent battery life.
This is another area where tablets excel over laptops.
Plenty of laptops claim a good battery life, but most drop dead after 4 hours without charge.
With tablets, it’s not uncommon to get out 10 hours of constant use.
This is great because even if you do forget your charger, you can still spend the whole day using your tablet, without having to worry about it going to sleep on you.
All the tablets we look at here have very respectable battery life, which is an absolutely essential feature for any student.
Price was the final feature that our students regarded as being important.
Naturally, students are often pretty short for cash.
On the other hand, they’re spending a whole lot of money on their educations, so it’s not that they’re tight. But they just want to be sure that their money is being well-spent.
They don’t mind spending their cash on quality, but they certainly don’t want to overpay.
With this in mind, all the tablets we look at here offer excellent value for money. They’re not just portable, or powerful. They also offer great bang for buck, and a good investment in terms of how good their technology is and the functionality they offer as well.
The best tablet for college in 2018
In some quarters, this is going to be a controversial pick.
The Apple iPad Air 2 isn’t the most powerful tablet we’ve looked at. Nor does it have the most features.
But if we consider all the things that our students were looking for, then this iPad comes out on top.
Let’s talk about why we liked the Air 2.
This model is about as portable a tablet as you can get. As we discussed earlier this is something students value very highly.
It’s quite a physically small tablet, and is extremely thin, but still has an almost 10 inch screen. So you’ll have no problem watching movies or making notes.
The most astonishing thing about the Air 2 is its weight. The whole thing weighs just under a pound. To be honest it’s actually quite confusing initially, because it just looks like it should weigh more than that, you end up wondering whether it’s missing any parts.
Its weight makes the iPad incredibly portable. It’s so easy to just throw in a bag and forget about, you can also just carry it in your hand, as it weighs little more than a book.
This is a huge plus for our students.
In terms of power the Air 2 definitely doesn’t boast the best specs. But specs are only half the story, and what people are really interested in when they ask about power is ‘how fast does it run?’
Well the iPad is very quick. It’s something like 50% quicker than the original Air and more than fast enough for making notes, watching films or doing pretty much anything else you’d want to do.
It comes with 10 hours of battery life, and a whole ton of functionality due to a wide range of apps (including Microsoft Office for the iPad) that you can get with it.
It’s certainly not cheap, but it’s no more expensive than a laptop, and the incredible convenience that if offers will be worth it for many students.
What I will say is that if you’re looking for a tablet to replace your laptop this probably isn’t the best option.
This is one of the tablets that definitely emphasises portability over power.
So if that’s what you want then have a look at some of the other options on this list.
But if what you want is a highly portable tablet that you can take to campus and back again, and use as a supplement rather than a replacement to your current laptop. Then the Air 2 is pretty much perfect.
The four other tablets we tested
This is a brilliant tablet. But is definitely a better option for those of you looking to replace your laptops, rather than those looking for something to go with it.
In terms of portability the Surface Pro is pretty light weighing roughly 1.5lbs.
You get a wide variety of different power and storage space options, going all the way up to 16GB of RAM with a 1TB Hard Drive. So you won’t be short on power or speed.
It has all the functionality of a laptop as well. So you can do anything you’d expect, like watching films, browsing the internet and taking notes too.
But the Surface Pro also comes with enough power that you can do more advanced stuff than you can on an Air 2 or something similar. Therefore you could use it to replace your laptop, which would definitely be out of the question with the Air 2.
The one downside of the Pro 4 is its price. If you want the very best specs you’re going to be paying over $1500. This is why I’d only recommend the Surface Pro if you’re looking to replace your laptop, if not it’s just going to cost too much.
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This is kind of the big brother of the Air 2 which we crowned as our favorite.
The Pro is also a brilliant machine, but due to its cost and bulkiness we regarded the Air 2 as being a better choice for college students.
The iPad is quite a bit heavier than the Air 2, weighing over a pound and a half. It’s also quite bulky being 12×8 inches and much bigger than its little brother.
So it’s not as portable as some of the other options.
It is powerful though. At 4GB the Pro has 4 times the RAM of the Air 2 and is incredibly fast. So you’ll be able to use it for almost anything you like.
It’s also got excellent battery life. So if you were to take it up to campus you’d have enough battery for the whole day.
However, like most of the more powerful tablets, the iPad Pro is quite expensive, and per gig of storage space it’s even pricier than the Surface Pro. So unless you’re looking to get rid of your laptop, you’ll be better off with the Air 2 instead.
- 12.9 inch Retina Display, 2732 x 2048 Resolution
- Apple iOS 9, A9X chip with 64‑bit architecture, M9 coprocessor
- 8 MP iSight Camera, Panorama (up to 43MP), Four-Speaker Audio
The Tab S is a tablet more in the mould of the Air 2. In that it’s designed more to compliment a laptop or desktop you already have, rather than replace one.
It’s very light, weighing just under a pound. And comes with a screen just marginally bigger than the Air 2. So it’s extremely portable.
It’s also powerful with 3GB of RAM (2GB more than the Air 2!), so you won’t have to worry about it not having enough kick for day-to-day use.
The Tab S has slightly poorer battery life than the Air, boasting 9 hours instead of 10. But also has significantly less storage space which is a slight concern, although you can buy additional SD cards, and with the cloud this may become less of an issue.
Overall, we really liked the Tab S, but it’s a touch more expensive than the Air 2 and we just thought it didn’t offer quite the same value for money.
- Android 4.4 Kit Kat OS, 1.9 GHz Exynos 5 Octa 5420 Processor (1.9 GHz Quad Core...
- 16 GB Flash Memory, 3 GB RAM Memory
- Camera: 8MP Rear with LED Flash + 2.1MP Front
Last up on our list is the Galaxy Tab A.
This is another excellent option but is a little less portable than some of the lighter tablets we’ve looked at, and lacks some of the power and storage space too.
The Tab A weighs in at just over a pound. That’s not heavy by any means, but you do definitely notice the difference when comparing it to the Air 2 or the Tab S. So it is a little less portable.
It has 2GB of RAM which is pretty good, and 1GB more than the Air 2. But for some reason, it just doesn’t seem to run quite as fast as some of the others.
What the Tab A does have though, is exceptional battery life. You could probably go 14 hours without charging it, so it’s perfect for those long days on campus.
It’s also a good price. So if you’re after a cheaper tablet then it might be ideal for you, even though we personally preferred the Air 2.
- 1.6 GHz exynos 7870 octa core Processor. 10.1" wuxga Display, 8Mp rear camera +...
- Os: android 6.0 Marshmallow. Battery Type and Size:Li Ion 7,300mAh
- 2GB of RAM + 16GB. Bluetooth profiles: A2DP,AVRCP,DI,HID,HOGP,HSP,OPP,PAN
The bottom line
Honestly, we liked every single one of the tablets mentioned here. Deciding which was the best wasn’t easy.
But if portability is the most important consideration, then we have to say that the phenomenal Air 2 was the best tablet for college we looked at.
They’re all excellent though, and whichever one you get will do the job fine. Just make sure you know what features you’re interested in before you buy.