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Best student tablet in 2021

Best student tablet
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

Choosing the best student tablet isn't always easy. Screen size, portability, and price are just a few of the major factors to consider when shopping for the best tablets. However, back to school season is coming to a close and if you're still searching for a new tablet, we're rounding up the best student tablet for every budget.

From the elementary school student who'll be using their first tablet to the college student who needs a tablet that's good for both work and play, below you'll find our top picks for back to school.  

Plus, because Labor Day sales have also begun, retailers are offering some of the best deals of the year. So make sure to check out our guides to the best tablet sales and iPad deals once you've picked the tablet you want. 

Best tablets: ipad 8th gen

Apple iPad 8th Generation (Image credit: Future)

1. Apple iPad 2020 (10.2 inch)

The best student tablet overall

Specifications
CPU: A12 Bionic
Camera Resolution: 8MP (rear), 1.2MP (front)
Display: 10.2 inches, 2160 x 1620 pixels
Storage: 32GB, 128GB
Ports: Lightning, Headphone
Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 1.1 pounds
Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with optional LTE
Reasons to buy
+Faster A12 Bionic processor+Supports Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard+Bright and colorful display
Reasons to avoid
-Dated design with big bezels-Nowhere to store Apple Pencil

The 8th-gen iPad is not only Apple's cheapest iPad, but the most well-rounded, making it a great choice. Although it's starting to show its age, the A12 Bionic chip inside this tablet provides a welcome speed boost when compared to previous entry-level iPads. This tablet also boasts a fantastic screen for its price. Plus Apple's Pencil and Smart Keyboard Folio are easier to use than any Bluetooth accessory on the market. 

Apple's advances in iPadOS have made the iPad an excellent tablet for multitasking. Also, iPadOS 14 gives you Scribble handwriting to text translation, which makes the Apple Pencil a better buy than before. We just wish Apple would update the iPad's design (the big bezels are aging). Otherwise, this is the best student tablet you'll find. 

Read our full Apple iPad 2020 review (10.2 inch).

Best Android tablets: Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

2. Amazon Fire 10 HD

Best affordable Android tablet with longest battery life

Specifications
CPU: 2.0GHz octa-core CPU
Camera Resolution: 5 MP (rear) 2 MP (front)
Display: 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200-pixel
Storage: 32GB, 64GB
Ports: 1x USB-C, headphone jack, microSD
Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.5 x 0.4 inches
Weight: 17.8 ounces/1.1 pounds
Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Reasons to buy
+Stellar battery life+Sharp and bright screen+USB-C charging
Reasons to avoid
-Speakers aren't that strong-Still lacks Google apps

The Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) is the best student tablet for younger children. It applies incremental upgrades to its predecessor, such as a slightly brighter screen, an extra 1GB of RAM, and a smaller, lighter design. Combined, it makes for one of the best tablets we've seen from Amazon. 

If you need snappier performance, we recommend spending an extra $30 to get the $179 Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus, arguably the best Amazon tablet ever. That said, the Fire HD 10 (2021) is still going to be great for students who are looking for a device to peruse the internet, read e-books, and watch videos. This keeps the Fire HD 10's spot among the best Android tablets out there — especially if you're on a budget.

There are some compromises worth noting. First, Amazon's Fire OS is still app-challenged, missing the Google Play app store — which means you can't get the full YouTube experience. Plus, you'll miss out on a lot of great apps not available on Amazon's app store. If you can overlook that, the Fire HD 10 (2021) is a stellar pick. 

Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review.

Microsoft Surface Go 2 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

3. Microsoft Surface Go 2

The best student tablet for Windows 10

Specifications
CPU: Pentium Gold, 8th Gen Intel Core m3
Camera Resolution: 8MP (rear), 5MP (front)
Display: 10.5 inches, 1920 x 1280 pixels
Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Memory: 4GB, 8GB
Ports: headphone jack, USB-C, microSD, Surface Connect port, Surface Type Cover Port
Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 1.22 pounds (1.75 pounds with type cover)
Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax
Reasons to buy
+Lengthy battery life+Bright, vivid screen+Great webcam
Reasons to avoid
-Unimpressive performance-Type Cover requires adjustments

The Surface Go 2 is the best student tablet for those looking for an affordable Windows-powered slate. And this sequel makes a lot of welcome improvements over the first Surface Go. First, it has a larger 10.5-inch screen with thinner bezels. The new design makes it easier to immerse yourself in your work and it allows for a bigger screen, arguably the most important part of a tablet. 

The biggest upgrade is the Surface Go 2’s 11 hours and 39 minutes of battery life, which is over 5 hours longer than the original Surface Go. This can be especially useful if you need a tablet with all-day battery life. Meanwhile, the  5-megapixel 1080p camera in its top bezel is great for the era of remote learning, and its second front camera sensor adds Windows Hello biometric login. Finally, get the Surface Go 2 with the 8th Gen Intel Core m3 upgrade, it's a little pricier at $629, but it's definitely the model for multitasking students. 

Read our full Microsoft Surface Go 2 review.

Best tablets: iPad Air 4Editor's Choice

iPad Air 4 (Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

4. iPad Air (2020)

The best iPad for college students

Specifications
CPU: A14 Bionic
Display: 10.9-inch (2360 x 1640 pixels) Liquid Retina
Storage: 64GB/256GB
Ports: USB-C
Dimensions: 9.7 x 7 x 0.24 inches
Weight: 1 pound
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 6, optional 4G LTE
Reasons to buy
+Elegant thin and light design+Super-fast A14 Bionic processor+Excellent webcam
Reasons to avoid
-No Face ID-RIP headphone jack

The iPad Air (2020) borrows a lot of what we like from the iPad Pro, at a more affordable price. It's arguably Apple's best iPad ever, although it's higher price tag may not be for everyone. Overall, this is the best student tablet for college in our book. 

The current-gen iPad Air has the same super-thin bezels as the iPad Pro, as well as support for the Magic Keyboard, which makes it a true laptop competitor. On top of that, Apple's blazing-fast A14 Bionic chip helps future-proof this tablet with enough speed for demanding apps and multitasking. Apple also managed to put Touch ID in the lock button. 

In terms of battery life, you can expect to get around 10.5 hours of juice, which should power you through an entire school day. When you're not studying, its screen is bright and colorful enough to make your next Netflix binge-watch look brilliant. It's also great for remote learning, thanks to its 7-megapixel webcam, which beat the Logitech C920 in head-to-head testing done for our review.  

Read our full iPad Air (2020) review.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite (Image credit: Future)

5. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

The best mid-range Android tablet

Specifications
CPU: Samsung Exynos 9610
Camera Resolution: 8MP (rear), 5MP (front)
Display: 10.4 inches, 2000 x 1200 pixels
Storage: 64GB
Memory: 4GB
Ports: USB-C, headphone jack
Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.1 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 1 pound
Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Reasons to buy
+Slimmed down bezels+Lengthy battery life+Bright display
Reasons to avoid
-Underwhelming performance-Some Android apps still need tablet optimization

If you're looking for the Android equivalent of the iPad, Samsung's Galaxy Tab S6 Lite won't disappoint. This excellent tablet has a ton of battery life — lasting over 12 hours on a single charge — and offers a sleek design with a bright screen and solid sound. 

If you need to jot down notes during class, this is the tablet for you. We love that it comes with Samsung's S Pen. The stylus provides a fantastic note-taking experience  with incredibly fast input recognition and nearly no lag at all. It's on par with the Apple Pencil, except this stylus is included with the tablet.

The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite's thin bezels also help it stand out from the mid-range tablet crowd even further, making it look more like the iPad Pro than the iPad. Performance-wise, though, the Tab S6 Lite won't be blowing people away if they try to multitask. There's also the matter of Android tablet apps, which still could use more love and care from their developers.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite review.

  • Nessi
    iPad Mini.
    iPad Pro 12.9 (2021)
    Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite.
    Microsoft Surface Go 2.
    Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020)
    Microsoft Surface Pro 7.
    Huawei MatePad Pro.
    iPad Air 4 (2020)
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