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. Just because you or your favorite student may be back to school doesn't mean now isn't a great time for an upgrade.
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.
And while we're always tracking the best tablet sales and iPad deals, we've also got our eyes on the next great tablets for students. We were hoping last year's Surface Go 3 would be one, since the Go 2 is great and its successor comes with Windows 11, but in our Surface Go 3 review we found the tablet a little underwhelming.
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Students who want a tablet should probably get the iPad, as its design is standing still in a decision that appears to be made for the education sector. It's still got a headphone jack and Lightning port, which help it fit into classrooms and your existing accessories. But on top of that, you get some great new updates in the 2021 iPad. Its 12MP webcam is a great update over the 1.2MP camera in the previous model, and Apple's also added a new trick called Center Stage that helps you stay in the focus on group calls.
And the upgraded A13 Bionic chip makes sure that the 2021 iPad is going to stay fast for a while. You'll also be able to easily take notes with the first-gen Apple Pencil, with Scribble-based annotation. The iPad 2021 also has a great screen and battery life, solid audio and all the basics we've come to expect from Apple.
Read our full iPad 2021 review.
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.
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.
If you or your favorite student is a voracious reader, they'll probably love the 8.3-inch iPad mini 6, which is light enough to use in just one hand. It's also great for taking hand-written notes, as it supports the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil (and not the 1st Gen Apple Pencil that's more awkward), which magnetically snaps onto the side and charges from that side. But don't expect lesser performance from its size, as the A15 Bionic processor is super-fast and it's got a lot of endurance with its excellent battery life.
You may need a Bluetooth keyboard, though, if you want to use the iPad mini for typing. Apple doesn't make a neat Magic Keyboard or Smart Keyboard for the iPad mini 6, but third-party models are perfect matches anyways. Students who spend a lot of time in video calls will appreciate the new upgraded 12MP webcam, which is super-sharp and offers Center Stage for keeping yourself in the center of the frame.
Read our full Apple iPad mini 6 (2021) review.
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.
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.