Best tablets for school

They’re lighter and cheaper than laptops!

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From the September/October 2014 issue of the magazine.

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Tablet_school

Photograph by Erik Putz, iStock

Tablets are quickly replacing laptops in classrooms and with good reason. They’re lighter, more portable and cheaper, as well as better suited to watching movies and playing games. Here’s our round-up of this year’s best back-to-school tablets.

Best value!

iPad Air

Starting at $519 | Despite fierce competition, Apple’s iPad remains the king of tablets. The 10-inch Air weighs only 469 grams but packs a powerful graphics processor, making it the tablet of choice for visual-intensive documents and apps, as well as games and movies. With Apple leading the tablet field, most accessory and software makers—which includes educational institutions—develop for it first, meaning that the iPad has the largest selection of apps, covers and keyboards for students to choose from. Apple is also enticing student iPad buyers with a $20 back-to-school discount and a $55 iTunes gift card.

The runner-up

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5”

Starting at $519 || The Samsung Galaxy Tab S is a worthy competitor to the iPad Air. It’s a tad lighter at 465 grams and features a slightly sharper screen. The Galaxy also runs Android software, so apps, games and movies can be had via the Google Play store. It’s not quite as well stocked as Apple’s iTunes, but with the freer nature of Android, tech-inclined students can tinker with the tablet and install their own apps and programs.

For the Windows loyalist

Surface Pro 3

Starting at $849 || If cost isn’t an issue and the productivity of Windows is a necessity, the Surface Pro 3 is a good choice. Microsoft’s tablet-PC hybrid has both a standard Windows desktop and touch-screen-optimized interface, which is a good defining line between work and play. Students needing horsepower for more complex software, such as Photoshop and autoCAD, will benefit from being able to run full versions of such applications, as well as the Pro 3’s larger 12-inch screen and included drawing stylus. But like all tablets, a separate keyboard cover is necessary, which in the Surface’s case adds $130 to the already steep price tag.

Most reasonably priced

Asus Transformer Pad TF103

Price: $349 || The Transformer Pad is one of the few tablets that comes pre-bundled with a keyboard dock, making it a terrific value and one of the only 10-inch devices available for under $400. Moreover, it’s solidly made and doesn’t feel cheap. The trade-off comes in screen resolution, which is only half that of high-end tablets, as well as in weight, as it’s bulkier than some of its competitors. Nevertheless, the Transformer runs Android, giving users access to the same large selection of apps, games and movies.

 

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