Last week we asked the Android Central community to give us their most pressing back-to-school tech questions. These are the questions we picked to answer! We've tapped all of our editors to weigh in on these questions about phones, tablets, laptops, and everything in between. Let's see what's on the minds of students and parents...
Linda G. aks:
Which devices are most durable? Having a student carry them around all day, even if in a backpack, can lead to many accidents happening.
Daniel Bader answers:
That's a great question. We'll start with phones. The most durable phones are made with plastic, like the new Google Pixel 3a, or phones that have thick, heavy duty cases from companies like Spigen or OtterBox. If you're getting your student a new phone, make sure to check out a tempered glass screen protector, as those are great at protecting the actual glass screen of a phone, especially when tossed around in a bag.
If your student is getting a laptop, I'd recommend a rugged one that can withstand abuse like the ASUS Chromebook Flip C214 or the Lenovo 300e Chromebook, as both of them are rated for drops and minor spills. You can read our entire guide on the best Chromebooks for students here.
Perhaps more important than any of these products is a great backpack, as the best ones have padded compartments for all of your student's most important possessions. We have a great guide on that one, too.
Hope this helps!
Sherry B. asks:
Is there an advantage to having a tablet over a laptop? Is one a better option than the other for a student - or a teacher? I am a teacher, and our district is considering moving to Chromebooks for teachers - we've always had MacBooks in the past. Students are now 1:1 with Chromebooks, which, along with cost, is the reason given for the potential move for teacher machines. I love my Mac, and although I can see the cost benefit to giving teachers Chromebooks, I am concerned about what I perceive to be a lesser machine. Could you speak to that?
What would I need to know if we are forced to switch from MacBooks to Chromebooks? Would it be prudent to purchase my own MacBook (the school would allow me to use my own machine)? Would it be a good idea to suggest giving teachers the option for a tablet instead (they are open to our input)? If it matters, we currently have MacBook Airs; they are looking at Chromebook Pros. Administration mainly uses iPads, so teachers have considered asking for those since the district is looking to save money. What would be the advantages and disadvantages to an iPad vs a Chromebook Pro?
Daniel Bader answers:
Hi Sherry, thanks for the questions!
Chromebooks have become much more powerful and capable over the past few years, and match MacBooks and Windows laptops in most things, except for a few minor areas like video editing and playing games.
I think you'll be pretty happy with a Chromebook issued by your school, especially if you can get one that turns into a tablet. Our favorite is the ASUS Chromebook Flip series, like the ASUS Chromebook Flip C214 or C434, depending on your budget. You can find our Best Chromebook list here.
As for whether or not you need your own laptop, I'd try using the one given to you by the school first and see how you like it — who knows, you may love it. If you want to buy your own MacBook, try to use Google services that would allow you to easily sync data between the two.
Alberto S. asks:
My kids are starting school for the first time, and like any parent, we worry about them being safe in an even where their lives are at stake. What sort of wearable gadget can they wear, that if need be, they can dial 911 without them accidentally triggering a false call/alarm?
Russell Holly answers:
Totally get the desire to equip your kids with tools to stay extra safe while also avoiding accidental dials. In my opinion, there's really only one option out there right now for young ones that actually encourages them to use it and gives you the peace of mind you're looking for. It's called the Dyno Smartwatch by Coolpad.
Dyno looks like a watch, but has a cellular radio in it. Through the app, you can set up a individual lines of communication with your child. They can reach you, reach another parent, reach 911, whatever you set up, through both voice and text. And because it's got cellular radios, you can use location data to let you know when your kid has left the house or left the school or wherever else you set up a geofence. I actually found that last feature super helpful, because the bus ride home isn't exactly a straight line and things happen.
We've got a whole review of the Dyno on the site now, and it comes with blue and pink wrist straps so you've got some options.
If you have any other questions, I'm happy to help.
James M. asks:
I'm on the fence about purchasing between a Kindle/Fire HD or an Android tablet. My main purpose to download textbooks through Amazon however, I would like to be able to access my University's online course system through BlackBoard and unsure if the Kindle has that capability. Price is a also an issue for me as school/books is already expensive. Can you provide me with some insight on what would be the best purchase?
Joe Maring answers:
Hey, James! When it comes to tablets these days, Amazon's Fire HD tablets are definitely your best choice — especially when price is a big consideration.
There are a lot of cheap Android tablets out there for under a hundred bucks that you can buy at your local Walmart or another superstore, but they're typically running outdated software, have slow processors, low-resolution displays, etc.
The Fire 7 Tablet from Amazon is super affordable, and it's by far the best cheap tablet on the market. Its display is easy on the eyes, performance is plenty fast for day-to-day tasks, and the 7-inch screen should be big enough for reading textbooks while also being small enough to toss in a backpack with ease.
If you're already planning on getting your digital textbooks through Amazon, the Fire 7 also benefits from having tight integration with all of Amazon's services — including e-books, music, shopping, etc. The BlackBoard app isn't available through Amazon's App Store for the tablet, but you can still access the BlackBoard website without any issues for all of your course work.
Alternatively, if you want to step up to something a bit nicer, you can also pick up the Fire HD 8 or Fire HD 10. Here, you're benefitting from a larger and higher-resolution display, bigger battery, and the ability to access Alexa at any time by just saying "Alexa."
Abigail S. asks:
My daughter will need a laptop for school this year. I have looked at inexpensive windows notebooks, and also Chromebooks. Can a Chromebook compete with a Windows laptop in a classroom environment? If so, which is the best to get?
Ara Wagoner answers:
Howdy, Abigail! So, most education software now runs on a Chromebook — and many schools issue and run all of their classes on Chromebooks — so in most situations, the answer is yes a Chromebook beats a cheap Windows laptop. You'll need to ask your daughter what kinds of applications or programs her coursework needs — some districts and most STEM programs need software that only works on Windows — and ask her if she'd prefer one system over the other.
A Chromebook will absolutely give you more wiggle room when it comes to getting a good laptop, and this year we got a whole new generation of great Education-focused Chromebooks that should last your daughter six school years, getting Chrome OS updates all the way to June 2025.
Students have a hard enough time stressing out about classes. Let's save them the hassle of figuring out which tools to invest in. Take a gander at our answers here, and if you don't find what you're looking for, drop a reply in the forums and our editors will pile in with their thoughts!
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