Best tablet for students Android Central 2021
Picking the best tablet for students can be challenging for parents (or for students themselves). You'll want one that's equally handy for scribbling notes in class and streaming movies after class, with enough power to be productive but at a low enough price that you can afford it. Our favorite premium pick that checks every box is the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, which costs less than an iPad Pro, has S Pen support and solid RAM for fast performance, and sports a beautiful display for procrastinating.
- Best overall: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus+ 12.4-inch Android Tablet
- Best Apple tablet for students: iPad Air 4 (2020)
- Best mid-range value: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite 10.4"
- Best Chromebook tablet for students: 10.1 Lenovo Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 Touch
- Best cheap tablet for students: Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 10.4 Wi-Fi 32GB
- Best Amazon tablet for students: Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus (2021)
- Best laptop-replacement tablet: 2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro
- Best portable power: Lenovo 8" Smart Tab M8 32GB Tablet
- Best for reading and streaming: Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020)
Best overall: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus
If you need a tablet capable of handling almost any task, then you don't want to look past the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus. You'll also be happy to know that Samsung includes an S Pen with every purchase, so you don't have to fork over extra cash for extra productivity.
Under the hood, the Tab S7 Plus sports either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of expandable storage. This combines with the Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset, the 2020 flagship chipset that also appeared in the Galaxy S20 lineup. While no longer cutting-edge tech, it still has the power and smarts to enable Samsung Dex Mode, which turns your Tab S7 Plus into a desktop-like experience. Playing around on what is essentially a desktop on a 12.4-inch display is an extremely portable experience that you won't want to leave behind. It's also rated for up to 14 hours with media playback so that you can use it all day.
While you won't have to pay extra for the amazing S Pen and those features, you will want the full package. Unfortunately, this means extra dough upfront to get the Samsung Keyboard Cover or another Bluetooth keyboard to stay productive during classes.
- S Pen included
- Rated for 14 hours of battery
- Up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage
- 120Hz Super AMOLED display
- Support for Samsung Dex Mode
- Most expensive option
- Keyboard cover is extra
Best Apple tablet for students: iPad Air 4 (2020)
Despite our site focusing on all things Android, our laudatory iPad Air 2020 review shows that we're not afraid to acknowledge when Apple knocks it out of the park. While not as large or powerful as the recent iPad Pro 2021, the iPad Air 4 has impressive performance for demanding creativity apps at about half the price.
It has a lightweight, thin-bezel design with five metallic color options, Touch ID built into the power button, and two powerful speakers. Its 2360 x 1640 LCD only hits 60Hz (compared to 120Hz on the Tab S7+), but it hits 500 nits of brightness with anti-reflective coating, perfect for using in direct sunlight or for late-night binges. Its A14 Bionic chipset — also found in the excellent iPhone 12 — produces incredible performance speeds that surpass the Snapdragon 865 Plus found in the Tab S7+. You can even add cellular data if your school's wifi network isn't reliable.
Add in iPadOS — better optimized in general than Android tablet apps — and USB-C charging, and the iPad Air 2020 have very few downsides. You'll have to pay a good chunk for extra storage since the 64GB base variant really isn't enough. And as is the case with many Apple products, its battery life is only so-so, with about an 8-hour average just out of the box in our tests. Still, it's great for students and non-students alike.
- Beautiful design
- Bright, vivid display
- Excellent software for students
- Fast chipset for multitasking
- Touch ID unlock
- Battery life isn't impressive
- No microSD card slot
- Gets expensive for 256GB/ cellular models
Best mid-range value: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
With the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, the company opted to replace the S5e that previously had been one of our favorite value tablets. With this new tablet, you'll get a familiar, lightweight, sleek design, along with the solid specs you would expect from a Samsung tablet.
Samsung has equipped the S6 Lite with 12 hours of battery life, along with a microSD card slot, making it a perfect tablet for storing classwork or media files. The company also unveiled an updated S Pen, which sports a new design, a finer tip, and improved latency than the S Pen found with the standard Galaxy Tab S6. All of this makes for an impressive Android tablet, packed with loads of features and more to do almost anything for you.
With a 10.4-inch screen and just 4GB of memory, it's a more compact model that'll work great for scratching out notes and streaming Netflix but isn't built for laptop-level efficiency. But as it sells for less than half the price of the S7+, it's a much better choice for students planning to do most of their work on a laptop anyway. There's no point in overpaying for features that most students won't need.
Considering that the Tab S6 Lite is aimed at the value market, some corners had to be cut. Going back to media consumption, Samsung included two AKG-tuned speakers instead of the four found in its sibling, the Tab S6. Plus, the microSD card slot can only use up to a 512GB card, while other tablets offer support up to 1TB.
- Lightweight design
- 12 hours of battery life
- MicroSD card support
- New S Pen Included
- Storage expansion limited to 512GB
- Just two speakers
Best Chromebook tablet for students: Lenovo Chromebook Duet
2-in-1 Chromebooks like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet work well for parents or students looking for a tablet designed with a detachable keyboard in mind, letting it double as your laptop once you're back to your room or dorm. The Duet is one of the best Chromebook tablets for students by far thanks to its epic battery life, included productivity accessories, bright display, and very reasonable price.
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet sports a 10.1-inch display with 400 nits of brightness, enough that it'll remain visible in direct sunlight. It has a 7000mAh battery that could last you several days on casual use or about 10–12 hours with constant use. It doesn't have the most power with its 4GB of RAM or its Mediatek Helio P60T processor, but Chromebooks like the Duet are designed to handle most Chrome OS apps without using much power.
You'll slot on the attachable keyboard and type notes during class, then pull it off and enjoy relaxing with your favorite media apps. Because Chrome OS is fully designed for both touchscreens and laptops, it'll work well in either context. Unlike many of our other picks, it lacks a microSD card slot, so you'll have to make do with just 64GB–128GB of storage; that should be plenty if your notes, homework, or creative projects can be stored in the cloud.
If you want affordable, portable power for your school laptop, you can also check out the best student Chromebooks.
- Battery life will easily last all-day
- Bright 1080p display
- Affordable price
- Comes with keyboard and kickstand
- Will receive updates until June 2028
- Provided keyboard is a bit small
- Chrome OS may lack some productivity apps
- No expandable storage
Best cheap tablet for students: Samsung Galaxy Tab A7
Many of the perks that made the Galaxy Tab A7 our best cheap Android tablet pick also apply to why students will love it. It has a hefty 7,040mAh battery that'll never die on you in class, plus USB-C charging so it can quickly jump back up to full capacity. It has quad speakers that'll make movie nights a blast and drive your roommate nuts. At just barely over a pound (476g) with a 10.4-inch display, it's lightweight enough for its size to make holding it while note-taking easy. Oh, and it works with an S Pen; you'll need to buy it separately, but previous Tab A models weren't compatible at all.
We're huge fans of the design. Most budget tablets like the Fire HD 10 and base iPad have thick, uneven bezels, while the Galaxy Tab A7 looks more uniform and attractive, particularly thanks to its aluminum finish. And alongside the USB-C port, we also think students will appreciate the headphone jack and 1TB-capable microSD card slot.
Its Snapdragon 662 chipset and 3GB of RAM aren't particularly powerful, but certainly respectable for its price range. While some students will miss the quick fingerprint scanner you get with the Tab S7+, there is at least facial recognition for a quick unlock. And its 2000 x 1200 display, while not as vivid as the S7+ AMOLED, does give you a slight upgrade on 1080p displays.
Really, the only reason to wait on the Galaxy Tab A7 is that the Tab A7 Lite is out soon and may offer some new perks that the older A7 lacks.
- Sleek design
- Excellent battery life
- Works with S Pen
- Solid resolution for low price
- Doesn't come with the S Pen
- Not the best performance speeds
Best Amazon tablet for students: Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus (2021)
With its new 2021 tablets, Amazon focused on making them more "productive," selling a Productivity bundle that includes a snap-on Bluetooth keyboard, Microsoft 365 subscription, and 1TB of cloud storage alongside the new Fire HD 10 Plus. Our reviewer was very impressed with the new tablet as an alternative to cheap 2-in-1 Chromebooks for getting work done.
You can buy the standard Fire HD 10 or the Plus for $30 extra, which gives you 4GB of RAM instead of 3 and enables wireless charging. Since the tablet is already so affordable, we'd recommend choosing the Plus, which gives scrolling and typing some extra smoothness and responsiveness. You can now split-screen apps to be productive while streaming your video app of choice, and that extra memory will come in handy then. It can even double as an Echo Show if having a smart display appeals to you.
Otherwise, the Fire HD 10 Plus hasn't changed much from its 2019 predecessor. It still has a 1080p display that gets bright but isn't particularly pretty. It still runs a version of Android 9 that doesn't incorporate the new advances and improvements in Android since then, and you can't access Play Store apps unless you sideload them; that makes your app options much more limited than if you used a traditional Android tablet. Despite the new productivity branding, some students may simply enjoy it as a cheap way to enjoy streaming apps.
Also, if the "students" you're shopping for are children or pre-teens, Amazon sells a Kids Pro edition with similar performance, excellent parental controls, and fun apps geared towards kids.
- Solid specs and speed for low price
- Optional Bluetooth keyboard works well
- USB-C and wireless charging
- Works as smart display hub for Alexa
- Stagnant design and limited app selection
- No waterproofing
Best laptop-replacement tablet: iPad Pro 12.9 (2021)
If price is no object, the iPad Pro 2021 is the undisputed best tablet for students that can transition later into a creative business tool for their first jobs. But price is an object for most students, and its power could be overkill for many students that only need a browser and word processing apps. We'd recommend this specifically for students who will regularly use creative software or for those who plan to use their tablet as a de facto laptop as well.
Its 12.9-inch mini-LED display has 2,500 local dimming zones for some incredible color fidelity, plus 600 nits of brightness that rises to 1000 for HDR content. It has a great selection of creative iPadOS apps like Adobe CC that run with no delay or hiccups on the M1 chipset. The new 12MP ultrawide selfie camera will track and zoom in on your face for video calls with family or classmates. The optional 5G connectivity will ensure you have no trouble connecting to wifi anywhere. And its TrueMotion 120Hz panel and four powerful speakers make it well suited for enjoying games and media during students' relaxation time.
You can attach the excellent Magic Keyboard for productivity or use the Apple Pencil for taking notes and sketches, both of which make working on a tablet seamless. The obvious problem is that the iPad Pro 2021 already costs a premium at the base model; buy the 12.9-inch model and add in these vital accessories, storage upgrades, and 5G support, and you'll spend somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000 for the whole package. That's a major investment, but the iPad Pro lives up to the name for students who want a "professional" tablet.
- 120Hz refresh rate
- 2048x2732 resolution
- Laptop-quality M1 chipset
- Powers any iPadOS app with ease
- 5G cellular support
- Very expensive, especially for 5G
- 11-inch model has downgraded display
- Battery life doesn't last long enough
Best portable power: Lenovo Smart Tab M8
It's all fine and dandy to have a big display to take down all of your class notes during lectures, but what if you have a computer to handle the heavy lifting and want something more portable? That's what makes the Lenovo Smart Tab M8 one of the best cheap tablets for students with its 8-inch display.
The Lenovo Smart Tab M8 sports 32GB of built-in storage and support for a 1TB microSD card. It also comes with a complimentary charging dock; when docked, the Smart Tab M8 turns into a Google Assistant display with a custom interface, essentially giving you a Google Home Hub in your dorm or apartment. So if you want to get quick answers to tricky questions while you work, you can just shout them out to your Smart Tab M8.
Costing a mere $100 and change, the Lenovo Smart Tab M8 had to make some big compromises to hit that price point. For example, it uses micro-USB to charge instead of USB-C, its 1280x800 ISP panel is functional but not beautiful, and its 2GB of RAM ensures it won't be particularly fast. But it undeniably works for students on a budget.
- 18 hours of battery life
- Dolby Atmos-tuned speakers
- microSD card slot
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Includes Google Assistant Smart Charging Dock
- Micro-USB for charging
- IPS display is just OK
Best for reading and streaming: Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020)
As with the Fire HD 10, the Fire HD 8 is also not designed to be a powerhouse tablet. This is for those who want to read some content on the go, don't want to take up a bunch of real estate in their bag, and want to save even more money than the already cheap 10-inch model.
Amazon Alexa is built-in and gives you everything the smart assistant offers in terms of a voice assistant and more. This includes Alexa Skills, which can be installed to help you find the right answers during study sessions. Plus, it's lightweight and portable with its 8-inch display, so you can take advantage of the built-in Kindle app to get some reading done without carrying books.
On the other hand, multitasking may be problematic with the Fire HD 8's 2GB RAM. Unfortunately, there is also only 32GB or 64GB of storage, leaving you to rely on a microSD card for any heavy lifting on the storage side. You'll also be using Fire OS, which is based on Android but isn't exactly the same. It provides quick access to Amazon services and streaming apps while opting for the Amazon App Store over the Google Play Store.
- Multiple color options
- Quad-core processor
- Ultra-portable and lightweight
- Alexa built-in
- USB-C Charging
- Only 2GB of RAM
- Amazon App Store has limited apps
- Only 32GB or 64GB of storage
There are quite a few different Android tablets to pick from, especially if you're a student. Of course, use-cases are different for everyone, but our favorite Android tablet is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus for every situation. It has all the power you'll need for multitasking and to get some work done, but best of all, Samsung includes an S Pen in the box, allowing you to take notes wherever along with using the S Pen's features.
You can take advantage of the new Samsung DeX Mode for more of a desktop-like experience when you pick up Samsung's Keyboard Cover. There's even a 5G-enabled variant, making this the first Android tablet to take advantage of the fastest network speeds. Going from class to class and not needing to rely on spotty Wi-Fi can be a real game-changer.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Andrew Myrick is a regular freelancer at Android Central and iMore. He has been a tech enthusiast ever since the original iPhone was released and continues to flip-flop between devices. You might as well hook him up to an IV filled with coffee to get him through the day. If you have any questions, you can find him on Twitter, and he'll get back to you.
Michael Hicks got his tech start in 2016, covering emerging tech like VR and self-driving cars before expanding to all things tech. When he's not gaming or reading SFF novels, he writes for Android Central on everything from laptops to soundbars, home security to fitness watches.
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