The Best Tablet for College
As a student at college, you might be looking for a powerful yet affordable productivity device for note-taking and more. While a new laptop will certainly fit the bill, modern tablets have become powerful enough to tackle most college tasks and deliver a seamless user experience throughout. Tablets are also (on average) cheaper than laptops due to their smaller size. They are much lighter besides allowing you to take them with you wherever you go.
There are many tablet options in the current market, and the perfect one will depend on how you intend to use it. Perhaps one of the best improvements is moving from traditional Android-based systems to Windows 10, allowing users to use the device much like a standard PC. However, Android tablets are still powerful, and the plethora of apps on Google Play will allow you to find just the productivity tool to get the job done.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most popular and efficient tablets that every college student should keep in mind when looking for a new device to fill the void between their phone and a desktop PC.
The Microsoft Surface Go 2 is a midpoint between a tablet and a small laptop. It can function well as a note-taking and productivity device on its own, but it can be paired with a stylus or a keyboard and mouse combo to provide better results and enhance its capabilities.
The tablet comes with a comfortable 4GB of RAM and 64GB of SSD storage, which should be more than enough to meet a college student’s needs. If you want to upgrade, an 8GB RAM version exists with 128GBs of memory, which can be a worthwhile upgrade if you run more demanding programs. You can put an SD card to improve storage space on a budget and keep files more accessible to other devices if you don’t have internet access.
The Intel Pentium m3 processor, alongside the integrated graphics, allows the tablet to work snippy and do small tasks incredibly fast and without delay. Don’t expect greatness when it comes to gaming performance, though, since this is a tablet first and foremost rather than an all-in-one device.
The device runs on Windows 10, which means it behaves more like a PC than a mobile device, a definite upside if you need PC-specific programs for college work. With a 10.6-inch display and weighing just 1.2lbs, this is a highly portable device that can fit inside your bag and easily replace a few books. The battery life is also solid, with the manufacturer claiming about 10 hours of use (obviously depending on the load), but it should easily last a full day at school without a hitch.
One of the key points to note for the Go 2 is that it doesn’t come with the keyboard or stylus, so you’ll have to source them elsewhere. While this might not be a huge deal, it’s one more thing to worry about and count in the budget. Overall, the Surface Go 2 is a relatively affordable tablet/laptop hybrid that can stand its ground against dedicated laptops in a similar price range.
- Versatility of a 2-in-1 device
- Windows 10
- Solid entry price
- Accessories sold separately
- Not the cheapest option
If you’re fond of Microsoft’s line of portable devices, then the Surface Pro is a product you should definitely consider, assuming you have the budget for it. This small device pushes the boundaries of what a tablet is and can do, slowly eking into the laptop space, and we’re not sure if that’s a benefit.
The 12.3-inch display and 1.7lbs weight make this one of the bulkier models around, but it’s still perfectly mobile and serviceable if you want a device on the go. However, a smaller 13.3-inch laptop is incredibly close and might be more worthwhile depending on your college needs.
The Surface Pro 7 comes with a baseline of 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD storage, both of which can be improved for an added cost. However, getting 16GB RAM might be a bit overkill since it is unlikely to perform like a desktop PC due to its size and CPU limitations, likely putting the excess memory to waste. While the above can be a bit harsh, the truth is that it performs beautifully for what it was designed to do. It can take notes, finish smaller tasks, and be a serviceable replacement for a midrange laptop.
The fact that it runs on Windows 10 makes it even more appealing over similar Android models. You might even get some older games to run with a playable FPS on it, although the smaller screen might curb your enjoyment. One thing of concern with the Pro 7 is the price tag. It becomes exceedingly expensive to buy, especially when considering you can get a laptop to do similar work at half the price. You’re paying for compactness and CPU performance here, but you’ll need to make up your mind whether that’s worth the cost.
- Compact and lightweight
- Extremely fast 2-in-1 device
- Excellent memory
- Can replace a desktop
- Not budget-friendly
- Accessories sold separately
- Might be too large
Sometimes, moving away from well-known brands can be a good thing. Independent brands typically use similar system components and can get away with lower prices due to a smaller marketing effort to sell their products. Fusion5 is an independent tablet brand that combines excellent products with stellar pricing for college students.
While this tablet doesn’t have the largest display, the 10.1 inches will provide a perfect view for note-taking and snapping photos while in class. The 4GB RAM and the Intel quad-core processor below the screen ensure seamless operations, allowing you to enjoy a wide range of apps. The FWIN232 comes with Windows 10 S, a special operating system that only supports Windows Store applications.
Users can upgrade this system to a regular Windows 10 copy free of charge directly in the device. Effectively, you can get a fully functioning Windows 10 tablet for a bargain. The tablet has 64GB of SSD storage, which should be enough to satisfy a college student’s needs for notes, lectures, and videos, especially considering how much data can fit on an additional SD card (up to 256GB). The device also has a standard USB 3.0 slot and a somewhat peculiar micro HDMI slot.
Overall, if you want the efficiency and versatility of Windows 10 on an affordable tablet that can perform minor tasks in a pinch, the Fusion5 FWIN232 could be your best bet. However, it’s missing much of the robustness of the more expensive models.
- Windows 10 tablet
- Solid performance
- Relatively low external quality
- Only 10.1-inch screen
- Mediocre camera
Samsung Galaxy tablets are always among the forerunners when it comes to system specifications and performance, and the newer S7 is not slacking in either of these categories. With its impressive 12.4-inch display, this tablet can be easily mistaken for a smaller laptop, and the similarities don’t end there.
Equipped with the powerful Snapdragon 865+ octa-core processor with a maximum speed of 3.09GHz and 6GB of RAM (or eight on a pricier model), this tablet breezes through even the most demanding programs. It runs on Android OS, giving users a stellar user experience and peerless customization of appearance and function alike.
The tablet can be equipped with 128, 256, or 512GB of SSD storage, depending on how much you’re willing to spend, and an SD card slot for up to 1 TB of additional memory, taking care of any memory requirements. Seriously, some PCs don’t have this much storage available.
The tablet comes with a lightning-fast stylus for all artistic and note-taking needs, and a cover (sold separately) can hold them together. The back camera isn’t anything to scoff at, with 14MP ready to take accurate shots when needed. Due to its large size, this is a slightly heavier tablet at around 1.8lbs. However, the materials used are top-notch and highly durable, protecting the tablet from small dings and scratches.
Samsung also includes a 45W charger to reduce the device’s downtime and increase overall battery performance, with up to 14 hours of video streaming (according to the manufacturer) from the 8000 mAh Li-Po. A slight letdown in this expanded tablet is that it doesn’t have a USB slot or an audio jack, which some college students might consider indispensable. You’ll have to make do with a converter from the available USB-C port.
- Lightning fast
- Quick charging
- Extremely large screen
- Can function as a laptop
- Android OS
- Keyboard sold separately
- No USB 3.0/4.0 port or audio jack
- Slightly bulkier
- Doesn’t use Windows
If you prefer Android tablets and don’t need a large screen to satisfy your college needs, then Lenovo’s compact M10 Plus might be right up your alley. Hiding behind the 10.3-inch screen is a solid CPU and performance, especially considering the meager cost.
This Android tablet uses the MediaTek Helio octa-core processor, with a mix of 2.3GHz and 1.8GHz core to speed through demanding programs. The 4GB of RAM (recommended) will be more than enough to run a few apps without any worries and even spend some idle time playing games. While this device is cheap, there are a few concessions that you need to keep in mind. The maximum capacity is 64GB, and only if you spend a significant chunk of the budget on upgrades over the standard 32GB version.
The baseline OS is Android 9, which is by this point a few versions behind. While the M10 Plus is primarily marketed as a family device, it can do wonders in the hands of a college student who needs to take some quick notes and stay connected throughout the day. If you’re able to find a stylus that will write on the tablet (since there isn’t one included), you’re pretty much set.
As far as audio and video performance is concerned, the Lenovo M10 is around the middle of the pack. The Dolby audio drivers will do solid work when playing video and music, and the screen resolution is excellent with an IPS screen that displays colors well. The onboard 5MP back camera is slightly behind the times, but you can probably use your phone to snap any pictures quickly, so it shouldn’t be a huge deal. Overall, if you’re on a budget and need a small device to carry around, the Lenovo M10 Plus can be the best thing you never knew you needed until now. Just be wary of the slippery backside and purchase a case that holds the tablet snugly.
- Affordable option
- Great display
- Solid performance
- Uses Android 9
- No official stylus support
If you want a 2-in-1 device that can function both as a tablet and a laptop when needed, but the Microsoft Surface line is out of your budget, then this Acer Chromebook might be the perfect fit. The “convertible” style of the model allows its screen to flip back and behave just like a standard tablet.
The Spin 311 has a pretty powerful MediaTek octa-core CPU that can handle more demanding tasks without delays and will hold its own when loading games as well. The 4GB RAM is there to ensure seamless operation and prevent stuttering. Chromebooks use the specially designed Chrome OS, allowing them to make full use of Google’s assortment of programs and productivity apps while on the move. While it’s not Windows 10, it will get the job done if you need a laptop/tablet combo that can handle taking notes and minor work.
The screen size is 11.6 inches, but the device overall gets pretty heavy considering it has a laptop casing, with a total weight of 2.6lbs. The screen is not full HD, sadly, so you’ll have to make do with slightly lower resolutions for videos during downtime. The memory capacity leaves quite a bit to be desired at 32GB, but you can outfit it with an SD card, and any Chromebooks would be able to make extensive use of Google Drive’s cloud storage. Overall, if you want a smaller Chromebook that can function as a tablet when needed, then the Spin 311 is the perfect choice when the budget is an issue.
- 2-in-1 laptop and tablet
- Good battery life
- No full HD screen
- Slightly heavier
- Only one USB port for connections
Chromebooks offer a perfect blend of mobility and efficiency, and Lenovo is one of the top performers for designing streamlined, valuable products for a wide range of uses. The Duet Chromebook is a tablet that comes with an attachable magnetic keyboard, transforming a touchscreen into a fully functioning laptop for quick note-taking and browsing.
The Mediatek Helio P60T octa-core processor will make short work of just about any apps you’re trying to run on the native Chrome OS. The 4GB of RAM should be plenty to work with when you need to power up the memory-hungry browser. While the screen size on this Chromebook is nothing much, just over 10 inches, it has a full HD screen that shows crisp colors. The integrated graphics might not be suitable for hardcore gaming needs, but a mobile game here and there will work great during breaks.
The 7000mAh battery has a reported uptime of up to 10 hours, although this can get significantly shorter if you constantly run demanding apps or programs. The Duet only has a single USB-C port and no other connectivity ports, making it somewhat of a hassle if you need multiple external devices like a hard drive, headphones, and a charger at the same time. If you want to use a stylus with this tablet, you’ll have to obtain a third-party product since there is no official stylus included inside.
The Lenovo Duet Chromebook is the perfect entry-level product if you need a robust, reliable device for daily work and notes, even with some of its smaller drawbacks. If you want to try this product, but it’s slightly out of your budget range, consider opting for a refurbished model. You can usually get a 1-year warranty and a reconditioned tablet that functions as good as new.
- Can function as a laptop
- Solid battery usage
- Meager internal storage
- Only one USB-C port for externals
- Stylus not included
If we’re talking about the best tablets on the market, we can’t leave out Apple’s iPad line of products. The iPad has been one of the most popular mobile devices for several years, and it isn’t letting off any time soon. Depending on their budget and performance needs, users can choose between an 11-inch or a 12.9-inch XDR display. Whatever the option you choose, the internals will provide seamless performance that is hard to quantify.
The pictures and video will look flawless with a 2400×1670 resolution for the smaller screen, and editing them is a breeze. Since Apple designs the CPU in-house, it rarely provides information on specifications that can be directly compared to other products and brands. The M1 chip is specifically built to deliver the best results for the iPad, with eight CPU and GPU cores plowing through the 8GB of available RAM, or 16GB if you have money to spare.
It also doesn’t lack storage space, with 128GB through 2TB of SSD storage available. The iPad also has a notable 12 MP dual back camera to snap excellent photos when the smartphone is not available. You also get a single USB 4 port for connectivity, so have fun figuring out how to make every external fit with various connectors and converters.
You can use a second-generation Apple Pencil with the iPad, although you’d have to eke out a bit more money to purchase that separately since it’s not included. Overall, if you have the means to purchase an Apple product and pay for the added Apple Pencil, you really can’t go wrong with the iPad. While it won’t work as well as a laptop, it certainly is streamlined for daily tasks, light browsing, and note-taking.
- Extremely streamlined
- Variety of options available
- Excellent display
- Only one connector
- Apple Pencil adds to the price significantly