For the modern student, a tablet might be the single best accessory since the backpack. It can hold a four-year degree’s worth of important stuff, including everything from school papers and textbooks to music and movie collections.
Add a keyboard and your tablet can even take the place of laptop, though you’ll want to check with your school to make sure there aren’t specific software requirements a tablet can’t meet. For example, some colleges require students to use Microsoft Office. Normally that would dictate a laptop, but there are two tablets capable of running the suite: Microsoft’s Surface, which conveniently comes with Office, and Apple’s iPad, which requires an Office 365 subscription.
Here are some other things to keep in mind when shopping for a new tablet.
Models like the Surface and iPad make good choices for students not just because they can run familiar software, but also because they have comparatively large screens. The 10.6-inch Surface, 10.1-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, 10-inch Google Nexus 10, and 9.7-inch iPad are among the tablets offering sufficient space for word processing, at the same time allowing for comfortable Web browsing, textbook viewing, and (during study breaks), movie watching.
But make sure to investigate your keyboard options. Microsoft offers two for the Surface: the Touch Cover and Type Cover, the latter’s traveling keys a much better choice for note-taking, paper-writing students. Various third-party companies offer keyboard/case combos for the iPad. If you can’t find a keyboard that’s designed specifically for the tablet you’re interested in, look for a generic option like Logitech’s Tablet Keyboard for Android and Windows or the Kensington KeyFolio Pro.
Can’t decide between a tablet and a laptop? Consider a hybrid and you don’t have to. The Windows 8-powered Asus VivoTab Smart, for example, can be paired with an optional screen-cover/stand and Bluetooth keyboard, while the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 looks (and functions) like a traditional laptop until you pivot its 11.6-inch screen a full 360 degrees into tablet mode. For anyone keen to keep within the Windows ecosystem while still enjoying the benefits of a tablet, it’s definitely a best-of-both-worlds solution.
If you’re not necessarily looking for a laptop replacement, you might prefer a smaller, lighter, less-expensive tablet like the 8-inch Galaxy Tab 3, 7.9-inch iPad Mini, or 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire HD. Models like these tend to be better for consuming content than creating it; they’re great if you simply want to read books, watch movies, and play games. And with prices typically in the $200-300 range, they’re a little easier on the student budget.