Best Tablet for College: 2-in-1 Detachables, Convertibles, and More

by Reads (868,110)

Not too long ago, students wanted a laptop to do their homework on. Then tablets came along, and now an iPad or 2-in-1 is just as likely to be on their wishlist for this holiday season.

Laptops certainly still have a place, but tablets have found a market among people who like their very small and light designs, long battery lives, and simplicity. Those still trying to make up their minds should start by reading College Students Should Consider Tablets Instead of Laptops.

For parents and students trying to decide on the best tablet for college, the editors of TabletPCReview have put together a list of recommendations. Combined with the right software and accessories, these can earn a place in almost any backpack.

Stand-Alone Tablets

Some of the tablets on the market today are capable of being a student’s only computer. These are more portable than any laptop, while offering much of the same functionality, from word processing to running educational apps.

#1 Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)

Best Tablets for College Students

Surface Pro with Optional Keyboard, Pen, and Mouse

The Microsoft Surface Pro is the flagship tablet running Windows 10. It has a 12.3-inch screen, and is available with a range of processors, some very powerful  Rather than being bundled with it as some think, Microsoft’s external keyboard is an optional $160 to $130 add on, but it’s recommended for taking non-handwritten notes. There’s also an optional stylus that is especially handy when running OneNote.

Windows 10 is well suited for computers like this one that can easily transition between functioning as a tablet or a laptop, as it was designed specifically for this type of device.

Most students would be satisfied with the $799 version with an Intel Core i5 processor and 128GB of storage capacity, but there are are also more expensive  options with much more storage, some with the even speedier Core 7 chip

Read more about the Microsoft Surface Pro (2017).

Many retailers still have the older Microsoft Surface Pro 4 in stock. This isn’t as powerful as the newer version, but its $549.99 starting price might make it a better option for some students.

#2 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2017)

Best Tablet for College Students

iPad Pro with Logitech Slim Combo

The iPad is responsible for creating the tablet market we know today, and it is the best-selling option. It’s flagship model is designed to take the place of a laptop; the 12.9-inch version of the iPad Pro has 2.38 GHz 64-bit six-core processor, front- and rear-facing cameras, and 64 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB of storage capacity, depending on price. It’s very nearly as powerful as the SUrface Pro.

The Apple Smart Keyboard can turn this computer into a 2-in-1, or there are third-party options for doing the same. In addition, the Apple Pencil is pressure-sensitive stylus for taking hand-drawn notes.

The release of Microsoft Office for iPad was a paradigm shift for iOS tablets. With this productivity suite, users can work with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, and take classnotes with OneNote. Those who would prefer Google’s office applications can use them as well, and Apple offers its own suite of productivity software.

There are over a million iOS apps available, in a wide variety of categories, from ebook readers to games. In addition, there is a section of Apple’s book store dedicated to textbooks that have been enhanced with video and other multimedia content. The release of iOS 11 this fall made Apple’s tablet work more like its MacOS laptops than ever.

Be sure to read our Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2017) Review

Those debating these two computers should read our Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2017) vs Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) head-to-head comparison.

#3 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2017)

Best Tabet for College Students

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2017)

Unlike the other computers in this category, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2017) is a 14-inch convertible laptop rather than a detachable. It has a very flexible hinge that allows it to be configured into more shapes than a traditional laptop, but the keyboard can’t actually be removed. Still, this design is a popular choice for those who use their computer almost exclusively for work, with only the occasional need to make the device into a tablet shape.

This is another great Windows 10 computer built around an Intel Core i5 processor as the base model, with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. There are also alternate configurations with more storage, some with a Core i7 chip.

Unlike most of its rivals, Lenovo put in plenty of ports, including HDMI, mini-Ethernet, and multiple USB Type-A and Type-C. Just be warned, all these features come at a high price: it starts at $1,402.

There’s much more detail in our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2017) Review. Those who want an even better display should read our review of an alternate version, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED.

#4 Samsung Galaxy Book

Best Tablet for College

Samsung Galaxy Book

Samsung used to make greate Another good Windows 10-based option is the Samsung Galaxy Book. This 2-in-1 has a 12-inch or a 10-inch Super AMOLED display, and unlike many of its rivals it comes bundled with a clip-on keyboard and active pen/stylus.

It is powered by an 2.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of built-in storage. It has a minimal number of ports, depending on a pair USB-C port for almost everything, including using removable memory cards.

Don’t miss our Samsung Galaxy Book Review. This points out that the main drawback of this product is that it’s rather expensive, even compared to other high-end 2-in-1s.

 

Second-Computer Tablets

Many of the most popular tablets are ones that, while very useful, are best used in combination with another computer, like a desktop PC. The tablets are good for taking notes in class, serving as electronic textbooks, or keeping the user entertained, but might not be able to do everything a student requires.

These are mid-size or smaller tablets, but many prefer them for hand-written notes because they are smaller and easier to hold. They aren’t the best option for watching video or playing advanced games, which makes them secondary computers.

#1. Apple 10.5-inch iPad Pro

Best Tablet for College Students

Apple iPad Pro 10.5 with Smart Keyboard

The 10.5-inch version of the iPad Pro has just as much power as the larger version, but its smaller display makes it less suitable to be someone’s only computer. Still, it can run all the same applications as the 12.9-inch model, including Microsoft Office.

This tablet can be turned into a 2-in-1 with a reduced-size version of the Apple Smart Keyboard, and the Apple Pencil is available for handwritten notes.

Like its bigger brother, the smaller iPad Pro has a  2.39GHz hexa-core A10X Fusion 64-bit precessor, and is one of the few on this list available with optional 4G LTE built in. Apple doesn’t include a memory card slot, but there are microSD card readers that can attach to the Lightning port.

For help deciding what size Apple tablet is better for you, read our ‪12.9-inch iPad Pro vs. 10.5-Inch iPad Pro‬ comparison.

#2. Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1

Best Tablet for College Students

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 with S Pen

This company used to make powerful Android slates, but Google’s operating system never caught on with high-end tablet buyers. Samsung now concentrates on the mid-range market with offerings like the Galaxy Tab A 10.1.

There are two versions of this device: one that comes with a pressure-sensitive stylus is $249.99, while the one that forgoes the active open is $199.99.

This model runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow on a 1.6 GHz octa-core Exynos 7870 processor. There’s 16 GB of storage.

Naturally, it doesn’t come bundled with a keyboard, but the Logitech Universal Folio ($59.99) is designed to turn tablets like this one into 2-in-1s.

Check out our Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 Review.

#3. Apple iPad mini 4

Best Tablet for College

Apple iPad mini 4

Apple hasn’t forgotten about people who want a more portable tablet. The most recent iPad mini has a 7.9-inch screen, making it suitable as an ebook reader that can also access the Web, email, and social network apps.

The tablet has front- and rear-facing cameras but no memory card slot. It is available with 128GB of storage capacity.

There are a number of add-on keyboards available from third-party accessory makers for those who want to run this mid-size model into an ultra-portable 2-in-1.

It connects to iTunes and the App Store for movies, music, and software of all kinds.

The iPad mini 4 is available with 16GB of built-in storage in a Wi-Fi-only version for $399, and add 4G LTE for $529.

Interested? Best sure to read our Apple iPad mini 4 Review.

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2 Comments

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  1. HildyJ

    I would be very careful before I tried to use an iOS or Android tablet as a primary computer. I would put them in the second computer category and promote the Lenovo and Toshiba to the top tier and add the Surface 3 (non-Pro). The problem is that a University is a corporate environment populated with people using Windows equipment. To work with a University’s security software, email and scheduling software, teleconferencing software, etc., a PC operating system may be required. It is virtually guaranteed that a new Windows tablet will operate in the full environment but it is far from guaranteed that an iOS or Android tablet will. Also the University tech support staff will have far more experience with Windows. Phone OS tablets are great for personal use but in the corporate world, which includes Universities, I’d stick with Windows for a primary computer.

  2. Ed Hardy

    When doing research for this article I spoke with college students around the country, and I always asked whether Windows was a requirement on their campus. Universally, the answer was No. I asked how they turned in their homework, and was told that while it almost always needed to be in electronic form, Office was also not a requirement… any similar app will do. Based on this research, if you’re working at a campus that absolutely requires Windows, then you should tell your IT department that they are doing a disservice to the students and staff.