Back to School Tech Shopping: Best Tablet Edition from iPad to Nexus 7
August is the one best times to buy electronics, as students and teachers get ready to head back to school, every retailer in the country will be slashing prices and raising promos in order to lure customers to their stores. This makes it the best times for students AND non-students, who are looking to upgrade to new devices.
One of the most important gadgets on almost every list this year is the tablet. It’s the TI-87 of the millennial generation and we picked the seven best that everyone should consider this year. Now if we included every tablet that we enjoyed, you would be reading a novel instead of a shopping guide. These are standouts, the brands you can rely on for continued support and the best in their class according to our editorial team.
In no particular order here are the top 7 from this year’s crop, we’ve added links that open in new windows so you can compare without having to keep jumping back and forth to check out the next options.
The Google Nexus 7
Shown above when it was announced with the new Chromecast, this is one of the latest tablets to hit the market. In fact, it just launched last July to amazing reviews across the board. This version is another Nexus made by Asus, and it’s one of the thinnest and lightest tablets that are on the market. While thin and light, the device still features some amazing features and specs. The front holds an HD LCD display with a 1.2 megapixel camera. The back has a 5 megapixel camera and the device supports Bluetooth 4.0 and also has a micro USB 2.0 port.
With the Nexus 7 though, it’s the inside that shines. Nexus 7 is the first tablet to launch with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, and the device is incredibly fast and response thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro 8064 processor rated at 1.5GHz.
Price: $229.99 (16GB), $299 (32GB), $349 (4G LTE)
see more photos and specs on Amazon
The iPad Retina Display or the iPad Mini
We are going to lump these two together since so many features of the two versions crossover. The iPad is the baseline for tablets, it’s the brand that started the trend and it is still one of the best tablets that money can buy. When it comes to the iPad Mini or the iPad with Retina the choice comes down to one factor really, the screen.
While the iPad Mini’s screen is nothing to balk at, the Retina Display completely outshines it. You will be sacrificing a lot of screen resolution for the small, compact-size of the iPad Mini but you make up for that choice with the cheaper price.
The iPad Mini weighs only 308 grams, has a 5 megapixel camera on the back and can record in 1080p HD. With Apple you have an app store that is still the premiere destination for almost every developer, but Google Play is easily comparable now. The mini comes with the A6 chip as well, ensuring that you will have the processing power you need for almost any app that you require.
The iPad Retina is everything that iPad mini is but with more to offer at a higher price. More than 3 million pixels make up the retina display, it’s the top-tier of tablets and the A6X chip is the fastest that Apple offers. It’s the tier-one Apple Tablet, and you will be able to handle anything that the developers on the App Store throw at you. The large screen will make taking notes in Pages a lot easier. If you will be using a tablet to just communicate or watch a little online-streaming, the iPad Mini will work just fine. If you are looking for something that will also function in the classroom or office, we would suggest the larger version.
iPad Retina Price: $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), $699 (64GB), $799 (128GB)
iPad Mini Price: Price: $329 (16GB), $429 (32GB) and $529 (64GB)
see more images and specs: Apple
Microsoft Surface or Microsoft Surface RT
So there is some clarification that is needed here for anyone that isn’t sure what the RT version and Pro version does, or doesn’t do. This small branding difference has caused a few headaches at Microsoft this past year. The Microsoft Surface Pro is one of the most powerful and advanced tablets on the market. Microsoft did an amazing job creating a tablet/PC blend that will allow you to run almost anything you could hope for on a tablet device. It comes with an Intel Core i5 chip, the same chip family that is offered in a Macbook Pro, it’s amazingly fast for a tablet. The large screen 16:9 widescreen offers the ClearType full HD display with 1080p resolution as well. This is the workhorse of Tablets, if you are PC driven, then this is one of the best tablets you can buy…period. The problem is, it costs a lot more than the other options.
To make a more affordable model, Microsoft made the Surface RT but same UI (Windows 8) and striking similarity between the Surface Pro and the Surface RT seemed to confuse buyers this year, and they were upset with the watered-down version of the RT system. If you know what you’re getting with the RT, the newly lowered price makes it a viable choice in today’s market. Windows 8.1 is coming to the tablet and PC family and it will fix a lot of the issues people had with the platform. The RT model offers touch-optimized Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, with Outlook on the way in Windows RT 8.1. The Microsoft Build conference this year really focused on all the Apps that are coming to Windows 8 so, just like the Kindle Fire, the device should catch-up to the other tablets in its class. Windows 8 syncs across all devices as well, so if you are running Windows 8 on your laptop or desktop, there are a lot of advantages to owning a Surface.
Microsoft Surface Pro Price: Starting at $899
Microsoft Surface RT Price: Starting at $349
See more images and specs: MicrosftStore
Kindle Fire HD
Amazon’s premiere tablet started off a little slower when it came to Apps, but that has drastically changed over the last few months, and developers now realize the Kindle Fire HD is here to stay. The screen on the Kindle Fire HD is vibrant and top-notch, the large 8.9″ screen-size makes watching media and working on the tablet a little easier and a lot more enjoyable than the smaller tablets.
Amazon also offers a ton of features bundled into the tablet, like cloud hosting all of your media, its own Apps store and other extras that you should definitely consider if you’re looking for a cheaper option for your back-to-school tablet choice. This tablet excels at media, but not pictures, there is a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video-chat, but it does not have a camera on the back.
Price: $159.99 (16 GB), $189 (32GB)
see more iamges and specs: Amazon
Galaxy Note 10.1
One of the fastest tablets on the market and still recommended by many in the industry, the Galaxy Note 10.1 offers a quad-core processor, a stylus pen function and terrific multitasking. The stylus allows you to capture ‘handwritten’ notes, which could be a real lifesaver in the classroom or office, and the multitasking is perfect for study-sessions or meetings where you may have more than one task going at the same time but still want to Tweet about it.
The beefy 1.4GHz Exynos Quad-Core Processor handles all of this very well, while 10.1″ WXGA (1280×800) LCD display is still one of the largest you can find.
Price: $449 (16 GB) and $499 (32 GB) see more info: Samsung