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The best tablets for students in 2021

best tablets for students
(Image credit: Tim Robberts on Getty Images)

With a new year of school started, the best tablets for students are excellent devices to invest in, if you want to make the very most of your studies. 

Studying has changed a lot in recent years, and students are now expected to be working remotely as well as in person in class. The bottom line to this is that versatility becomes of utmost importance to this new agile style of learning. And that's why tablets are such good choices.

Tablets are thin and light enough to carry around campus without bogging you down, and they often boast battery lives that easily outlast the more energy greedy laptops, so you can work on them without worrying about plugging them in through the day.

Modern tablets offer plenty of power for the vast majority of students. Android tablets and iPads have access to thousands of handy apps that can be used for studying on, from office suites to creative apps and a whole lot more.

There are also Windows tablets which run Windows 10 (and soon Windows 11), which means they can run pretty much any app you need, such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop, for example.

You can interact with tablets in various ways. You can use their touchscreens with your fingers, write and draw with a stylus, or connect a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and use them as a laptop-like device.

Then, at the end of a hard day's studying, students can relax by playing games or watching Netflix on them.

If you're looking for more great ideas for the back to school season, check out our guide to the best tablets for under $200, or the best student laptops and best drawing tablets

The best tablets for students in 2021

iPad Mini: The best tablet for students

(Image credit: Apple)

The best student tablet overall

Specifications
Weight: 293g
Dimensions: 195.4x134.8x6.3mm
Screen size: 8.3-inch IPS LCD
Storage: 64GB/256GB
Reasons to buy
+Highly portable+Serious power and +Apple Pencil 2 compatible+Great cameras
Reasons to avoid
-No 3.5mm jack

The iPad Mini was our pick for the best student tablet overall before it got its September 2021 update. Now it's still easily our top pick for students, as well as creatives overall. It combines some of the things we love the most about Apple's iconic iPad tablets, such as a gorgeous design and excellent performance, but in a shrunk-down body that makes it easy to carry around campus.

The latest 6th generation iPad mini is massively powerful, so will easily cover any student work that you need to use it for. With its Apple Pencil 2 compatibility, you can sketch, edit, write, record and upload. The screen is larger than the last iPad mini (though the body is smaller), but it's still the size of a paperback book, so how's that for portability. 

The roughly 3:2 screen is excellent, great for looking through tonnes of data-based work, and with fantastic colour accuracy and evenness, it's ideal for any creative work. And with the Wi-Fi model retailing at £479/$499/AU$749 for the 64GB version, or £619/$649/AU$979 for the 256GB version, we think this is great value for money.

iPad Pro 12.9 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

The best high-end student tablet

Specifications
Weight: 682g
Dimensions: 280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4mm
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
Screen size: 12.9-inch
Reasons to buy
+Very powerful+Excellent screen
Reasons to avoid
-Incredibly expensive

The iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) is the best tablet Apple has ever made, and while it won't be the best tablet for many students, due to its very high price tag, it's a worthy investment for anyone who is looking for a powerful tablet to study and work on.

The latest iPad Pro comes with Apple's new M1 chip, which also powers the new iMac and MacBook Pro, so that's the kind of level of power we're talking about here. This is a tablet which easily goes toe-to-toe with some of the best laptops and desktop PCs on the market, and if you combine it with a keyboard and mouse, you've got a device that will last you for years, and can a great laptop alternative.

The screen is also absolutely stunning, with a Mini LED screen, 120Hz refresh rate, and a 2048 x 2732 resolution. It's easily the best screen we've seen on a tablet. Add in top-notch performance, a great aluminum design, and support for the Apple Pencil 2 stylus, and you've got a truly exceptional tablet, especially for students on courses that need powerful devices for their courses, such as video editing and digital art.

However, this won't be a tablet for every student as it is incredibly expensive, and that may put a lot of people off. If you don't need the kind of performance offered here, there are much more affordable choices out there.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

(Image credit: Samsung)

03. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

The best Android tablet for students

Specifications
Weight: 476g
Dimensions: 244.5 x 159.5 x 5.7 mm
Screen size: 10.4-inch
Storage: 64GB/128GB
Reasons to buy
+Nice design+S Pen stylus included
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most powerful

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is a brilliant Android tablet for students as it offers a premium device without the huge price tag. It's one of the more affordable tablets on this list, and is a cheaper version of the Galaxy Tab S6, but that doesn't mean Samsung has cut too many corners.

It still offers excellent performance, and its build quality is anything but budget. By keeping the price down, it's a great student tablet as it means you're not spending all of your student loan on it. You also won't worry about carrying it around with you, which can be an issue with more expensive - and flashy - tablets.

Unlike many of the tablets on here, it comes with a stylus included. The S-Pen is a perfectly decent stylus, and while it can't compete with some of the more advanced styluses out there, it's fine for note taking and doodles, and it's nice that it's included here, saving you a bit of extra money.

Microsoft Surface Go 2

(Image credit: Microsoft)

04. Microsoft Surface Go 2

The best Windows tablet for students

Specifications
Weight: 1.22 lb (553 grams)
Dimensions: 245 x 175 x 8.3 mm
Screen size: 10.5-inch
Storage: 64GB eMMC – 128GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Premium design+Affordable+Can run full Windows 10
Reasons to avoid
-No Touch Cover or stylus included-Base model's specs are weak

While the Apple App Store and Google's Play Store offer plenty of apps for iPads and Android tablets respectively, neither can compare with the versatility of a Windows 10 device. While the Microsoft Store lags in apps compared to Apple and Google, you can download and install any application you would on a laptop or desktop running Windows 10.

So, unlike making do with mobile creative apps, for example, you can install the full version of Adobe Photoshop, which makes Windows 10 tablets great student devices. 

The Surface Go 2 is our choice as the best Windows tablet for students because it runs Windows 10 and a stylish, lightweight design. Microsoft's Surface products are premium, stylish, devices, and the Go line retain those qualities while coming in at a lower price point.

So, while it's not the most powerful tablet out there, it's affordable, and that makes it a great choice for students. Invest in the Type Cover, and you can protect the screen and turn the Surface Go 2 into great Windows 10 laptop, perfect for writing up essays on.

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020)

(Image credit: Amazon)

05. Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020)

The best budget tablet for students

Specifications
Weight: 355g
Dimensions: 202 x 137 x 9.7mm
Screen size: 8-inch
Storage: 32GB/64GB
Reasons to buy
+Super-low price+Great front camera placement
Reasons to avoid
-Poor screen quality-Locked to Amazon’s ecosystem

The Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020) is a great cheap tablet for students. As long as you don't go in expecting the kind of features and performance of the likes of the iPad Pro, then the Amazon Fire HD 8 will pleasantly surprise you.

The latest model comes with some decent specs despite the budget price, and Amazon has upped the performance from its predecessor, while keeping it's ultra-low price.

If you shop on Amazon a lot, and have a Prime membership, when you'll find a lot to like with this tablet, and it'll run plenty of apps that can help you with your studies. It's also a good performer when it comes to entertainment. There's Amazon Prime, of course, along with Netflix and Disney Plus, and they all run well and look good on the 8-inch screen. If you want a tablet but don't want to spend much, then this is a great budget choice.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

(Image credit: Microsoft)

A great high-end Windows tablet

Specifications
Weight: 771g
Dimensions: 292 x 201 x 8.5mm
Screen size: 12.3-inch
Storage: 128GB – 1TB
Reasons to buy
+Great design+Wi-Fi 6 support
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey

If you like the look of the Surface Go 2 earlier in this list, but want something with a bit more power, then Microsoft's also go the Surface Pro 7, its latest high-end Windows tablet.

This is a great tablet for students looking for a stylish device to work on. It's got cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6, so wireless speeds are faster and more reliable, and it's got a gorgeous screen as well. It also comes with powerful components, which makes running Windows 10, and any application you rely on for your studies, a dream.

If you pair it with a Type Cover, it turns it into a formidable laptop-like device. It's thinner and lighter than any laptop you could buy, and its battery life is great as well. You can also choose from a variety of configurations, so you can pick a model that best suits your needs and budget.

However, even the cheapest configurations are still quite pricey, which may make it less suitable for some students. In that case, the Surface Go 2 is a better option.

Huawei MatePad Pro

(Image credit: Huawei)

07. Huawei MatePad Pro

The best 2-in-1 tablet

Specifications
Weight: 460g
Dimensions: 246 x 159 x 7.2mm
Screen size: 10.8-inch
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Reasons to buy
+Powerful+Can be used like a laptop
Reasons to avoid
-No headphone jack

Huawei is becoming an increasingly impressive force to be reckoned with in the tablet world, and the MatePad Pro is perhaps its best tablet yet. It's powerful and stylish, with a 10.8-inch screen and battery life that you'd expect from a more expensive tablet.

In fact, despite being almost half the price, the MatePad Pro even gives the mighty iPad Pro a run for its money, which means it's a brilliant more affordable alternative, especially for people who want an Android tablet.

However, we should point out that while it runs Android, it doesn't have access to the Google Play app store, or other Google apps. Instead it has Huawei alternatives, and while many of them do a great job, some people may be disappointed to find their favourite apps aren't there, so if you are tempted, it may be worth doing a bit of research first.

There's no denying the performance of this tablet, however, and if you combine it with a stylus and keyboard, you've got an excellent 2-in-1 tablet to help you with your studies.

iPad Air 4 (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

Another great Apple tablet for students

Specifications
Weight: 458g
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm
Screen size: 10.9-inch
Storage: 64GB/256GB
Reasons to buy
+Great build quality+Thin and light
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey-64GB option lacks space

The iPad Air 4 (2020) is, as the name suggests, an incredibly thin and light tablet, and that means it's a great choice for students who are after a device they can put in their backpack and almost forget it's there.

As with Apple's other iPads, it has a fantastic design and a stunning screen, and App Store has a brilliant array of apps and games, so no matter what course you're taking, or what kind of games you like playing, the iPad Air 4 will have a choice for you.

Power-wise it's got the same chip as the iPhone 12, so it's definitely no slouch, and while it can't compete with the iPad Pro, it doesn't need to - it's much cheaper, for a start, and for almost every iPad app out there, it offers more than enough power. Plus, hook up a Smart Keyboard, and you've got an excellent tablet that can also be used as a laptop, which is great for when you need to write out long essays.

One thing to note, however, is that the cheapest model comes with just 64GB of storage, and unlike some Android tablets, there's no memory card slot for adding extra space. You may find that 64GB storage quickly filling up

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Matt Hanson

Matt has been a technology journalist for well over a decade, writing for publications such as T3, MacFormat and Creative Bloq. He's a senior editor of TechRadar, Creative Bloq's sister site, where he can be found writing about and reviewing laptops, computers, monitors and more. He often writes for Creative Bloq, helping creatives find their perfect laptop or PC.