Back-To-School Shopping: 5 Top-Reviewed Tablets For Students

Students can use tablets in place of notebooks and textbooks, but can a tablet take the place of laptop computer?

Tablets can make schoolwork easier with apps that offer speech-to-text recording, ebook downloads and file sharing. 

Today, tablets can do more than stream your favorite movies and TV shows. Tablet reviews show that the top-rated tablets on Viewpoints can also act as tools to increase student success. With a wide range of features to keep students at the top of their class, it’s worth considering one of these five tablets for students.

What to look for in tablets for students

If you’re back to school shopping for tablets for students, there are three points you’ll want to consider: price, app availability and word processing capability. Electronics have a shortened life expectancy in a college setting (I went through two laptops crash in four years) so you should factor the cost of repair or replacement into your budget. Finally, if you’re shopping for a note-taker, you may want to consider a Bluetooth capable keyboard to go along with the tablet.

1. Apple iPad 3 with Wi-Fi + 4G


For about $30, you can buy an iPad case that comes with a keyboard for quick and efficient typing.

The Apple iPad 3 with Wi-Fi + 4G (approx. $590) comes in first place with a Viewpoints score of 95/100 based on 71 reviews.

Word Processing – Voted best on Viewpoints for School/College Use and Business Use, the iPad 3 has plenty of word-processing apps available, including Pages, QuickOffice and Documents to Go.

What reviewers think

“I do freelance work, and am also currently back in school, so having the iPad has allowed me to both work and get school assignments (including heavy research) done while traveling.” —frackers23, Reviewer since 2012

“I use it daily to write notes for school, browsing the web, and to play games. The battery life doesn’t last long with the brightness turned up, so I keep it all the way down and I can get a good 8 hours our of it.” —Jirachi68106, Reviewer since 2010

“My husband uses his for school work and he can easily put power point [presentations] on his ipad and follow along, making notes on the side.” —emmacreek, Reviewer since 2010

2. Google Nexus 7 Tablet


For just $19, you can purchase a keyboard case for the Google Nexus 7 tablet.

The Google Nexus 7 Tablet (approx. $280) comes in second place with a viewpoints rating of 94/100 based on 97 reviews. Only one point behind the iPad 3, this tablet costs more than $300 dollars less than the iPad. If you’re not heavily reliant on the iOS operating system, the Google Nexus 7 is a smart, affordable tablet option.

Word Processing – This tablet comes with free access to Google Drive and puts Google Documents, Presentations and Spreadsheets at your fingertips. 

What reviewers think

“For reading, it’s convenient to be able to download .pdf and .docs so you can read your own college study guides, stories, and the whatnots. You can disable screen rotation so that the text won’t rotate around when you roll or change positions.” —LiLKagome378, Reviewer since 2010

“The Nexus 7 tablet is one of the best cost effective tablets on the market. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a tablet that can help them with multi-tasking. This tablet is good for someone who needs to stay connected to the web world, do their homework or send and receive emails and also something to do while taking long trips to stay entertained.” —rocheau, Reviewer since 2007

3. Amazon Kindle Fire


There are several keyboards available for the Kindle Fire.

The Amazon Kindle Fire (approx. $159) has a score of 93/100 based on an incredible 905 reviews. Although it is marketed as an eBook, the Kindle Fire’s functionality is able to compete with the tablets on our list.

Word Processing – The Kindle Fire can be used with a number of word processing apps and comes preloaded with Amazon Office Suite.

What reviewers think

“Definitely buy this. I don’t have an iPad but this is pretty close. I can do everything that can be done on a PC.” - mommasboysto2, Reviewer since 2011

“This gadget provides many applications to use. Perfect for college students to use especially using the ebooks such as college textbooks. Much more affordable alternative to the apple ipad.” - marti104, Reviewer since 2012

“I absolutely love my Amazon Kindle Fire! It has most of the functions of a computer or laptop withou the ease and convenience of portability.” - vbagshaw81, Reviewer since 2011

4. Samsung Galaxy Tab 2


The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 is compatible with most wireless keyboards.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2  (approx. $169) has a score of 92/100 based on 7 reviews, earning it the #4 spot on our countdown. A good choice for students looking to stay connected with family, the Galaxy Tab 2 has front and rear cameras and is equipped with Group Chat and Voice Call functions.

Word Processing –  This tablet has major processing power. It comes with Polaris Office which allows you to create word documents, presentations and spreadsheets and is compatible with Microsoft Office.

What reviewers think

“As an Apple iPad owner, I never really thought I would like a tablet. I love the Galaxy Tab 2. I wish it had the cellular but as long as I can get wifi, it is just as good as my iPad.” —vnaiman, Reviewer since 2007

“Fantastic tablet, I received this tablet for Christmas to use to make my options more portable and not have to take my laptop everywhere with me. I am still learning how to use my different options on it but right now everything I have found has been great it works smoothly and quickly.” —Cindygshep, Reviewer since 2007

5. Barnes & Noble Nook HD+


While it offers fantastic graphics, the Nook HD+ can’t keep up with the word processing or social media power of other tablets.

With a score of 92/100 based on 13 reviews, the Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ Tablet (approx. $150 for 16 GB) is fifth in our line-up, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer. With the recent addition of Google Play, the Nook Tablet now offers more than 700,000 Android Apps, Google Chrome for web browsing, a 9-inch screen and expandable memory.

Word Processing – The Nook Tablet HD+  is not yet compatible with any physical keyboards. If you’re looking for a tablet with more functionality than an eReader, the Nook probably isn’t right for you.

What Reviewers think

Barnes and Noble also has a good selection of free ebooks. Also you can download kindle book e-reader apps as well so that makes it very versatile as an e-read.” —thirty9nholding, Reviewer since 2007

“Depending on what you want to do with this tablet, the nook is acceptable. if all you need to do is surf the web, access email and play popular apps, then this tablet is adequate.” —mugzeesmom, Reviewer since 2007

The Bottom Line

When it comes to buying a tablet for college students, look for one that offers functions to simplify student life in and outside of the classroom. Whether you’re a student who wants to video chat with your folks everyday, or a parent who wants to ensure your child can read their textbooks digitally, one of these tablets can make the difficult world of college life a little easier.

Amber Rambharose is a writing intern at Viewpoints. She just graduated from Hollins University with a B.A. in English Literature and will be continuing her studies this fall at the University of Cincinnati.

Amber Rambharose Amber Rambharose (50 Posts)

Amber Rambharose is a former writing intern at Viewpoints. She graduated from Hollins University with a B.A. in English Literature and is continuing her studies at the University of Cincinnati.