Although tablets often don't come with a traditional mouse and keyboard, they can actually make for a great and practical alternative to school laptops (opens in new tab) or even Chromebooks for school (opens in new tab).
An immediate selling point is their portability, as tablets are generally smaller, more lightweight, and easier to carry than laptops/notebooks/Chromebooks, especially the smaller 7 and 8 inch models that we’ll look at here.
Additionally, a lot of educational software now runs as Software as a Service (opens in new tab), such as Google Classroom and BBC Bitesize, meaning you only need to a browser to access the learning resources. Other essential software for school will also probably be the same, such as an Office 365 (opens in new tab) subscription provided by the school, college, or university.
The result is that you don’t really need a computing device with much of a hard drive because most work will be saved to an online storage (opens in new tab) service in the cloud anyway. Make sure you check out our best graphing calculators buying guide as well.
Here then are the tablets we think will be best suited for school use.
The Amazon Fire is a very affordable range of tablets that are always worth considering buying into. While some people might prefer the larger or HD versions, here we’ll simply recommend the simplest Fire 7 tablet as it’s just so cheap it’s hard to pass it by. Even better is that it’s reliable and will easily be able to cope with online course work.
Although it only comes with 1 GB of RAM, the quadcore processor makes short work of any tasks it needs to handle, so you’re unlikely to see much in the way of lag with even this cheapest of models. And while it also only comes with limited storage as standard, with 16 GB and 32 GB versions, there is an SD card slot to expand this as required.
Of course, a great selling point of the Fire tablets is the way they are fully integrated into the Amazon ecosystem, so whether it’s the Alexa assistant or the Kindle ebooks - many available for free or at discount - this tablet can offer cheap and easy access to so many useful services. And the 7 inch screen makes it easy to use everywhere.
While the Fire tablets are great in almost every way, they do come with a limited range of apps, even though the FireOS is based on Android. This may not be so much of an issue for school use, though. What is disappointing is that parents with an Amazon Prime membership can only share this with their children on the parent’s own tab, meaning children can’t easily access free books on their own Fire that would otherwise be available with Prime.
Overall, the Fire 7 is a great all round tablet, and at this price it’s hard to ignore, especially for use in schools.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is a cheaper version of the Galaxy Tab S6, and it's a great choice for school use. Rather than offering a smaller tablet it instead loses a couple of high-end specs to keep the price down.
Samsung hasn't included a top-end chipset or the greatest cameras here, but its low price means it's ideal for students, as it's not a big investment.
If you're sure an Android tablet will do what you need it to, Samsung products are some of the very best on the market and you'd be hard pressed to go wrong with opting for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite.
The Huawei Mediapad T3 is an 8” tab that allows for a little more working screen room, without too much of a price hike over the Dragon Touch, making it another accessible and cheap Android tablet for use with school work.
Although it only comes with a standard 16GB of internal memory, like most of the other tablets listed here this can be extended via an SD memory card. And if you’re concerned about what your children can access, there are smart parental controls for accessing apps and other content.
Overall, in terms of functionality and technical specs, the Huawei Mediapad T3 is similar to the Dragon Touch is most ways, with the exception of having a larger screen and therefore a larger price tag to go with it. Otherwise it’s affordable and competent device.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inch is, as the product title suggests, another 8” Android tablet, and a step up from the Huawei Mediatab. While this Samsung Galaxy Tab has slightly improved technical specifications, not least with a faster processor, it also comes with Samsung’s reputation for solid builds. Although this is an older model, it’s still a robust and reliable tablet that should be great for all kinds of school work.
As with other Android tablets there is access to the Google Play Store and the apps there, some of which may prove additionally useful on top of any existing web apps provided by the school.
What’s especially good about the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inch is that the size still keeps it manageably portable for children, but the price is also very reasonable, making this a great choice as a useful tablet for use not just in school but also for general usage.
The iPad Mini is probably the most expensive of the tablets listed here, but it’s also the best overall. And while it has larger and more famous cousins, we think the iPad Mini is probably going to be the most practical for school use, with its small size making it easy to carry around while still containing a powerhouse of a machine inside.
Aside from its powerful processor and strong RAM that will handle most anything you can use it for, it also has an excellent camera and recording facilities which could make it easily useful for recording lessons/lectures as well as snapping up notes from the whiteboard or projector display.
There’s also its very high resolution True Tone screen so that all images are crisp and sharp, plus various storage options from 64 GB to 256 GB, as well as online storage options using iCloud, which is free for the first 5 GB.
Of course, there are also a ton of apps available, including a range of education and graphics apps which could also be useful, and of course its compatible with the Apple Pencil for drawing.
Overall, a very powerful tablet whose hardware is well complemented by its range of software options.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus is essentially the Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020), but just made a little bit better. It has more RAM at 3GB, supports wireless charging (so you can use it with an optional dock that brings it close to an Echo Show), and comes with a speedier charger than the standard Fire HD 8.
Beyond that it’s much the same as its cheaper sibling, but that in itself makes it faster than the previous generation of the Amazon Fire HD 8 (opens in new tab), as well as giving you much more storage to play with.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus still isn’t the fastest of slates, but it holds its own for what it costs, and if you want a tablet and smart display all in one it’s a top choice. It's still far more affordable than many other tablets, which makes it a worthwhile addition to our best tablets for school list.
You might also want to check out the best tablet with keyboard (opens in new tab).