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The best tablets for students going back to school: Expert tested

We went hands-on with the best tablets for students for notetaking, storing textbooks, completing assignments, and more -- just in time for back-to-school season.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer
Apple iPad (10th generation) | Best tablet for students overall
Apple iPad 10th Gen Display
Apple iPad (10th generation)
Best tablet for students overall
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Wacom One 13 Touch | Best tablet for art students
A Wacom One 13 Touch drawing tablet plugged into a MacBook Pro
Wacom One 13 Touch
Best tablet for art students
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Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ | Best Android tablet for students
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ streaming a video about watches on YouTube.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+
Best Android tablet for students
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Apple iPad Mini (6th generation) | Best portable tablet for students
iPad Mini screen with page of apps
Apple iPad Mini (6th generation)
Best portable tablet for students
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Microsoft Surface Pro 9 | Best 2-in-1 tablet for students
Microsoft Surface Pro 9 Typing
Microsoft Surface Pro 9
Best 2-in-1 tablet for students
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These days, students need more than notebooks, folders, and binders for school. Tablets are becoming increasingly common in the classroom, giving students a portable way to access the internet, store textbooks and documents, take notes during class, and more. They are also significantly cheaper than laptops, and some allow you to attach keyboards or use stylus pens for more precise typing and handwriting.

No matter what you're studying when you head back to school this fall, we rounded up the best tablets for students based on our own hands-on testing. 

Also: The best iPads for college students

What is the best tablet for students right now?

Our pick for the best tablet for students overall is the 10th-generation iPad thanks to its affordable price and versatility of use. We also included other tablets from Samsung, Microsoft, and more for all your school needs. 

The best tablets for students in 2024

Pros & Cons
  • Affordable
  • Modernized design with a USB-C port
  • Similar design to iPad Air and iPad Pro
  • Doesn't support 2nd-gen Apple Pencil
More Details

This base-model iPad is the best option for most students, and Apple recently reduced the price to a more affordable $349. It offers almost the same high-end features as the more expensive iPad Pro and iPad Air models, but with a lighter form factor and a crisp 10.9-inch Liquid Retina, True Tone display.

Review: iPad 2022 (10th Gen)

In his hands-on testing, ZDNET editor June Wan determined that if you're shopping on a budget (as most students are), this iPad should "make the most sense," especially given the A14 Bionic processor, USB-C support, 5G support for on-the-go tasks, and a new 12MP ultra-wide camera.

There's also a Magic Keyboard Folio made specifically for this iPad. It's perfect for turning your tablet into a laptop for studying or essay writing. It includes an adjustable kickstand with a 14-key function row for shortcuts. 

However, one callout to note that some verified customers make is that this iPad doesn't support the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil, which means you'll have to use a dongle to use it. However, students can still use the 1st-gen Apple Pencil or any other compatible iPad stylus.

Apple iPad specs: Display: 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone | Processor: A14 Bionic chip with 16-core Neural Engine | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Memory: Colors: Silver, Pink, Blue, Yellow  | Cameras: 12MP f/1.8 wide, 12MP Landscape f/2.4 front | Weight: 1.05 pounds | Dimensions: 9.79 x 7.07 x .28 inches | Connections: USB-C, Smart Connector | 

Pros & Cons
  • Multi-touch gestures make it intuitive to use
  • Smooth paper-like screen
  • Pen never runs out of battery
  • Still need to use an external device
  • Expensive
More Details

The Wacom One 13 Touch is one of the best drawing tablets for digital art or graphic design students. What stands out in this drawing tablet is its touchscreen: the 920 x 1080 Full HD resolution display allows for 10-finger multi-touch gestures, giving art students a new dimension of intuitive use and interaction. You can use several gestures like scrolling, panning, and zooming during the creative process while you're drawing in a program, or you can turn it off altogether if you'd prefer. 

I went hands-on with this drawing tablet and was impressed by the pen-to-paper feel, like the Wacom Intuos Pro. The pen is also impressive and has excellent palm rejection technology. Plus, Wacom says you never have to charge it.

Review: Wacom One 13 Touch

I could see students who prefer a screen display but still want to use programs like Adobe or Corel Painter finding the Wacom One 13 Touch more valuable than a regular tablet like the iPad. 

One verified customer called it a "great tool to learn digital art" and "upgrade the illustration game to digital."

Wacom One 13 Touch specs: Dimensions (L x W x H): ‎13.2 x 8.7 x 0.1 inches | Active area: ‎11.6 x 6.5 inches | Compatibility: Windows 10 and over, Mac OS 11 and over, Chrome OS, Android 8 and over | Pressure levels: 4,096

Pros & Cons
  • Large screen
  • Samsung DeX compatibility for multi-tasking
  • Comes with S Pen
  • May experience outstretched apps and the occasional slow-down
More Details

Samsung's lineup of FE tablets is lower priced than the premium tablets but still impressive options. The larger Tab S9 FE+ is available for $600 and offers a lot in a sleek package, including Android 13 right out of the box. This high-powered tablet comes with an S Pen and even an IP68 dust/water resistant rating to make it a durable choice for students.

It has an 8,000mAh battery, 6 or 8 GB of RAM, 128 or 256 GB of included storage, and support for a microSD card up to 1TB, so no matter how many documents you save for your classes, you'll never run out of space. In addition, video calling for virtual classes is well supported by a front 12MP ultra-wide camera, and a rear 8MP camera is well supported by a front 12MP ultra-wide camera and a rear 8MP camera to help you capture documents. 

Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+

ZDNET contributing writer Max Buondonno tested the Tab S9 FE+ and was impressed with its large screen, battery life, and "an array of multitasking features like split-screen, multi-window, and even DeX, which gives you a desktop-like interface for getting work done."

Overall, 98% of Best Buy customers would recommend this tablet, giving it an average rating of 4.8 out of 5.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ tech specs: Display: 12.4-inch | Processor: Exynos 1380 (S5E8835) | Storage: 128GB or 256GB  | Memory: 6GB, 8GB, or 12GB | Colors: Gray, lavender, mint | Cameras: 12MP ultra-wide camera, rear 8MP camera | Weight: 1.38lb | Dimensions: 11.24 x 7.30 x 0.26 inches| Connections: USB-C 2.0 | Battery life: 10,090 mAh

Pros & Cons
  • Battery life is impressive
  • Sleek design
  • Small size makes it east to fit in a backpack
  • Not compatible with Magic Keyboard or Smart Keyboard Folio
  • No UltraWide camera
More Details

Apple's iPad Mini is a powerful tablet packed in a small package. The iPad Mini was last updated in the fall of 2021 with new features like support for the 2nd gen Apple Pencil, a slightly bigger screen size, and a USB-C port for charging and data transfer.

Review: Apple iPad Mini (6th Gen)

The right side of the tablet has a spot to charge the Apple Pencil, making it a great tablet for drawing or writing class notes. Plus, its size and weight (a little over half a pound) make it portable, so you can bring it wherever you need it around a school campus.

ZDNET editor-in-chief Jason Hiner went hands-on with this iPad and lauded its portability. "The portability of the iPad Mini and its support for the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil make note-taking a popular use case," Hiner wrote, adding, "It's better for reading ebooks, PDFs, documents, news apps, and other digital content."

One Reddit user noted that the iPad Mini is an excellent addition to your laptop for better multi-tasking flow.

iPad Mini tech specs: Display: 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display | Processor: A15 Bionic | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Colors: Space gray, pink, purple, starlight | Cameras: 8MP rear, 1080p video. 12MP FaceTime camera with Center Stage | Weight: 0.65 pounds | Dimensions: 7.69 x 5.3 x 0.25 inches | Connections: USB-C | Battery life: 10 hours

Pros & Cons
  • 12th Gen Intel processors speed through daily tasks
  • Large screen
  • Runs on Windows 11
  • Accessories sold separately
  • Limited Ports
More Details

Microsoft's lineup of Surface Pro devices are some of the best 2-in-1 tablets on the market today, and the Surface Pro 9 is one such example of a powerful tablet that can quickly become a laptop replacement.

With the Surface Pro 9, you're getting a tablet that runs Windows 11 out of the box instead of a mobile operating system like Android or iPadOS. That means you don't have to worry about finding apps or workarounds for your workflows and can access programs like Word and Outlook with ease.

Review: Microsoft Surface Pro 9

Wan also went hands-on with the Surface Pro 9 and praised the Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen 2, calling them "some of the best OEM accessories that I've tested." "I love how responsive and tactile the low-travel keys are, how the keypad -- while not as large as competing ultraportables—is just as clicky on the bottom left corner as it is on the upper right, and how everything just snaps into place without needing to jump through further connectivity hoops."

However, you'll need to buy a Surface Pro Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen 2 separately, which will cost an additional $280. Even so, verified customers love this keyboard combo, especially the ergonomic design and responsiveness.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tech specs: Display: 13-inch PixelSense Flow Display | Processor: 12th Gen Intel Core i5/i7 or Microsoft SQ3 | Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB | Memory: 8GB, 16GB, 32GB | Colors: Sapphire, platinum, forest, graphite | Cameras: Rear: 10MP autofocus camera with up to 4K video Front: 1080p full HD video | Weight: 1.95 pounds | Dimensions: 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches | Connections: 2x USB-C (4.0 on Intel model, 3.2 on 5G), Surface Connect and Keyboard ports, nano SIM on 5G model | Battery life: Up to 15.5 hours of typical usage

What is the best tablet for students?

The best tablet for most students Is the 10th-generation iPad, thanks to its versatility and compatibility. Plus, it's affordable for an Apple tablet at just $349. 





Apple iPad (10th gen)


10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone

64GB or 256GB

Wacom One 13 Touch


13.2-inch 920 x 1080 Full HD resolution display


Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+


12.4-inch TFT LCD display

128GB or 256GB (microSD card up to 1TB)

Apple iPad Mini (6th gen)


8.3-inch Liquid Retina display

64GB or 256GB

Microsoft Surface Pro 9

Starting at $750

13-inch PixelSense Flow display

128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

Which tablet for students is right for you?

The right tablet for you will depend on your characteristics as a student. Consider how you study and take notes, whether you need something for typing or drawing, and whether you're looking for a laptop replacement. 

Choose this laptop for students...

If you want...

Apple iPad (10th gen)

The best tablet for most students. It is super versatile and affordable at just $349.

Wacom One 13 Touch

A tablet for graphic design students. Its touch screen allows for handy gestures and a pen-to-paper-like experience.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+

An Android tablet for school. Its large screen allows for optimal multi-tasking. 

Apple iPad Mini (6th gen)

A portable and lightweight tablet that can easily fit into a backpack. It's great for note-taking, annotating, and reading for school. 

Microsoft Surface Pro 9

A 2-in-1 tablet that can replace your laptop. It runs on Windows 11 and can speed through daily tasks.

Factors to consider when choosing a tablet for students

Before investing in a tablet for a student, here's what to consider: 

  • Storage: Be sure to consider the amount of storage that comes with your chosen tablets. Students generally deal with a lot of files, but storage is not typically such a concern if this is a device supplementary to your computer or laptop. 
  • Compatibility: Consider a tablet's compatibility with programs and software you use the most, as well as if you can utilize accessories like keyboards or stylus pens.
  • Size: Your preferred tablet size may vary depending on what you're using your tablet for. Smaller tablets are great for reading and are portable enough to take in your backpack, while larger tablets are easier to sketch and draw on and have a more extensive workspace area for multitasking.
  • Cost: Like most tech, tablets can be expensive. However, look for brands or retailers that offer student discounts so you can save on your device. 

How we test tablets

When choosing the best tablets for students, ZDNET editors considered our own experiences testing and using these tablets. We do extensive hands-on testing of tablets, including their ease of use for work and entertainment, and pay attention to specs like display, battery life, and overall experience while using a tablet.

For products we recommend, we write a product spotlight review that we update periodically with new features and pricing information.

Should I get a tablet or a laptop for school?

It really depends on what kind of student you are and how you study and work. For example, if you are the type of student who needs a tablet to store your textbooks, browse the web, or take notes, a tablet is a great option. However, if you need to access different programs at once for multitasking, a laptop may suit your needs better. 

Can I get a student discount on a tablet?

Many brands offer student discounts. Here are some notable ones:

Other tablets for students we've tested:

ZDNET has tested plenty of other worthy tablets that would be a great learning tool for students. Here are some of our other favorites. 

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