Back to school: best smartphones and tablets for students

by: Brad WardAugust 30, 2013

Smartphones stacked Android best iphone apple samsung LG HTC

You’re going to hate me for saying this, but summer is almost over, and that means many are preparing to go back to school. Usually that means buying and gathering what’s needed  for the next semester (e.g. notebooks, pens, laptops, etc).

With that said, we’re going to show you three of our recommended smartphones and tablets for going back to school. After all, you need some sweet gadgets to help you get through this next semester, and what could be better than Android?


Technology is an integral part of learning — it makes things a whole lot more efficient, and it’s even more efficient today with the increasing power in smartphones and tablets.

There are plenty of great smartphones that were released just this year that are great for going back to school, and one of those is the Sony Xperia Z.

Xperia Z

galaxy s4 vs xperia z z back aa

The Xperia Z is a little harder to find — it’s not available on AT&T, Verizon or Sprint. In the U.S., it can only be found on T-Mobile or bought online for full price, and then you can just throw your Sprint or AT&T SIM in the device.

So, why is it a great back to school device? Sony’s Xperia Z has great battery life, which will easily get you through the day and more. It also has small overlays to make multitasking a breeze. Aside from that, it’s a really nice device, and its overall quality is superior over a lot of companies.

Galaxy Note 2

Galaxy Note 2

If there’s a go-to smartphone for school, it’s easily the Galaxy Note 2, thanks to the S Pen and the capabilities of S Note. There are plenty of features that’ll assist you with Math classes, English classes, and there’s even a way to put presentations together.

Other than that, the Galaxy Note 2’s large screen makes work much easier, especially when it comes to taking notes and tuning into lectures. It’s even a great smartphone for writing a term paper/essay if you have a good office app downloaded.


htc one vs google play edition aa one standing

The HTC One doesn’t have any specific features that makes it great for school or work like the Note 2, but it’s certainly a powerful and reliable device. However, with BoomSound and a 4.7-inch 1080p screen, you’re going to get the best quality lectures you can get on a smartphone.

Thanks to the device’s aluminium build, it will be pretty durable, meaning it should hold up well if you drop it outside or in class. As I said, this is a reliable smartphone; you can’t get much better than that.


Tablets are a much more ideal device for school than smartphones — they’re more powerful, and the larger screen makes just about everything easier.

Tablets can be expensive, but they’re much cheaper than most smartphones (off-contract), especially when it comes to budget tablets. There are a lot of tablets out there, from budget to high end. So here are three we thought were the best for going back to school.

Galaxy Note 10.1

Galaxy Note 10.1 in the middle.

Galaxy Note 10.1 in the middle.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 is the brother of its smartphone counterpart, the Galaxy Note 2. It has the usual bevy of Samsung apps, including S Note, and as I mentioned before, S Note is a great tool for school and work.

Much like the Note 2, it has the S Pen, so taking notes is as easy as ever. There are a plethora of other multitasking features as well, and it’s equipped with some pretty impressive hardware, effectively making this the most expensive tablet on the list.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 retails for $449 for the 16GB model.

Nexus 7 (2013)

Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 (2013) is easily one of the best 7-inch tablets you can get your hands on. With a Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a 1080p screen, this device will get you through school no problem.

Multitasking is a breeze thanks to the 2GB of RAM and speedy processor inside this impressive piece of equipment. The 1080p screen makes video lectures as clear as can be.

The Nexus 7 (2013) doesn’t have anything school specific to it, but it can handle almost anything you throw at it. The device retails at $229 for the 16GB model.

HP Slate 7

HP Slate 7

The HP Slate 7 isn’t the highest spec’d tablet out there, but it’s certainly a great budget tablet. Performing demanding tasks might not be optimal for this little performer, but you can still get through school with the help of less demanding apps, such as office software.

If you need a break from the demands of the world, the HP Slate 7 can handle casual games just as well as any other tablet out there, though there’s definitely some stutter and lag in more demanding games.

This device retails for $169.

Wrap up

And that’s a wrap, folks. These are, at the time of this writing, some of the best devices you can get for going back to school. From budget level to high end, there’s a device here for you.

Some devices on this list have preloaded software that’ll definitely help you through school, although the same or similar apps can be downloaded from the Play Store, so you don’t necessarily need a device with preloaded software like that, making the Nexus 7 (2013) the perfect choice.

Ultimately, the choice is up to you. You need something that fits your needs and is in your price range. Which one will you choose?

  • Gabriel Deya

    where is the Asus MeMO HD 7? is the best for student =p just 150$

    • David

      Being dirt cheap does not make it the best for students.

      • Anonymous

        I’d like to see some actual laptops, NOT tablets, on which one can do actual work.

        I don’t want to hear about Windows 8 Pro tablets either. It’s still touch-focused. I want my mouse / keyboard back, those are the fastest. Touch screens are a useless gimmick.

  • Zach Mauch

    considering students are normally on budgets, how does the Nexus 4 not get a nod here?

    • Bryan Z

      that’s true, best tablet for $199

      • Shawntez Phillips

        I just now found out that the Nexus 4 is 200 bucks. Not the tablet but the phone. I about to sell my galaxy s2 skyrocket (which iv’e been satisfied by for years) just to upgrade now.

      • MasterMuffin

        Nexus 4 is a tablet?? ;)

        • Bryan Z

          yup. lol

        • krispy2525

          The nexus 4 is not a tablet ,but the nexus 7 is.

          • MasterMuffin

            Really? Wow, mind = blown ;)

            His original comment had a typo

  • john

    the htc one has a 4.7′ display not a 5′ one.

  • Donotbebiased

    Wouldn’t you be looking at more affordable handsets rather than high-end handsets? Assuming you are talking about students that still rely on their parents for financial stuff, I don’t think they’re going to dish out cash for such expensive phones.

  • Johnnie

    Samsung are the best check this

  • djmaxp

    wow, students carrying flagship phones like note2, xperia z, htc one ? :D

    in my country, junior & high school students bring only <$150 phones. college students usually bring $100- $350 phones. there's no contract phone here.

    common smartphone for students here are chinese-branded one, followed by galaxy young, galaxy ace, optimus l-series, and sony low/mid end.

    • I see mostly iPhones and mid/high end Android phones carried around by 14 year olds. The sheer number of iPhones makes me “sick”. (around 50% of the population?)

      I live in SIngapore.

      • abazigal

        Same here. I even see primary school pupils (under 12 years of age) totting S3s and iPhones. I think they are likely hand-me-downs from their parents.

        • Anonymous

          Both models you mentioned are horrible.

          Nexus 4 FTW. It’s fast, it’s stock Android 4.3, and it’s cheap.

      • Anonymous

        You think iPhones are any good? I find it amusing so many teens are using iPhones. They are just Apple’s slaves.

        Either that, or they jailbreak the iPhone and escape that damn walled garden.

    • pritish

      In which country do you live

  • AsakuraZero

    Nexus 7 2013 it’s a great tablet but mine have a wonky touch screen driver thanks to the latest update damn that jss15q. Update

  • Ryan Castle

    The Galaxy Note 2 and 10.1 get suggested, but not the Nexus 4 and 10?

  • nexus andnote

    The note 8 should replace note 10 and nexus 4 would be on there for a budget phone

  • Ryan Castle

    The Galaxy Note 2 and 10.1 get mentioned, but not the Nexus 4 and 10?

  • abazigal

    I would like to see the article elaborate on how these devices are expected to help students in their studies. What would be their use-case? I find it implausible that anyone would actually recommend that a teenager attempt to write a term paper on a smartphone.

    Yeah, I know it can be done, but this would be like trying to get a 100% accuracy rating in Time-crisis (possible, but heavily unlikely). Any advice given should be straightforward enough that the majority of youngsters can accomplish this without needing to jump through hoops, and spend an inordinate amount of timing simply trying to master the basics.

    Else, given budget constraints, it makes more sense for a normal pupil to opt for one or the other (say a tablet and a cheap phone), given the overlap in their capabilities.

    I also notice that the Galaxy Mega wasn’t mentioned. I know it’s a little too big for a phone, but it looks like it could make for a decent tablet for reading pdfs and notes.

    Also, what about the Asus Padfone? Seems interesting because it can morph between a smartphone, tablet and laptop, so you don’t break the bank getting all three.

    Ultimately, unless they are earning their own keep, shouldn’t a laptop be the top priority?

    • David

      The galaxy notes with the s-pen allow students to hand write notes/papers, you can also hand write and convert your writing to text. or use voice recognition speech to text for notes and papers. They come with polaris office for word, powerpoint, and excel that work very well with microsoft office. And the notes can dual screen 2 apps side by side (i.e take notes on one side and research on the internet on the other side). Also they sync up to any bluetooth keyboard or keyboard/case combo’s that effectively turns it into a laptop for writing long papers. Its literally the ultimate solution for a student. Go to a best buy with the samsung experience shop and play with one yourself.

  • briankariu

    How does the nexus 4 not get a mention! It only costs $200 and a majority of students are usually on a shoe string budget. Nexus 4 + t-mobile plan=the most economical plan out there. nexus 4 wins all round

  • Dolev Abelson

    I know its a android site butt if you put in that list the NOTE 10.1 who is abit outdated 2 device that would have been much better. Note 8 cost 150$ lass give the same programs from samsung weight almost half as much 345g over 600g and its abit more powerfull, and if size do matter i think Ativ 500T is the best one to go with for student you can get one with keyboard for 599$ those days get again the full range of samsungs android app within a full windows 8 (soon to be 8.1) device! with 11.6 ince look more like A4 page you can do anything you wish or just use real fully MS office, i know so manny students running around with some tablet and a lame laptop its that real combo!

  • SeraZR™

    iPad? :p

  • Eric

    The writer got nearly everything wrong here.. contradicting his own title. These aren’t phones to be recomended to the average student.

  • Ivan Myring

    No Xperia tablet Z? Or nexus 10

  • Sam Sarsten

    Sprint SIM card? Just saying…

  • Tonyboy

    In Israel, if you will come to my school (approximately 100 KM southern from T-A), you will see that every student has or Iphone 4S or Galaxy S2/S3/S4 or one of the Xperia’s and the more “poor” student has Galaxy Pocket and smaller phones but there also cost around 250 $ the cheapest! But we don’t use tablet in the classes and don’t bring them to school…

  • Dusan

    TBH if you don’t lack money try getting your hands on one of the Windows 8 tablets. They are way beyond Android tablets when it comes to productivity. That Wacom digitizer is just amazing.
    My Asus TF810C have completely replaced pen and paper.

    • David

      Not completely true, while the surface and other windows tablets are great piece’s of technology, they still just dont stack up to the competition. The galaxy notes have wacom technology, the s-pen has 1024 pressure levels in the tip, quad core processors that are actually used to their potential with the multitasking dual screen on the notes to run 2 apps at once side by side. Great front and rear facing cameras and amazing battery life. Not to mention their IR sensors that make them universal remote controls for any television set.

      • Dusan

        I’m not talking about Windows RT versions, they are limited like Android.
        You get 1 option, Samsung Note 10.1. While on Windows 8 side you have a lot of different options (even Samsung if you really want it).
        Android multitasking is a joke, even on Note. You need to try a Windows 8 tablet to see how well it’s done (you can have a dual screen as well on top of typical Windows multitasking).

        Battery life is stronger on Windows side. You can get a keyboard with a built in extra battery for a lot more juice.
        I have only the tablet and still the battery easily lasts for over 10 hours of constant use. With keyboard it’s around 19 hours.
        The only downside on Windows 8 tablets is that gaming is limited as well as the keyboard doesn’t support multiple languages. Typing with the on screen keyboard is not fun.
        The reason why Windows 8 (again, Windows 8, not Windows RT) tablets are not popular is because they are mostly aimed at productivity. It’s not a toy.
        When it comes to phones, Android all the way, but when it comes to tablets, Windows 8 hands down.

        • David

          Not only have i tried windows tablets, i’m trained on both android and windows. The note 10.1 has 12+ hours of battery life on heavy use (i.e watching movies). It can last you a couple days on average use or power saver. And for multitasking its quite the opposite, windows is limited to a little side bar on top of the other screen your multitasking with, on android you can resize both windows to your liking or one window on top of another in the background. The only reason i like windows is for a genuine office suite software on it. For everything else ill stick with android. 1,000,000+ apps on the play store compared to windows who has the fewest apps out of ios and android.

          • Dusan

            There is A LOT of junk in Play Store.
            And what you’re saying about resizing windows on Note 10.1 has been in Windows since… well forever. There’s just more options for resizing with 8.
            As for the battery life, I have not tested Note 10.1, but Engadget review lasts for exactly 8:00 hours at 50% brightness and looping a video, so not sure how you’re getting 12+ hours from it by watching movies. I can’t find any reviews on TF810 battery life (besides one showing 10:25 hours without dock and 19:37 hours with dock, but that is not while watching a movie), but it can definitely last that long. Asus TF700 lasts for 9:25 hours while looping a video.

        • Anonymous

          “Limited like Android,” LOL…

          Windows RT is behind Android in every aspect. It’s a clone of iOS’ walled garden without all those quality apps.

          Fuck off Microshit.

          • Dusan

            You seem to be a very sensitive fanboy, who on top of that cant’t even read properly. Or reply for that matter.
            Please, go find someone else to harass with your uncivilized comments.

  • jam

    these back to school guides always make me feel so poor…

  • QuadCorePro343

    I think the Asus memo pad HD 7 would be a better choice than the HP Slate 7. Better specs, cheaper price, a no brainer.

  • Edwin Walker

    If we’re talking about going back to school rather than university, I should point out that my school didn’t even let us use our mobiles. These are more like expensive status symbols children bug their parents for.

  • Cal Rankin

    Just pointing out the One has a 4.7″ screen, and not 5″, and the Unlocked Xperia Z won’t work on Sprint or Verizon, and you couldn’t just throw a Sprint SIM inside anyway, because Sprint hasn’t really implemented SIM cards.

  • Ruy Melo

    Haaa!!! Yeah right! Best Androids for school? Sorry but it has to be Androids from China! Get your kid one!

    How about if your kid had a projector inside his smartphone so he can make presentations anywhere he goes? China has that!

    Going for the big ones, not always is the solution. Mr Authority….

  • Bill de Iturrondo

    Hmmm…as far as tablets go, I would definitely opt for the Galaxy Note 8 over the 10.1

  • allen markow

    ,,,Now use your smartphone in bed with comfort with this great item from Amazon Top seller.,

  • paulmurza

    yeah, quality lectures with BoomSound. I think I wet myself.

  • Kun Kimlong

    i want to have that smart phone and tablet but I’m poor don’t have money to buy.

  • mmmmmbop

    I just have to throw this in here. A student would be much better served by a real computer, and there are good options out there at the price of the galaxy note 10.1.

  • krispy2525

    Why wouldnt the gs4 be in the list. It is fast, has expandeable memory, large screen, multi tasking, and a removeable battery