Heading back to school this fall? Hey, at least you have an excuse to pick up some new gadgets. We’ve already rounded up the best tablets with full-sized form factors, but sometimes smaller is better. On that note, we’re back with a list of the five best tablets with mid-sized and smaller screens.
It doesn’t matter if you prefer iOS, Android or Windows because we have something for everyone. We’ve also done our best to find an option for every price point, though if you’re looking for a great deal it might be worth considering a refurbished tablet instead. Either way, here are five great smaller slates presented here in no particular order.
iPad mini with Retina Display
Apple’s iPad lineup offers some of the best tablets around and the Retina-equipped iPad mini is a fantastic option thanks to its impressive design, great app selection and solid hardware. It should make it through three or four years of college without too much trouble, especially seeing as the original iPad mini is still a great tablet. That Retina display on the iPad mini makes it great for watching Netflix late at night in your dorm, and Microsoft’s Office for iPad apps are perfect for getting work done and collaborating on group projects. It’s worth noting that Apple will almost certainly announce an updated iPad mini sometime this fall, so it could be worth waiting for the latest specs or a discount on last year’s model. You can grab the Retina iPad mini straight from Apple or by hitting the Amazon button below.
Nexus 7 (2013)
This list wouldn’t be complete without one of our favorite Android tablets of all time. Google’s second-generation Nexus 7 offers a pure stock-Android experience and a cheap price that’s perfect for a student on a tight budget. It also boasts a high-quality 1920 x 1200-pixel display for goofing around on YouTube, and those built-in stereo speakers are honestly good enough to stream music on Spotify or Pandora without any headphones. Then again, with rumors of an 8 or 9-inch Nexus tablet stacking up it may be worth waiting a bit longer for something with better specs and a slightly bigger screen. You can comfortably buy the Nexus 7 knowing it’s one of the best tablets out there, though, and it’s going to get even sweeter with Android L this fall.
Galaxy Tab S 8.4
If you care about the quality of your screen above all else, the best option out there is probably Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S. It comes in a mid-sized 8.4-inch variant, as well as a larger 10.5-inch option, and comes equipped with a beautiful 2560 x 1600-pixel Super AMOLED display. The smaller Tab S 8.4 is also super-light so you carry it around during the day between classes without any trouble. There’s also Samsung’s TouchWiz software, which runs on top of Android and offers some cool extra features like Multi Window for when you need to write up an essay while reading from an online source. TouchWiz isn’t perfect, but if your college experience is anything like mine you’ll have plenty of spare time to tinker with Android until you get it just right.
NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet
Looking for something a little bit different in a tablet? Maybe you’re more of a gamer? In that case your best bet is NVIDIA’s SHIELD Tablet, which offers the full Android experience along with some awesome options for gaming on the go. Beyond the usual Android apps and mobile games, NVIDIA offers access to PC games from Steam and its own Netflix-style GRID service for streaming your favorite video games straight from the tablet. The company’s also selling a specially designed $60 controller so you can play local multiplayer with up to four players at once, and for that rare occasion when you actually have to get some school work done there’s always Google’s productivity apps and everything else the Play Store has to offer.
Toshiba Encore 2
If you prefer Windows over Android and iOS, we have some some bad news: there’s still no Surface Mini to lead the charge of mid-sized Windows tablets. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options out there and one of our favorites is Toshiba’s Encore 2. The company currently offers an 8-inch model along with a 10-inch variant, and both ship with a solid 1280 x 800-pixel display and the Windows 8.1 out of the box. If you’re serious about getting work done, the Encore 2 is a great option thanks to Microsoft’s powerful productivity software, and Toshiba is even throwing in a free year of Office 365 for free. The smaller 8-inch model is a good choice at just $199, which should leave you with cash for extracurricular activities.
So there you have it, five great mid-sized tablets that should make any student happy. Whether you’re more interested in gaming, watching videos, getting work done or a little bit of all three there’s an option for you. But if we did somehow miss your personal favorite let us know in the comments and, above all else, have a great year at school.