Back To School Gift Guide: Tablets

Daniel Bader

August 9, 2013 10:27 am

Welcome to the Gift Guide section, where we list our favourite smartphones, tablets, accessories and deals of the moment.

In this section we take a look at the best tablets for Back to School.

Last updated: August 23rd, 2013

Nexus 7 (2013)

A marvel of compromise, the 2013 Nexus 7 hits mostly right notes and forgivable wrong ones.

With a gorgeous, high-density display, ample performance headroom, a butter smooth software experience, and consummate battery life, this is the Android tablet to buy right now.

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Galaxy Note 8.0

One of the best mid-sized tablets currently available, Samsung has augmented the S Pen with a larger screen to make a fast, attractive and extremely usable Android device.

We’ve found 8-inch tablets to be a perfect middle ground between larger, awkward 16:9 Android slates and the smaller, less powerful 7-inch variety.

The Galaxy Note 8.0 is available for $399 in a WiFi version and from various carriers in an LTE version.

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Sony Xperia Tablet Z

The Xperia Tablet Z is a beautiful, lightweight Android tablet with a great set of value-added features that complement the idea of using it as a second screen. With an IR blaster, waterproofing, a high-definition display and responsive software, the Xperia Tablet Z is one of the best Android tablets available.

It’s available directly from Sony for between $499 and $599 depending on storage options.

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Microsoft Surface RT

The Surface RT is a great choice for someone looking to stay within the Windows ecosystem without sacrificing portability. While it lacks many of the apps that Windows users take for granted, the Windows Store is growing quickly and Microsoft promises to improve performance with Windows 8.1, which is coming in October 2013.

The Surface RT is available from Microsoft stores for $349.

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Apple iPad

The iPad continues to be the premiere device for those willing to spend a bit more to gain access to the best apps, games, magazines and multimedia on a portable device.

It is available from $329 for the iPad mini and $499 for the iPad with Retina.

Note: this review links to the original Retina iPad released in March, 2012.

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  • park kyokeun

    TBH, Windows RT is a huge flop for Microsoft. Apps are limited, legacy Windows software is not compatible with it, and I could talk forever why it is a flop. If I’m gonna recommend any kind of Windows tablets, it will be one with actual Windows 8 instead of RT. Surface Pro will be my choice then

    • Guest

      not every student can afford a $800 tablet you know. or $900 if you want decent storage space.

    • Andrew Brown

      Acer w510 was only 349 a few months back and regular 499 and thats a Full Wn 8 OS ….Asus Smart Tab full Win 8 420 ..Samsung Ativs Smart 3 will be 4 something when released this month

    • Elvin

      if it is a failure, then why nokia is making a new rt tablet? they couldn’t possibly be paid by Microsoft to make it did they?
      also core-based windows tablets are still expensive. wait for one with new intel baytrail processor that can offer decent performance and good battery life.

    • Andrew Brown

      Actually Nokia has been in M$ back pocket as M$ has funded Nokia out of obscurity and as of you posting hass announced it bought out Nokia – most notaly the Lumia line and phone

  • Andrew Brown

    5 tablets that’s it ?? 1 Win Rt !!! 3 being Android !! And the Ipad !! Really WTF Mobile Syrup ! The Samsung Atvis 3 , Asus MEMO Tab or Smart Tab , Acer’s W3 !!! All mid range decent Full WIn 8 tablets !!!! Not RT!!! crap ! You call these the best tablets back to school !!??? Really ? How man y Android devices you actually see of or hear helping with school work ??? Besides dictation taking or voice recording what OFFICE programs does Android have?? Pure BS reporting not having one FULL WIN 8 OS makes this article report an instant fail !!

    • Joey Mise

      There are plenty of Office Suites available for Android, Just gotta find the one that works best for you. And all are compatible with MicroCRAP Office..

    • Joey Mise

      But I do agree this list isnt really accurate.. What happened to the Nexus10 which has the best display of any tablet out… And a few other tablets that were really worth mentioning.

    • Andrew Brown

      Yes the Nexus 7 or 10 should be listed but my thing not 1 full Win 8 OS tablet ? I can maybe understand and consider price when talking the Acer W700 or Surface Pro etc….but for students looking at a cost effective device why spend that on a crippled OS like RT when for less you can get an ASUS TF300 or MEMO Pad , heck even the Asus Infinity Prime or the ACer W510 or the 8 inch Acer W3 with full Win 8 …Samsung has the Ativ 3 and the Galaxy Tab efforts just baffles me how scarce and uninformative in both price and products this very short list is

  • Rory Nicol

    I’d add the amazon Kindle Fire HD to this list as well. The new version should be coming out within the next month which will match or beat the specs of the nexus 7. The speakers on the current Fire destroy the nexus 7 and maybe any tablet out there. Also the version of Kindle on the amazon is way better than what you can get on stock android. Also, its just as cheap as the Nexus 7. Only problem is you need to sideload google play store, since the fire only comes with the amazon store. Oh, and Microsoft just released Office for Android if you have a 365 subscription (super cheap as a student).

    • Elvin

      the office mobile app is only compatible with android phones, not tablets.

    • Andrew Brown

      I would consider it if they didn’t shatf Canadians on apps !! As there was none or access to the amazon store with the first Kindle and pretty sure it’s still limited to the HD model

  • grantdude

    I’m so tired of people complaining about the Surface RT not running legacy Windows programs. That’s like saying the iPad doesn’t run MAC programs.

    • Philosoraptor

      These are the people that wouldn’t bother to buy it even if it did.
      The RT is a fantastic student device if for nothing else, then for the full Office experience. Nothing can touch Office when it comes to collaborating with others.
      Yeah, the apps are lacking. But what apps are we talking about here? Games? Social? None of these should be a priority when buying a tablet for school, especially post-secondary. Micro-HDMI out for presentations and compatibility with various pointing devices via USB/Bluetooth is essential to me. USB/Micro-SD is also essential if I need to transfer my essential files while travelling without an internet connection.
      The RT is as capable when it comes to media consumption (great screen) as competing devices and can function as a home theatre replacement using Plex without additional hardware adapters. This isn’t essential for productivity, but is a bonus.
      Plus, the 10h battery life is sweet.

  • Joey Kelly

    Finally! A list that doesn’t START with an Apple product :-P