Best tablet for students: Windows Surface, Android or iPad! 2017

As a college student you’ll be using your tablet for classes as well as at home. Personally I use my Galaxy Note (as I did my iPad) for taking notes – both on Evernote and directly on PDFs. The difference in functionality between tablets isn’t that great anymore, however there are things you can do on each platform that are more difficult or impossible on others.

PRO: hand writing recognition, stylus for artists, includes Google Maps CON: Only a basic office suite
PRO: hand writing recognition, stylus for artists, includes Google Maps
CON: Only a basic office suite

Shown here is my Galaxy Note 10.1 by Samsung. It excels in hand writing recognition, drawing to pixel precision and writing math formula. Otherwise it’s as capable as any top of the line Android Tablet. That means it includes Google Maps.

The Galaxy Note Pro is a 12 (!) inch upscale brother to the Note 10.1. It’s as fast, has a great screen and is just that tad bit larger, which makes it great for professional and study group use.

On Microsoft Office

Microsoft is, finally, making apps for non-windows appliances like smartphones and tablets. However, they do require a change in mindset: you need an Office 365 subscription for them to work. Also – on Android – they work only on the latest versions of the OS.

Reviews of the MS Office suite on iTunes is not good so far. On Android people are mostly happy – though a persistent minority notes that the apps don’t have the options that the PC version does and/or is slow.


PRO: Largest App market CON: Expensive, only basic Office suite

The iPad is the classic tablet by now. The whole maps disaster has been solved: Google Maps is available and even the built in maps app by Apple itself is decent.

In addition they have their iTunes U app which was developed by Apple to make educational content available for free. On your iPad you can even take notes on that content and read on your iPhone.

However, iTunes U content is available for Android as well through the Tunesviewer app.

Kindle Fire / Kindle Fire HD

PRO: good hardware , very cheap CON: no Google Maps, No iTunes U, only basic office suite

If you’re not that tech savvy and probably won’t be using your tablet for taking notes or anything like that, you may want to simply get a Kindle Fire. It doesn’t have Google Maps and it doesn’t have iTunes U, so you should check with your university if iTunes U content is expected.

Otherwise, like on any tablet, you can browse the internet on your Kindle Fire. You can read kindle books (also on other tablets) and the price point is real good considering the high end hardware Amazon uses in making it’s kindles.

Windows tablet

Windows Tablet
PRO: Full MS Office Suite compatibility CON: a bit on the slow side

Windows is a big name in computing, but in tablets they’re still the little guy trying to catch up. However, they really are catching up – and now their PC background is starting to be a real advantage.

I know a few people with Windows tablets and the advantage is simple: use of office apps that are compatible with the PC version of Windows Office.

Disadvantages? Startup times for a Windows tablet can be a bit slow, compared to Android or iPad.

Other than that – the scale is even: most popular apps are available for Windows tablets now, so you can do your basic note-taking, drawing and playing games on one.

Do not expect your windows tablet to be a laptop replacement though. It’s really not. Or rather – do not expect this tablet to be your desk top replacement. After all, isn’t that how most people are using their laptops? I certainly do.

Also, Windows 10 is a bit rough around the edges as a tablet operating system. If you do get a windows tablet, get all the add-ons: stylus, keyboard, external mouse…

Apps for College Students

Usually available on all tablet platforms


For me Evernote is the go-to note application. In my experience the build is a bit better on Android: there’s a reason there are so many fast-evernote apps available for iPad: note taking gets slow on the iPad Evernote app as soon as you really use it a lot.

However – Evernote is available for all the tablets featured here, so you don’t have to choose your platform based on the app. What’s more – and it’s one of the things I love about Evernote – it syncs across platforms. I take notes on my Windows PC, iPad, Android phone and Galaxy Note – and it all ends up in the cloud and I can check back on each note on each device.


Does it still need an introduction? I use dropbox to download PDFs from my PC and then read them at my leisure, taking notes on them if necessary on my tablet. It works on all platforms.

Notes on PDFs

Since I get all my study material in PDF these days, it’s essential to be able to take notes ON those PDFs.

On my iPad I used Goodreader. On my Galaxy Note I use ezPDF Reader. The only downside is that they’re incapable of reading each other’s notes. So you need an ordinary pc / laptop for that.

S Note – only on Galaxy Note

S note is the app that Samsung created just for it’s Galaxy Note line. I use it to sketch myself, but it’s developed to also be useful in the class room.

If you want to write your notes with a stylus, but save them in text, S Note is the app for you. It has handwriting recognition and turns your hand written text into typed text. However, I did not like the process much.

What I do think is great about S Note – for college students – is that you can write a mathematical formula with the stylus and it will turn it into something typed. It’s the easiest way I’ve seen to write math on an electronic device. Obviously this is mostly great for math, chemistry, physics and tech students.


I can keep it simple: there are calculator apps on all platforms.

Word Processing

I don’t use my tablet for Word Processing. I still do my typing on a desk, with a full blown keyboard, a large screen attached to my laptop. However, it IS possible to write Word Documents on any tablet, as long as you don’t expect to use complicated formatting.

In my experience though it’s easier to just note writing ideas down in Evernote and then copy paste them into Word on my laptop when it’s time for the finishing touches.

The Windows 10 tablets are slowly changing that game though. Their main selling point is going to be full compatibility with PC Windows and it’s office suite.


This is one point where I think tablets excel – and if you don’t want top of the line graphic effects, any of the available tablets will do. I did quite a few presentations on my iPad, using the Keynote app and will probably be doing presentations on my Galaxy Note with a simple PDF reading app. You really don’t need PowerPoint.

Evernote has created a simple way to easily turn notes into presentations, which is great for office meetings.


You can do casual gaming (solitaire, angry birds) on all tablets mentioned on this page. However, you have the largest choice of games on the iPad and least on the Microsoft Surface. Android is in between – but it’s selection of apps is already so large that you’re more likely to find what you need than not.

Music, movies and other entertainment

Netflix is available for all tablet platforms. There is a kindle app for each as well, so you don’t have to pick your device based on wanting to read Kindle books.

In addition on each device you get access to a particular store / network. On the Kindle you get access to the Amazon store and it’s books, movies and music. On Android you get access to the Android Store. On Microsoft Surface you get access to all your Windows content – Windows Live, Xbox music etc.

On Specifications

As you may have noticed, I did not discuss specifications at all. Top of the line tablets are all simply good enough for the apps out there. Cheaper tablets are generally slower, but will still suit your needs.

As far as I’m concerned Android Tablets by Samsung are all good enough. So are the available iPads (iPad Air, iPad Mini etc). I’m still hesitant about Windows tablets, but they will appeal to those who want to stick with Microsoft. Microsoft is catching up. Whether it’s there yet? Up to you!

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