Top Tablets for Students
After researching countless hours and speaking to parents and teachers about which tablet is best for your student, I have narrowed my search down to three. In my opinion, the iPad mini, Kindle Fire HD, and the LeapPad Ultra are the top choices if you are thinking about getting a tablet this year. There are pros and cons to all three, and depending on what you’re looking for, I’m sure you can find a good fit among the choices.
My first choice would have to be the iPad mini. With the release of the iPad mini with retina display, last year’s model has dropped in price, making it more affordable and the perfect time to buy. (The iPad mini with retina display is also an amazing tablet if you have a larger budget to work with. An iPad with retina display has a high resolution screen, which is better for reading and makes pictures and games look even better. You can buy the iPad mini with retina display for $399 on apple.com. If you aren't sure if the retina display is for you, check out this article comparing the iPad mini and the iPad mini with retina display.)
The mini boasts a 7.9 inch touch screen, 16GB of memory, WiFi access, and up to 10 hours of battery life for fun and learning. The mini has front and rear cameras for taking pictures and 1080p HD video. Students can snap shots of their project or take video of themselves giving the speech they wrote for class.
Apple offers the best selection of apps with over 475,000 available, with many of those apps being free, you can find things for learning, reading, and playing. Kids will never get bored and the learning can go on and on. There are also options for parental control settings to help keep kids safe by choosing what apps and music they can download, which websites they can search, and much more.
Along with that comes iTunes U where you can get thousands of resources on a variety of educational topics. Students can get free educational content from hundreds of institutions including Yale, Stanford, and the New York Public Library that share courses, lectures, videos, books, and other resources. Great for students from kindergarten all the way through college.
The iPad mini costs $290 and is the most expensive of my choices, but is a tablet that students can grow into. The reviews are in and people love the iPad mini. It is hard to find a negative comment and tech reviewers give it the highest marks. With the best software and construction the iPad mini is easily one of the best tablets out there. With its easy navigation and carefully thought out, user friendly layout, the iPad mini is ideal for kids of all ages and can also be used by other members of the family.
Kindle Fire HD
Coming in at a close second is the Kindle Fire HD, having many of the same features as the iPad mini. The Kindle Fire has a slightly smaller touch screen than the mini with a 7 inch display. There is no camera for pictures or video, which can be good or bad depending on your needs. There is a choice of 8GB or 16GB of memory, although if you want the 16GB it does up the price. (If you are planning on downloading a lot of apps and/or storing a lot of pictures and videos, the 16GB may be the best way to go.)
Through Amazon Appstore you get instant access to over 100,000 apps and games. Not nearly as many options as the iPad mini, but still more than enough apps to make the Kindle a good choice. After reading reviews and speaking to Kindle owners, I have learned that the Kindle is somewhat difficult to navigate and has trouble with loading/running certain apps, but those people are still happy with their purchase.
The Kindle also has a great program for kids called Kindle FreeTime, which I think is the best part of the Kindle. Kindle FreeTime allows parents/teachers to create a profile for their child/student and set up what books, games, apps, and videos kids have access to. They can only see what you have preselected, making it their own personalized tablet. Also, adults can set time limits for how long kids can use the tablet that day and restrict certain categories, so they read when they’re supposed to be reading.
If you love all of that, there is an option for Kindle FreeTime Unlimited ($2.99 per month) which is a subscription that gives access to books, games, educational apps, movies, and TV shows including content from Disney, Nickelodeon, PBS, Sesame Street, and many others. Along with the affordable price of $139 (8GB) or $169 (16GB), the Kindle Fire is great for all ages and all family members for learning, playing, working, and relaxing.
LeapPad Ultra by LeapFrog
Last, but not least, is the LeapPad Ultra. I picked this tablet because of the educational approach that it takes and because it’s recommended by 97% of teachers. It has a 7 inch hi-resolution touch screen that also has a stylus for writing and drawing. Has 8GB of memory, WiFi, peer-to-peer play, front and back cameras for pictures or video, and MP3 player.
More than 800 apps, games, videos, ebooks, music and more offered by LeapFrog that cater to children's education and fun. Comes with 11 apps and fun features already loaded, which is good because all the LeapFrog apps cost money. With the Kindle and iPad, there are many free app options to choose from, so this is a downside to the Ultra. But the apps that you do purchase draw from 2,600 skills to enhance learning and select games auto-level to correspond to the child’s place in reading, writing, and mathematics.
Kids can play with game cartridges or download apps from WiFi, although I would recommend downloading apps since the cartridges can get lost. LeapFrog Learning Path shows details of the child’s play to better support learning, helping you to choose the next apps to download. LeapSearch allows kids to search content they love with sites that have been reviewed and approved by learning experts. There are also parental settings to further fine-tune their internet searching.
The Ultra is completely geared towards kids from the rubber covered bumpers to the choice of a pink or green cover. You never have to worry about them stumbling onto a website or game that you forgot to block or remove. Some negatives are trouble with WiFi connection and slow app loading. Also, since the Ultra is only recommended for ages 4-9, children could quickly outgrow it or still find your tablet has things they still want to play and soon be stealing yours again.