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Top Reasons Cheap Tablets Are Ideal for Students

Are you a student looking for a new gadget? You’ve likely encountered many pushing you toward costly laptops or tablets. While those might be tempting if you’ve won the lottery, for most of us, a MacBook Pro M2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra isn’t necessary. A budget tablet is sufficient for the university.

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Typically, ‘best X for students’ guides feature the most expensive options. Yet, I completed my degree with the most affordable choice available. I assure you, you can do the same.

What You Need for Your Education

Let me begin by noting that while this advice generally applies, there are exceptions. Some individuals, particularly those in tech or engineering-focused programs, might require a powerful device. On the other hand, some may not need a gadget at all. Yet, for most of us, something functional suffices.

A unifying function among all students’ needs is word processing. You must be able to type notes during lectures and draft essays in the library (or realistically, the student bar). Free drawing is also important for hand-written notes or course sketches.

The device should work for watching movies in bed and playing music in your room. It should cater to both work and play.

For these functions, virtually any screen-equipped device suffices. Consider adding a keyboard or stylus if desired, though it’s optional. There’s no need to spend $1,000+ when $100+ gets the job done.

This leads us to another crucial aspect, a key feature topping most students’ lists: affordability.

Affordability is Key

Unless there’s been a massive shift since my graduation three years ago, money dominates every student’s thoughts (even ahead of ‘the degree’ and just beyond ‘where to go tonight’).

You’re constantly planning for the cheapest bar, finding ways to spend as little as possible, and even concocting the thriftiest homemade meals (even if it sounds odd to non-students—I embraced baked beans and spaghetti).

Affordability is Key
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Most students hover dangerously close to ‘zero’ in their bank accounts. Even when student finances arrive, they swiftly vanish into rent, bills, and class essentials. This holds true even for working students like me.

Given this, how many students can really afford pricey laptops or tablets? Who can manage devices with ‘Pro’ in the name, a fancy MacBook, and all the required accessories? Certainly not me.

This is why my ultimate university productivity tool became the iPad 9.7 (2017).

My iPad Love Letter

I chose this iPad because it was the cheapest tablet I found. It’s from Apple’s budget line, not the newest model, making it more affordable. Also, student discounts were available.

Back then, not being a tech journalist, I didn’t know about other budget tablets from Samsung and Amazon. When busy with studies, quick decisions matter.

Another advantage of Apple devices is cost-effective peripherals due to their popularity. I bought a low-cost faux-leather cover that doubled as a stand.

I didn’t use an external keyboard; the on-screen one sufficed. Saving money requires practical choices.

I spent about £300 ($350 in the US) on the tablet and accessories—slightly more than expected. However, my tired laptop couldn’t last another year of my degree, so upgrading was necessary.

And guess what? It performed perfectly. Suitable for essays, music, movies, and even social media. At the time, I lacked a smartphone not because it was distant history, but due to affordability.

Not Just the iPad

The iPad isn’t the sole budget productivity option available. Through university and beyond, I’ve witnessed the remarkable versatility of budget-friendly tablets.

For instance, a friend uses the Amazon Fire HD 10 as his primary tool. With a keyboard folio, he proudly employs it in coffee shops, much like others with high-end iPad Pros.

Not Just the iPad
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom’s Guide)

Though it lacks significant processing power, consider the demands of word processing or script-writing apps—they’re not very high! People often overestimate tablet users’ power needs.

Samsung Galaxy A devices work well too, especially for on-the-go note-taking. Regrettably, they lack the broad peripheral and accessory support enjoyed by iPads.

Experiencing the benefits of this tablet as a student convinced me that affordable slates are all college-goers need. So, suggesting super-expensive devices to students feels wrong—you don’t need to spend beyond my level.

Even if you can afford pricey tech, save your money for the enriching experiences this phase brings. Don’t invest in mere plastic and metal. Check out our list of top cheap tablets for great affordable options.

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