What device should I bring to school? That’s the question on everyones mind when they want to go all digital. Many school districts have given every child a laptop, some schools use Chromebooks, and some schools go the BYOD route. Read this guide to choose the right device for you, your school or your classroom.
Your Regular, Run of The Mill, Windows PC
It is very hard to make a generalization on Windows PCs because they’re so diverse. Some have great battery life, some have bad battery life, some have touch screens, but some don’t. So I can speak little about the productivity of the actual device. What I can tell you though, is that Windows is not the most stable of Operating Systems, and that they are more vulnerable to viruses than their Mac and Chromebook counterparts. That’s why, when a school deploys PCs, they have an entire IT department fixing the computers, as well as making sure the systems have ten AVs on them. All of these security measures are replicable at home, but takes time and slows down the machine. I know some Microsoft fanboy will get mad at me saying this, but, don’t use a Windows machine for school. I also know that some wannabe Linus Torvalds is going to comment on this post saying “Why not Linux?” To keep it short, a operating system that can’t run Office natively (yes, I know about wine, it’s too crashy) is useless as a work machine.
- Good Office support
- Full featured computer
- Stability issues
- Battery life
- No touchscreen (there are exceptions)
- Vulnerable to viruses
I can already hear the excited squeals of all of those Apple Fanboys with my negative review of PCs in the previous paragraph. Sorry for the let down, but, Macs didn’t fair any better. I am not saying that Macs are bad machines, I have one at home, and in fact, I am writing this on a Mac. I just think that there are many problems with taking a mac to school. One, if you have a MacBook pro, they’re too heavy, and they’re battery won’t last an entire school day, so unless you want to be tethered to the wall half the day, I would not recommend it. Now the MacBook air is a pretty good machine, I will give you that, but it does not have touch screen, which makes it impossible to take handwritten notes. If you don’t mind using paper for all of your handwritten work, the MacBook Air is a great choice, but if you’re like me and you want everything in one place, keep reading on to find my suggestion for best device.
- Fully featured computer
- Microsoft Office
- Safe from viruses
- Not portable (especially MBP)
- Battery life
- Price ($799 at least)
Oh Chromebooks, why do you still exist? I could go on and on about why Chromebooks suck, but I promise to keep it short. One of the biggest reasons that I hate Chromebooks is that it offers no flexibility. If you buy a Chromebook, you are sort of tied to the Google ecosystem. For example, the file explorer is Google Drive, your user account is your Google Account, and your only web browser is Google Chrome. Sure, you can access other cloud services, and use other web apps like Word Online, but the bottom line is, unless you are deep in to the Google ecosystem, you would be better off with some other device
- Cost (Under $300)
- Battery life
- No native Microsoft Office (yes, there is Office Online, but there is no comparison to the real thing)
- No real OS
- Tied down to Google’s ecosystem
- No touchscreen
- Always needs an internet connection.
Android tablets, from an education perspective, are useless. Most successful Android tablets are 7 inch versions, which are too small to be staring at all day. And even the 10 inch Android tablets are plagued by stability issues, apps that aren’t optimized for the unusually large 10 inch form factor. Also, from an education perspective, many of the educational apps are either less functional than their iOS counterparts, or they’re nonexistent. From a productivity standpoint, the pickings are slim. You either have Google Docs, which is even worse than Google Docs on the iPad, or you can beta-test Microsoft Office for Android. Overall, poor app support, poor productivity selections, and poor stability cause me to warn you against getting an Android tablet for productivity.
- Has Office, sort of
- Everything else
Windows Tablets/ Microsoft Surface (Pro)
Windows tablets are new to the game here but they are aimed at the productivity market. So when it comes to productivity, they are excellent, however, their app selection is just crap. This is a problem especially when it comes to RT tablets, which do not have the ability to run Windows programs. And of the 1,500 odd apps that they do have in the app store, they are unprofessional, crashy, and many of them do the same thing. While, many Windows tablets are Wacom Penabled (digitizer allows for accurate, pressure sensitive drawing and writing) there are not very many good note-taking apps, other than OneNote, which I find to be very proprietary to OneDrive and clunky in terms of syncing. While these tablets have incredible potential to become great devices for education, but the poor app selection, and clunky experience stops it from getting my full recommendation.
- Wacom Penabled
- Microsoft Office
- Clunky interface
- Poor app selection
Galaxy Note 10.1
Yes, yes, I know that I have already written a paragraph on Android Tablets. But this one is different I swear. THIS REVIEW IS NOT APPLICABLE TO THE SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB, WHICH EXEMPLIFIES EVERY NEGATIVE THING ABOUT ANDROID TABLETS. The Samsung Galaxy Tab runs a stable albeit visually ugly fork of Android that Samsung likes to call TouchWiz. While it won’t win any design contests, TouchWiz fixes many of the screen scaling problems seen on other Android tablets, as well as optimizing it for the device, which makes it very stable on the Note. But the winning feature about the Galaxy Note 10.1 is the S Pen, which is what Samsung calls it’s implementation of Wacom Penabled technology. The integration is deep, with air command, quicknote and a handwriting input keyboard. The built in note-taking app is good, but there are many good ones built specifically for this device. If you’re a Android fan and you want a very capable tablet with a great handwriting experience, I would go with the Galaxy Note 10.1.
- S Pen
- Microsoft Office
- Battery life (even better than the iPad)
- The app selection isn’t as wide or as polished as iOS
- Educational apps are still lacking
- Vulnerable to a fair amount of Android exploits
The Apple iPad is the most popular tablet ever. With an almost monopolistic market share, it is the gold standard, the tablet that all other tablets are measured by. It is also the gold standard in education. Apple has an entire department called “iPad in education” almost all of the leading educational apps come first to iPad, and with a wide variety of productivity and note-taking apps, it is truly the best device that you possibly could bring to school. While it isn’t Wacom Penabled, the wide variety of of note-taking apps make up for it. While iWork on iPad is pretty good, Office for iPad is excellent, with as much functionality as Office for PC. This is the device I can confidently say will improve your productivity.
- Wide range of apps
- 10 hour battery life
- TouchID (iPad Air 2 and up)
- Not Penabled
- 4:3 screen (not a big deal, but prefer widescreen)
At the end of the day, I had to go with the iPad, because of my school, but any of the aforementioned tablets will be a welcome addition to your school life. While laptops are great, they are not portable enough to carry around in classes, and are generally less durable to drops and turbulence. In my next post, I will go over the accessories that you want with you need with your tablets.