HotHardware's 2015 Back To School Tech Gear Shopping Guide

Tablets For Top Marks

Dell Venue 10 7000 2-in-1: Starting at $499

Dell's Venue 10 7000 isn't just a larger tablet, it's a potential laptop replacement as well. Pretty much everything about the device suggests that it's capable of standing in for a basic laptop. Dell's beautiful Venue 10 7000 signals somewhat of a turning point for Android tablets. With Android for Work available through Android 5 (Lollipop), it's clear that even Google's mobile OS is taking productivity more seriously -- a real boon for students looking to stay atop coursework with a super light footprint and open source OS.

It won't suffice for those who dabble in advanced graphics or multimedia, but for staying ahead of everyday tasks (document processing, spreadsheets, email, and video calls), it's surprisingly capable. The 2.3GHz quad-core Atom processor, paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB or 32GB of eMMC flash storage, makes for a potent tablet. Toss in a magnetic keyboard/trackpad attachment, and it's even more functional.

Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
: Starting at $499

The 2-in-1 detachable laptop design employs a magnetic hinge that supports four usage modes: Attached, Detached, Flipped, and Tented. The T300 Chi measures about 0.65 inches when docked, making it slightly thinner than an Apple Macbook Air. And Asus claims the T300 Chi is the world's thinnest Windows tablet, measuring just 0.28 inches thick. The Transformer Book T300 Chi also features an all-aluminum unibody design to give it a premium look and feel.

After spending time with the Chi T300, we feel this machine is a very good option for a user who wants both an ultraportable notebook and a tablet without having to carry both. This system is very capable of executing everyday tasks such as browsing the web, editing documents, listening to music, and other standard computing tasks.

iPad mini 3: Starting at $399

Cheaper and far more mobile than the iPad Air, the iPad mini 3 is ideal for school. It's 7.9-inch Retina Display is plenty big for both leisure and productivity apps alike, and now that it's equipped with Touch ID, easy-breezy security is within reach. Those already entrenched in Apple's ecosystem will appreciate the ability to share apps from one's iPhone collection, and given that it has been on the market for some time, discounted accessories are easy to find. Items like Bluetooth keyboards enable it to stand it as an email machine in a pinch, and apps are available to turn the tablet into a secondary display if paired with a Mac.


Dell's Venue 8 7000: Starting at $399

This is the world's thinnest 8-inch tablet, measuring a mere 6 millimeters thick, or 0.24 inches and change if you're staunchly opposed to the metric system. That's 0.1mm slimmer than Apple's iPad Air 2 and 1.5mm flatter than the iPad mini 3, giving Dell full bragging rights, even if by a hair. The slim form factor isn't the only thing that stands out about the Venue 8 7000. It also features one of the best displays on the market, an 8.4-inch OLED infinity edge-to-edge panel with a 2560x1600 resolution, and is the first to integrate Intel's RealSense snapshot depth camera. Toss in premium build quality, front-firing stereo speakers, and things like Miracast support, and what you end up with is a high-end Android slate with far more features than most in its category.

And then there are the accessories. Specifically, the $80 Dell Cast dongle that transforms the Venue 8 7000 into an Android PC via Productivity Mode. This mirrors the tablet to any display with an HDMI port, and when you select Productivity Mode, you can connect a wireless keyboard and mouse to use the tablet like a PC. This won't replace anyone's primary laptop, though it is a serviceable alternative to a Chromebook or Chromebox in this mode.

Related content