Your back may be straining from the textbooks, laptop, gym gear and lunch in that dangling overstuffed messenger, but you're still gonna want to save room for one more item -- a tablet. After all, while you can surf, tweet, play games and watch video from your other devices, there's nothing like doing it from a simple glass window that sits in the palm of your hand. As the hardware gets more powerful, these devices are rapidly becoming versatile enough to let you justify leaving the laptop at home on less-intensive days, so why not check out our picks of the finest devices you should be using and abusing before, during and after class.
Google Nexus 7
If you're wedded to your Nook or Kindle Fire, sorry -- Google and ASUS' tablet is putting both on the endangered list. Solid build quality, a comfortable form factor and Jelly Bean's refinements make this the best 7-inch Android device on the market. You'll be buying this for those moments after a long day at school, kicking back to read your textbook in front of the TV followed by some Angry Birds before bed. The rumors are that Google is selling this device at a loss, and that reason alone should convince you that you're getting a bargain, but the $25 Play voucher's a good incentive, too.
Key specs: Android Jelly Bean, $199 price tag, Google Now.
Price: $199 from GoogleMid-range
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Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0
Samsung's budget tablet combines decent battery life, good build quality and reasonable performance at a low price. It's also equipped with an infrared blaster that lets you change channels on the TV without reaching for the remote -- great when you're riffing about what you're watching on Twitter.
Price: $249 from Amazon
Amazon Kindle Fire
Last year's king of the budget hill is a portable window into Amazon's storefront. It's perfect for consuming any electronic content you can buy. Decent battery life, reasonable browsing and a low price mean it'll provide a good alternative if you don't fancy Google's latest slate.
$199 from Amazon
ASUS Transformer Pad TF300
While ASUS' Transformer Pad TF300 is the budget version of its Transformer Prime, it hasn't made that many sacrifices. In fact, if you're on the market for something to take quick notes in class, then the TF300 should certainly be in your sights. The keyboard dock is an optional add-on, but gives you a physical input device that should get you through some short assignments without issues. Powerful internals and eight hours of battery life mean that it'll last you all day without any hassle and will be equally adept at handling the latest and greatest Android gaming titles for blowing out those stresses from the day.
Key specs: Tegra 3, Keyboard dock, Great battery life.
Price: $384 on Amazon
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Apple iPad 2
It screams volumes that last year's heavyweight can still match this year's units pound-for-pound, but that's the iPad all over. If you aren't worried about the souped-up camera or display, you can save yourself a heap of cash and plump for the budget model -- it works just the same.
Price: $399 from Apple
Acer Iconia Tab A200
Acer wisely kept its Ice Cream Sandwich tinkering to a minimum, offering a solid slice of hardware that's neither shockingly quick or offensively slow. On the upside, the hardware feels like it could take a pounding; useful if it'll be fighting for space alongside your textbooks in your backpack.
Price: $270 from Amazon
Money's no object
Apple iPad (2012)
Yeah, it's still here. Let's face it -- nobody does it better, and you're certainly not going to find a better device at the same price. If you have $500 to spend on a device that'll work hard and play harder, then it has to be the iPad, no contest. The Retina display is simply amazing, the 5-megapixel camera could replace your point-and-shoot (we've seen it happen already) and there's an unparalleled selection of educational apps to help you get through whatever class you're taking. Throw in Apple's content partnerships with the biggest textbook makers and you really don't have any excuse not to buy one.
Key specs: Retina display, 5-megapixel camera, 42.5 watt-hour battery.
Price: $499 at Apple
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Toshiba Excite 13
If you're looking for a tablet with more real estate than most, then Toshiba's Excite with a 13-inch display is for you. Of course, it weighs 2.2 pounds and you'll have to carry it with you to class, but that's a small price to pay, right?
Price: $650 at Amazon
ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity
ASUS' new flagship demands more of your wallet, but if you want to get the best Transformer experience available, then this is the device to snap up. A better camera, longer battery life and updated GPS support round out this device, likely to win the hearts of many.
Price: $499 from Amazon
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