NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A shiny, new laptop might be on your shopping list for the new school year. But you might also consider a lower-cost tablet instead. These days, tablets can easily accomplish many of the tasks that students might confront. At the same time buyers can save a small bundle by choosing a new tablet over a notebook.
This year's list contains tablets with touchscreens ranging from a very small 6 inches to very large 10-inch models.
Our recommendations include devices running on Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) iOS, Google's (GOOG - Get Report) (GOOGL - Get Report) Android and even Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) new Windows 10. Prices start at well under $100 and can reach $700 for a super-deluxe model. Here are the ten best tablets to get for going back to school.
Apple is the industry's tablet leader for a good reason. It designs terrific hardware coupled with great software. The most recent iPad Air 2, with the 9.7-inch, high-definition touchscreen is no exception.
The display is capable of delivering 3.1 million pixels and up to 10 hours of battery life on a full charge. Apple's quad-core, 64-bit processor can handle anything you throw at it. There are high-quality cameras front and back and, everything is housed in a super-thin (6.1 mm) package weighing just under one pound.
Apple quality does comes at a price. Wi-Fi only tablets with 16 GB of internal storage start at $499, 64 GB models from $599 and 128 GB devices are $699. Adding LTE to the iPad Air 2 will set you back another $130.
The iPad mini 3 is a slightly smaller, less expensive version of the iPad Air 2. The latest edition of Apple's iPad mini boasts a number of innovations not usually found in less expensive tablets.
The latest iPad mini features Apple's iOS 8, Touch ID security as well as a 7.9-inch high-definition touchscreen, a 64-bit, A7 processor, Apple-quality cameras front and back. All of this is squeezed into a pack weighing less than three-quarters of a pound.
Prices for the Wi-Fi version of the iPad mini 3 start at $399, $499 or $599 for 16, 64 or 128 GB of built-in storage. Like its big brother, adding LTE to the iPad mini 3 will cost an additional $130.
It's big (but not too big), thin, lightweight and beautiful. The largest tablet bearing Google's branding is the Nexus 9. It's manufactured for Google by HTC.
This is a full-sized tablet with an 8.9-inch HD touchscreen but weighs-in at just under 15 ounces. The quad-core processor is a 2.3 GHz NVIDIA Tegra K1 powerhouse. There are 8 MP and 1.6 MP cameras back and front.
Nexus 9 comes with either 16GB storage for $399 or 32GB for $479. There is also a 32 GB version with built-in LTE selling for $599.
Released just a few months ago, the A's 8-inch screen delivers 1024 by 768 pixels of HD resolution. The cameras measure 5 and 2 megapixels back and front. There's 1.5 GB of RAM and 16 GB of built-in storage with the option of adding a micro SD expansion card. It runs Android 5.0 (Lollipop) OS>
Lightweight at only 11 ounces and very easy to transport, Samsung's Tab A currently sells for $229.99.
The third-generation Kindle Fire HDX with the high-density, 7-inch touchscreen, quad-core processor, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage is currently selling for $179 - a $20 savings. Kindle tablets come with unlimited cloud storage for Amazon-based files, including books, movies and more.
All Kindle tablets run on a modified version of Android so they can use many apps from the Android store as well as anything downloaded from Amazon's own online Kindle store.
The smallest tablet on our back-to-school list, Amazon's Kindle Fire. But it's no toy.
Inside its extremely compact exterior is a tablet that will surprise you. From the 1.5 GHz quad-core processor to the 6-inch HD touchscreen, to the cameras front and back and either 8 GB or 16 GB of built-in storage. Kindle tablets also come with unlimited, free cloud storage.
The $99 Kindle Fire 6 is somewhat heavier than it looks (due to the big rechargeable battery stuffed inside) but is still perfect for smaller hands and inquiring minds.
As you probably can surmise, it sports a 7-inch touchscreen. That's coupled with a 1.3 GHz, quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage and a small, front-facing camera. It runs on the Android 4.4 operating system.
It's true that the Tab 2 A7-10 has somewhat lesser specifications but it also has an accordingly lower selling price: only $79.
Asus knows how to make affordable Android tablets. It was the company behind two generations of Nexus 7 tablets. So, it's no surprise that one of its own branded devices made this year's back-to-school list.
The MeMO Pad 8 is slightly larger than the Nexus 7. It has an 8-inch (1,280 by 800) HD touchscreen, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage with a year of addition cloud storage, cameras of 2 megapixels and 5 megapixels and nine hours of battery life from on a full charge.
The original suggested retail price in 2014 was $199. You can now find MeMO 8 models for under $100.
These are full-sized Android tablets made to compete with the likes of Apple's iPads and Google's Nexus 9 when it comes to price. Both have big, 10.1-inch touchscreens (1080 by 800 pixels) and run on Android 4.4.2 operating system. The HP 10 uses an Allwinner quad-core, A31s processor mated to 1 GB of RAM while the HP 10 Plus runs on a 1.0 GHz, quad-core Arm Cortex A7 chip with 2 GB of RAM. Both models have 5 and 2 megapixel cameras, stereo speakers and 16 GB of on-board storage.
Best part is the price. The base model retails for $249 and the Plus sells for $279.99. Both are notably quite affordable for large-screened tablets.
Unlike the other tablets here the Surface 3 runs a full PC operating system, Microsoft's brand new Windows 10. That means the Surface 3 should be able to handle more complex computing than iOS or Android models. It depends what you intend to do with a tablet.
The Surface 3 has 10.8-inch, HD touchscreen and an Intel Atom processor. There are three configurations: a $499 model with 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage and a $599 version with 4 GB/128 GB. When used purely as a tablet you thankfully won't need to buy one of Microsoft's keyboard covers. Microsoft is currently offering back-to-school discounts for students and teachers.