Sorry to break it to you, kids, but summer is nearly finished and the start of the new school year is upon us. And sorry to be the bearer of bad news, parents, however like it or not, your monthly spending budget will skyrocket in the coming weeks.
Tuition fees aside, you have textbooks to take care of, new, hip clothes for your offspring to show off his or hers unique fashion style, plus the ultimate marker of the continuous 21st century education advances: gadgets.
Whether we’re talking smartphones, tablets or laptops (or something in between, like a hybrid), your children need gizmos to handle their homework, keep up with their friends and relax during study breaks.
But what to choose to deliver a perfect multi-purpose learning/entertainment experience, and not cost an arm and a leg? A MacBook? An iPad? A Microsoft Surface? Nah, Android is, as always, the answer to all your prayers, with the following magnificent seven providing solutions for every possible desire or need:
The budget champion – Google Nexus 7 2013
Ah, the classic second-generation Asus-made, Google-promoted N7. Always a crowd pleaser, and especially when you work hard for every penny you make. The Nexus 7 2013 is mom and dad’s safest bet in terms of compact, easy to carry slates with plenty of punch to handle both gaming and quick Wikipedia research for, say, chem papers.
And kids, we know you really, really, really wished for an iPad Air because the football team’s captain and the lead cheerleader each own one, but come to think of it, aren’t the two glorious d-bags? Be unique, be smart, and don’t talk back to your old man when he buys you the N7 2013.
At $218 in a 16 GB Wi-Fi-only variation, it secures a healthy college fund boost. Or, better yet, get a certified refurbished (read like new) 16 GB-er, and only spend $165. In the mood for spoiling your “heir”? The 32 GB model is $262, and LTE versions start at $340.
The ultimate gamer – Nvidia Shield Tablet
Tread carefully here, parents, and make sure you know what you’re getting yourselves into. The Shield Tablet is a highly addictive console-type device, with “extreme” performance, power and portability. By itself, it’s $299, but if you really trust and want to spoil your spawn, the $60 wireless controller and $40 tablet cover are also must-buys.
And yes, in theory, the Shield is a multi-purpose 8 incher, being just as fitting for mundane tasks like online research, e-mail or homework dispatch like any standard, non-gaming-focused Android tab. It’s just that, once it gets in your blood, you won’t feel like doing much reading or calculus.
The productivity hero – Asus Transformer Pad TF103C-A1
Technically, we really could have picked any one of Asus’ countless Transformer Pad family members to nominate in this category. Every last one of them can seamlessly convert from a tab to a mini-laptop and offer optional physical keyboards, opening up a sea of possibilities for classroom, home and on-the-go use.
But the TF103C-A1 is not just productive and versatile, it’s damn cheap too, at $289, with the docking station included. To be clear, less than three Benjamins buy you a KitKat-running, quad-core Intel Atom-packing 10-inch slate which you can turn into a KitKat-running, quad-core-packing 10-inch notebook whenever, wherever.
The kiddie favorite – Fuhu Nabi 2
Guess there’s not a whole lot left to say about the OG Nabi 2 after it topped our kid-friendly Android tab charts, despite recently celebrating its two-year anniversary. Except that it’s now even cheaper than before, at $155.88.
And your 3, 4, 5, possibly 6 and 7-year-olds will love you to death when you give it to them. Even when you’ll insist on restricting their light gaming time and cranking up their learning-through-gaming.
Best for reading – Amazon Kindle Fire HD
Say what you will about Amazon’s Android fork, or its stubbornness to ban Google Play access, but buy your kid a Kindle Fire HD or HDX and trust me, you’ll get them reading in no time. Amazon’s library is gigantic, and there’s such a multitude and variety of free titles that a normal person would need ten lifetimes to go through them all.
The amazing display of even the most affordable Fire HD, the $139 8 GB 7 incher, makes the experience that much harder to forget, and the beefy battery makes sure you aren’t interrupted just as the big twist starts unraveling. Oh, yeah, and the HD and HDX are pretty cool for gaming, multimedia or browsing too, particularly the 8.9 inchers that start at $320.
Parents’ choice – Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
Look, it’s good to be modest, self-conscious and look out for the best interests of your children first and foremost, but hey, you deserve a little treat once in a while too. Or a big one, if you don’t mind coughing up $650 for the 32 GB Note Pro 12.2.
It’s well deserving, what with its mouth-watering screen real estate, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels resolution, 3 GB RAM and Snapdragon 800 oomph. Alternatively, if you hate being a big spender, or just can’t afford to spend that much, the Dell Venue 7 is nowadays a pithy $128.
That’s an incredible 100 bucks off the mid-ranger’s list price, which makes it the kind of bargain parents live for. Besides, the Venue 7 is nowhere near as technically humble as the discounted retail value suggests, carrying a whopping on-board 2 gigs of RAM among others.
Teachers’ choice – Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
This wouldn’t be a complete back-to-school guide without a recommendation for educators, who need to stay in touch with the latest technology trends themselves. And what better way to balance work and fun than purchasing a gizmo designed specifically for quick, easy note-taking?
Granted, that’s why the Note Pro 12.2 is around, and the Note 10.1 2014 Edition caters to the same exact needs as well. Only the Note 8.0 does it at the best price, $270, also allowing for the easiest transportation, which is a key factor for a teacher whose satchel is always full and heavy.
There you go, toddlers, tweens, teens, parents and teachers. Seven (mostly affordable) ways to make back-to-school season more easily digestible. Come on now, September 4 doesn’t have to be such a sad, sad day, does it?