Best back-to-school tech for middle schoolers

Education

Teachers can have up to 20 times more influence on a middle schooler’s education than other educational settings such as elementary and high school.

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Which back-to-school tech is best?

Getting ready for the school already comes with its fair share of stressors outside of pick-up and drop-off schedules and choosing the right classes. This is especially true when you have to buy school supplies from a seemingly endless shopping list.

Whether you need headphones, laptops or other devices for online learning or in-class instruction, there’s a perfect gadget available for every student’s need.

What are the most significant differences between tablets and laptops?

Based on your young student’s unique educational needs, you may be wondering to yourself if a tablet or laptop is the best fit for school lessons.

What to look for in a quality tablet

Wi-Fi access

Most tablet brands offer Wi-Fi capabilities that allow your child to connect to the internet with ease, while others run without connecting at all.

Parental controls

You can set up control profiles for each child within one device without any complications. You can limit access to the camera, games, video and music content.

App compatibility

Most devices offer access to the app store where you can download the necessary software. In contrast, others have a more limited capacity and function as a smaller gaming or reading device version.

Best tablets

Top tablet

Apple iPad Pro 5th Generation

Apple iPad Pro 5th Generation 

What you need to know: This product is powerful enough to multitask between multiple programs.

What you’ll love: Available in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes, each device has premium cameras and speakers, high-contrast displays and USB-C ports with Thunderbolt.

What you should consider: The keyboard is sold separately despite its high price point.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top tablet for the money

Amazon Fire HD 10

Amazon Fire HD 10

What you need to know: This option is speedy enough that any user can enjoy eBooks, video streaming and web browsing.

What you’ll love: It’s more affordable than most leading tablet brands, and it also features Alexa voice controls, stereo speakers and a battery life of 12 hours. It’s available in 32GB and 64GB.

What you should consider: It’s optimized for entertainment rather than productivity.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Kohl’s

What to look for in a quality laptop

Operating systems

Various brands run a proprietary operating system. Different computer interfaces require a more significant learning curve than others.

Processors

You can use a computer with a fast processor for leisure activities outside of lesson plans requiring more temporary storage.

Additional features

Most devices offer a more ergonomic keyboard option than tablets. Different ports are available if any printing or HDMI connections are required.

Best laptops

Top laptop

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Laptop

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Laptop

What you need to know: This option has a premium AMD chipset at an affordable price.

What you’ll love: It’s outfitted with an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U and 16GB of RAM. The Lenovo IdeaPad performs just as well as more expensive options. The 360-hinge allows it to double as a touchscreen tablet.

What you should consider: This product is neither lightweight nor slim.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Lenovo

Top laptop for the money

HP Chromebook 14a-na0010nr

HP Chromebook 14a-na0010nr

What you need to know: This product offers a user-friendly interface that allows users to operate different hardware and software easily.

What you’ll love: The HD display and high-quality speakers make any viewing experience exceptional. Offering 13 hours of battery life, users can conveniently work for extended periods without charging. The anti-glare panel also helps reduce eye strain.

What you should consider: This isn’t the best option for big projects or transportation.

Where to buy: Sold by HP

What are the biggest differences between smartwatches and smartphones?

For parents with kids always on the go, staying in touch is a top priority. 

What to look for in a quality smartwatch

App support

Although most devices are semi-functional on their own, make sure that whichever smartwatch you purchase can integrate with a smartphone to unlock its full capabilities.

Notifications

Some cannot support apps but receive messages from a connected phone, while others support and receive text messages without any issues.

Battery life

User reviews are an excellent way to accurately estimate the actual battery life of different models if you are unsure which one lasts the longest during the day.

Best smartwatches

Top smartwatch

Apple Series 6

Apple Series 6

What you need to know: This is one of the popular products on the market due to its wide range of functions.

What you’ll love: It offers options for health stats, blood oxygen, heart rhythm and sleep monitoring. It also tracks fitness stats if your middle schooler is into sports activities.

What you should consider: This is one of the pricier options for smartwatches.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top smartwatch for the money

Samsung Galaxy Watch3

Samsung Galaxy Watch3

What you need to know:  Delivers precise health information and connectivity. Also features a top-notch smartphone app.

What you’ll love: A large display and comprehensive health-tracking features such as heart, sleep and fall detection are some of its strongest highlights. The strap is also comfortable, durable and available in three stylish colors.

What you should consider: The enhanced titanium model can be a bit expensive despite its durable quality.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

What to look for in a quality smartphone

Screen sizes

Depending on your phone’s screen size, you can have a different experience. Smartphone screens that are too small may cause eye strain but are easier to carry around. Ones with bigger screens are harder to keep in your pocket.

File storage

Based on your child’s app preferences, you will want to get a minimum of 64GB in file storage. But if their leisure activities require more space, then a device with 128GB is a better investment.

Camera

Smartphone cameras have evolved quickly over time and sometimes rival more traditional brands due to their capabilities. If your kid is more creative and enjoys photography, find a brand with a great camera.

Best smartphones

Top smartphone

Apple iPhone 12

Apple iPhone 12

What you need to know: This option is great for FaceTime calls and video streaming due to its high-contrast OLED screen.

What you’ll love: This model is splash resistant with a rugged design in case you are worried about durability. It also possesses extremely fast 5G connectivity.

What you should consider: It has a higher price point than other brands.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top smartphone for the money

Samsung Galaxy S20

Samsung Galaxy S20

What you need to know: This is another great option for 5G connectivity and powerful performance.

What you’ll love: The stylish build and design offer impressive battery life. Other impressive features include 8k video resolution, 108MP pictures and detailed zoom.

What you should consider: Its chassis does not feature a headphone jack.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

What to look for in quality headphones

Some children may be sensitive to more traditional earbuds due to their design. Brands with an over-the-ear fit offer better comfort and suit smaller ears better.

Noise cancellation

Headphones with noise cancellation technology play specific tones that offset other sounds that surround you. Since it is an active process, many require batteries to function.

In-line

If you don’t want to purchase headphones with a headset attachment for your student, a good alternative would be one with an in-line microphone.

EQ controls

Equalization controls help you customize different parts of sound that come through your headphones.

Best headphones

Top headphones

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

What you need to know: This product offers ultimate comfort and sound quality.

What you’ll love: These headphones have an extensive sound range, sleek wireless design and boast up to 35 hours of battery life, all at a reasonable price.

What you should consider: Wind interference may be an issue when using ambient sound features outdoors.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top headphones for the money

Samsung AKG Y500 Wireless Headphones

Samsung AKG Y500 Wireless Headphones

What you need to know: This option is optimized perfectly for comfort and convenience.

What you’ll love: It offers a notable battery life of 33 hours and automatically pauses content when you remove the headphones. You can also connect two devices simultaneously through the Bluetooth feature. This option is available in four colors.

What you should consider: It has a tighter fit on the head compared to other brands.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Ashton Hughes writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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