3 best tablets for families

A new breed of tablet/laptop hybrids offer both portability and power. Tech expert Derek Malcolm reveals three new ones that are great for families.

Photo: iStockphotos
Photo: iStockphotos

Seems like just yesterday that kids and parents were belting out the chorus of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” as they said so-long to school and hello to a sun-soaked summer. But with September fast approaching and the anthem switched to Florence + the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over,” it’s time to start thinking about getting the kids ready to hit the books for another school year.

Sure, pens and notebooks are essential, but back-to-school season is also a good time to consider some of the great new tech that your kids, or your family, might need. At the top of that list is a powerful, reliable computer for doing schoolwork and, let’s face it, a lot of fun stuff, too. And while you might think the best device for schoolwork is laptop or desktop computer, a new breed of tablet/laptop hybrids has emerged that offer both the portability of a tablet and the added power of a laptop for more advanced computing.

Some of these devices are pricey, but think of it this way: You’re getting a twofer here. Instead of buying multiple devices, the whole family can share one. Kids get the familiarity of the iOS and Android apps they’re used to from using your smartphones, while parents get a device that they can use for work, too—no need to drop a mint on a new laptop.

With that, we’ve put together this roundup of some of the best tablet/laptop hybrids around, just in time for the school bell.

iPad Pro 9.7 | Starting at $799
Truth be told, your kids will probably be too mesmerized by the antics of Ryder and the PAW Patrol to care about the tech under the hood of Apple’s latest flagship iPad line. If they’re already familiar with iOS from using your iPhone, they’ll be playing games and watching Netflix as per usual, with zero learning curve. The difference is, instead of leaving it at home and heading to work, you’ll be sliding it in your bag. With the most powerful processor of any iPad to date, the Pro 9.7 can handle most of the everyday work and home computing tasks that you usually do on your laptop (email, messaging and even image and video editing), but at a fraction of the weight (under one pound) and size (9.4” x 6.6” x 0.25”). If you prefer typing on a physical keyboard, Apple’s Smart keyboard accessory (not included) snaps on, doubles as a stand and folds up nicely. Lastly, something unique to the iPad Pro line the kids are sure to like is Apple Pencil. With a wide range of apps available, the pressure-sensitive tool lets them draw and colour on screen to their heart’s content. (Or until the 10-hour battery dies, whichever comes first.)

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S | $1,399
The Galaxy TabPro S takes the tablet/laptop hybrid to another level by making it the first of its flagship Galaxy devices to run a full version of the Windows 10 Pro operating system, instead of the usual Android OS. For kids, unlike Android or iOS devices, this means they can play PC games (Minecraft, anyone?) and stream Xbox One game content. With an impressively brilliant 12.5-inch touchscreen AMOLED display, even their homework will look stunning (and so will movies and TV shows, don’t worry), while the 10.5-hour battery (with a fast-charging feature that delivers a full charge in 2.5 hours) will make sure they don’t have any excuses for not getting it done. For mom and dad, because it’s a full Windows device, all the work and home applications you’re used to on your Windows desktop are available, but the thing weighs just over a pound and is a quarter of an inch thin—also great for kids during long car rides (although like a laptop, the TabPro S doesn’t have mobile connectivity, so you’ll have to hotspot to your smartphone). The full-size detachable keyboard is brilliantly designed and is as close to a laptop as I’ve seen. It has a row of function keys, an integrated touchpad, and Samsung has generously included it with the TabPro S.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 | Starting at $1,179
Considered by many to be the gold-standard of Windows tablets and billed as the “tablet that can replace your laptop,” the Surface Pro 4 is similar to the Galaxy TabPro S, but offers something it or even the iPad Pro do not: processor and price options. For kids, this will matter little—the base Surface Pro 4 is powerful enough to deliver all the entertainment content they want to its bright, 12.3-inch display, while Windows 10 Pro adeptly drives the gaming and software experience they need, whether they’re blasting bad guys or writing a report. But for parents, a range of processor speeds, RAM memory and storage sizes allows you to choose a device that’s best for your needs—from basic emailing and browsing to heavier software like Photoshop. Kids and adults will like the included Surface Pen stylus, which is great for drawing and making notes, and the Type Cover snap-on keyboard (although not included) is comfortable for little hands and also features a trackpad.

Read more:
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Video tutorial: Setting up parental controls on your iOS or Android device
Is using a tablet to keep your kid occupied lazy parenting?

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