These are the best Apple products for students in 2021


Apple is mostly known for three characteristics — how strongly-built and premium their hardware is, how long their devices receive software support, and how inter-connected their ecosystem is. Once you’re in the walled garden, it’s very hard to give it up and switch to alternatives. From Macs, to both affordable and Pro iPads, to other accessories — there’s an Apple product for everyone and almost every purpose. If you’re a student, we have prepared for you a list of the best Apple products you can get your hands on right now.

Best budget laptop: Apple MacBook Air M1 13″

The Apple MacBook Air has been one of the most popular notebooks for a few years now. It’s light, capable, and — relatively speaking — affordable. This laptop offers a slim, premium design, unmatched by any of its rivals. It offers great durability and gets software updates for at least seven years usually. To sum up — it’s a future-proof investment.

Powered by the Apple M1 chip, the latest MacBook Air has a 13″ LED-backlit display, with a 2560 x 1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch with support for millions of colors. Its screen also supports True Tone, making the colors a bit warmer in certain lighting conditions.

The M1 chip has an always-on processor, an eight core CPU with four perform­ance cores and four efficiency cores, a seven core GPU, and a 16 core Neural Engine. This turns it into a beast when compared to similarly priced laptops. It’s so capable and power-efficient that Apple actually removed the fans from its internals. The MacBook Air M1 simply doesn’t heat up with average use.

When it comes to battery life, it has a built-in 49.9 watt-hour lithium polymer battery. It lasts for up to 15 hours when browsing the web on a single charge, according to Apple. It comes with a 30W USB-C power adapter, so fully charging it takes around 3 hours only, when it’s completely drained.

The MacBook Air M1 includes two USB-C ports and — surprisingly — a 3.5mm headphone jack. So you will likely need to buy extra dongles or depend on cloud-based and other wireless solutions. Personally, I’m not bothered because my setup is completely wireless and my work is internet browser-based, for the most part at least. I only use one of the USB-C ports for charging it. The other Thunderbolt 3 port and headphone jack remain untouched.

This affordable notebook comes with 8GB of RAM, but it’s upgradable to 16GB — if you require the extra memory. The base model has 256GB of SSD storage and can be upgraded to 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB. So these configurations should be enough to fit your student needs, unless you’re studying rocket science.

The Apple MacBook Air M1 comes with macOS 11 Big Sur pre-installed. It will receive the macOS 12 Monterey update later this fall, and you can always get your hands on it now if you’re willing to join the beta program. However, we don’t advise students to run beta macOS versions on their daily drivers because apps they use may stop working as expected or completely break.

What makes this laptop a great fit for students is its portability and light weight. You can just slide it in your backpack and get going. It has just enough power for an average student, and it has a reasonable price tag for the punch it packs. What’s even better is that you can even get it for cheaper from Apple if you’re eligible for the Student Discount.

The MacBook Air M1 is only available in three colors — Gold, Silver, and Space Gray. So if you’re a fan of more vibrant colors, you will have to settle for a case or skin for your new laptop. The base model is priced at $999 in the US, without the Student Discount.

Best budget tablet: Apple iPad 9th Gen 10.2″

If you are looking for a product that costs only a third of the Apple MacBook Air M1, but are willing to sacrifice macOS and the privileges of a real computer, then the Apple iPad 9th Gen is what you’re looking for. While it’s nowhere as powerful as the popular notebook, it still packs enough power for a lot of students. If your studies don’t require advanced PC software that aren’t supported on iPadOS, and you only need to do some reading, writing, presenting, and/or doodling, then this iPad is the right device for you.

The affordable Apple iPad 9th Gen comes with a 10.2″ LED-backlit Multi-Touch Retina display, with a 2160 x 1620 pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch. It supports the 1st Gen Apple Pencil, taking notes and illustrating to the next level. While the Apple Pencil is sold separately, it’s a good investment for those majoring in relevant fields. If you’re looking to turn the iPad into a laptop replacement, then we advise you to buy a keyboard case to make typing an easier task.

This iPad has an Apple A13 Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture. It’s the same chip Apple included in the iPhone 11 lineup and the iPhone SE 2nd Gen. It’s not the latest and greatest, but it gets work done. It has only 3GB of RAM, but keep in mind that iPadOS is a mobile operating system, so it’s not as demanding as macOS.

The latest affordable tablet from Apple includes an upgraded 12MP Ultra Wide from camera with 122° field of view. This makes you attend online classes and other video calls like a pro. The quality is crystal clear, and its focus follows you as you move around the room. It supports 1080p HD video recording at 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps, in addition to Cinematic video stabilization (1080p and 720p).

What makes the iPad stand out, compared to the Mac, is cellular support. Apart from the multi-touch display that supports Apple Pencil, LTE distinguishes the iPad. You can attend online classes and study on the go, without having to worry about finding a Wi-Fi network. Do you want to study in the middle of a deserted forest? You’ve got this!

The iPad 9th Gen has a built-in 32.4 watt-hour rechargeable lithium polymer battery. It lasts for up to 10 hours when browsing the web through Wi-Fi on a single charge, according to Apple. So it should last you a full school day if you’re not using it for heavy, intensive tasks.

The Apple iPad 9th Gen is a great device for light use. If you’re a student who’s looking for a lightweight, portable, and affordable tablet for your note-taking, then this device is what you’re looking for. It’s available in Silver and Space Gray finishes, so you might want to look into buying a case. If not for the vibrant colors, then at least buy it for the protection of this delicate glass slab. You can buy the base Wi-Fi-only model for $329 in the US before the Student Discount.

Best wireless earphones: Apple AirPods Pro

The AirPods Pro were first released by Apple in October 2019, around two years ago. While Apple is expected to release the regular AirPods 3rd Gen sometime soon, we suspect the AirPods Pro will still remain the best wireless earphones available for students.

One of the main reasons I have chosen the AirPods Pro as the best Apple wireless earphones is ANC (active noise cancellation). This is the perfect feature for students who want to study stay focused in a crowded or noisy environment. While I’m no longer a student myself, the AirPods Pro are a lifesaver when working from cafés. It’s unbelievable how suddenly everything around you ceases to exist, and you remain there, in front of your device, peacefully working on tasks.

Additionally, the AirPods Pro offer a Transparency mode to hear your surrounding sounds, adaptive EQ, vent system for pressure equalization, custom high-excursion Apple driver, custom high dynamic range amplifier, and spatial audio with dynamic head tracking. They’re powered by the H1 chip, which also allows the instant pairing process on Apple Devices, and they connect through Bluetooth 5.0.

When it comes to microphones and sensors, the AirPods Pro include dual beam-forming microphones, inward-facing microphone, dual optical sensors, motion-detecting accelerometer, speech-detecting accelerometer, and force sensor. These components work together to support features like ANC, Transparency mode, Hey Siri, ear detection, and more.

The AirPods Pro have an IPX4 water and sweat resistance, so you can use them when you hit the gym after school without worrying about potential damage caused by sweat. Their batteries last up to 4.5 hours of listening time with a single charge (up to 5 hours with Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency off). On a fully charged case, you can get up to 24 hours of listening time. And they only need five minutes in the case to get around one hour of listening time. To charge the case, you can either use a Lightning cable, such as the one you use to charge your iPhone, or place the case on a Qi wireless charging mat.

The AirPods Pro box includes a Lightning to USB-C cable, documentation, AirPods Pro and their wireless charging case, and three silicon tips. The silicon tips are included for those who have smaller or larger ears. ANC requires a tight fit to work properly, so you may want to do the ear tip fit test in your iPhone settings and switch to a different size if you fail it.

As someone who isn’t a fan of over the ear headphones, the AirPods Pro with ANC are perfect for me. They offer the best sound quality and features that in-ear true wireless earbuds can offer nowadays. They are truly magical little pieces of tech. They’re available for $249 in the US and come in one color only — White.

Best perfomance tablet: Apple iPad Pro M1 12.9″

If you like the concept of an iPad replacing your laptop, but the affordable iPad 9th Gen doesn’t offer enough power for you, then you may want to look into the Apple iPad Pro M1. Obviously, it’s powered by the M1 chip, which was originally designed for the Mac. So it’s the most powerful tablet you can get for its price tag, and possibly for any price tag.

The Apple iPad M1 comes with a 12.9″ Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED backlit Multi-Touch display with a 2732 x 2048 pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch. It supports ProMotion technology, True Tone display, and the Apple Pencil 2nd Gen. If you’re studying an art major, this might be the perfect device for you.

The M1 chip has an always-on processor, an eight core CPU with 4 perform­ance cores and four efficiency cores, an eight core GPU, and a 16 core Neural Engine. When it comes to memory, the iPad Pro M1 has 8GB RAM on models with 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB storage and 16GB RAM on models with 1TB or 2TB storage. So there’s a configuration that matches most needs.

When it comes to photography, this iPad Pro doesn’t fall short. It has a Pro camera system on the back that includes Wide and Ultra Wide cameras. It also has a LiDAR Scanner, which allows users to 3D map environments around them. This is great if you’re studying interior design and want to create a 3D map of a house or room you’re working on.

As for the front camera, it has a 12MP Ultra Wide TrueDepth camera with 122° field of view. So the quality is also crystal clear, and its focus follows you as you move around the room. You won’t have to worry about looking blurry or not-so-sharp when attending your virtual classes. Thanks to the TrueDepth camera, you can unlock your iPad Pro with Face ID, in both portrait and landscape orientations.

The iPad Pro M1 has four speakers and five studio-quality microphones for calls, video recording, and audio recording. It’s ideal for being productive on the go. Speaking of being on the go, it also offers a cellular model, so you can continue to study and research no matter where you are.

It has a built-in 40.88-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery that you can charge through a USB-C cable. It can last up to 10 hours when surfing the web on Wi-Fi or watching video, according to Apple. So that’s a full day of studying without having to worry about running out of juice.

The Apple iPad Pro M1 12.9″ is available for $1,099 for the base model in the US, without the Student Discount. It’s offered in two finishes only — Space Gray and Silver. Apple Pencil 2nd Gen, keyboard cases, and other accessories are sold separately.

Best laptop for power users: Apple MacBook Pro M1 13″

The Apple MacBook Pro has been one of the most powerful and loved laptops for a while now. It’s mighty, has a solid build, and supports a wide variety of professional editing tools, from both Apple and third-party developers. This laptop offers a minimalistic, premium design, unmatched by its rivals that come packing a similar power. It offers great durability and gets software updates for at least seven years usually. To sum up, we can safely say it’s a future-proof investment.

Powered by the Apple M1 chip, the latest MacBook Pro has a 13″ LED-backlit Retina display, with a 2560 x 1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch with support for millions of colors. Its screen also supports True Tone, making the colors a bit warmer in certain lighting conditions. Additionally, it comes with a Touch Bar, which remains a MacBook Pro exclusive.

When it comes to battery life, it has a built-in 58.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery. It lasts for up to 17 hours when browsing the web on a single charge, according to Apple. It comes with a 61W USB-C power adapter, so fully charging it shouldn’t take long, even when it’s completely drained.

The MacBook Pro M1 includes two USB-C ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack. So you will likely need to buy extra dongles or depend on cloud-based and other wireless solutions. Personally, I’m not bothered by the lack of a port variety on newer Apple devices. My setup is completely wireless and my work is internet browser-based, for the most part at least. I only use one of the USB-C ports for charging my Mac. The other Thunderbolt 3 port and headphone jack remain untouched.

This powerhouse comes with 8GB of RAM, but it’s upgradable to 16GB — if you require the extra memory. The base model has 256GB of SSD storage and can be upgraded to 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB. The M1 chip has an always-on processor, an eight core CPU with four perform­ance cores and four efficiency cores, an eight core GPU, and a 16 core Neural Engine. This turns it into an unstoppable beast when compared to similarly priced laptops. These configurations should be enough to fit your student needs, no matter what you’re majoring in, and even surpass them.

The Apple MacBook Pro M1 comes with macOS 11 Big Sur pre-installed. It will receive the macOS 12 Monterey update later this fall, and you can always get your hands on it now if you’re willing to join the beta program. However, we don’t advise students to run beta macOS versions on their daily drivers because apps they use may stop working as expected or completely break.

What makes this laptop a great fit for students is its portability and durability. You can just slide it in your backpack and get going. It has more than enough power for an average student, so it’s more aimed at students who work in audio/video editing and other intensive tasks. Don’t forget that you can even get it for cheaper from Apple if you’re eligible for the Student Discount.

The MacBook Pro M1 is only available in two colors — Silver and Space Gray. So if you’re a fan of more vibrant colors, you will have to settle for a case or skin for your new laptop. The base model is priced at $1,299 in the US, without the Student Discount.

Best tracking device: Apple AirTag

Have you ever misplaced your backpack at school? Maybe your pencil case or wallet? That should be a thing of the past at this point. Apple introduced the AirTag back in April as a Find My-enabled tracking device. AirTags are great for students because they’re very affordable, can notify them when they leave something behind at school, and can help them locate the exact whereabouts of whatever tagged items they lose.

Apple and third parties sell AirTag accessories so you can safely attach one to your backpack. Alternatively, you could slide it in one of its pockets, but that would make finding it harder if a person hears it beeping. Either way, having an AirTag in one way or another increases your chances of finding what you’re looking for.

When it comes to its battery life, Apple includes a replaceable battery that should last for a year or so. Users can easily change it by themselves, and their iPhones notify them when it’s time to replace it. So battery life isn’t something you should worry about at all.

AirTags are water and dust resistant with a rating of IP67 — that’s up to one meter immersion for no longer than 30 minutes. So if you drop your AirTag in a puddle or it rains on it, it should be fine. However, it’s worth mentioning that water resistance decreases over time, so don’t expect it to remain as resistant down the road.

AirTags have an advantage over Tile and other rivals because it supports the Find My network. So almost every single active Apple device can be used to help find your lost item, through the expanding network. As long as an area is inhabited and has Apple users walking around, you should be able to locate an AirTag.

If you have an iPhone 11 or later, you can use Precision Finding. This features takes advantage of the U1 chips, in both the AirTag and your iPhone, to help you pinpoint the exact location of the former. A screen displays an arrow that you can follow around, with an estimate of the distance separating you.

An AirTag has a built-in speaker, so it can beep to help you or others find it. It also has privacy-focused features to make sure it’s not abused. If an AirTag detects that it’s following a person around that isn’t its owner for a certain period of time, it’ll scream for help. This is a very welcome anti-stalking measure from Apple.

AirTags are sold in either a pack of one or a (discounted) pack of four. They’re available in one color only — White — but Apple and other retailers sell plenty of colorful accessories if you want to make it more vibrant. One AirTag costs $29 in the US, while a pack of four costs $99. So if you buy a pack of four, you would be saving $17, compared to buying four AirTags individually.

Best AiO desktop: Apple iMac M1 24″

The Apple iMac M1 is a new all-in-one (AiO) desktop Mac that recently got a complete redesign. It’s capable, comes in plenty of color options, and supports a wide variety of professional editing tools, from both Apple and third-party developers. This desktop offers a modern, premium design, unmatched by similar AiO computers. It offers great durability and gets software updates for at least seven years usually. To sum up, we can safely say it’s a future-proof investment that will sit on your desk for years to come.

Powered by the Apple M1 chip, the latest iMac has a 24″ 4.5K Retina display, with a 4480 x 2520 resolution at 218 pixels per inch with support for one billion colors. Its screen also supports True Tone, making the colors a bit warmer in certain lighting conditions. Additionally, it includes a 1080p FaceTime HD camera with M1 image signal processor, so you can attend virtual classes with confidence.

When it comes to power, the iMac doesn’t include a battery. It has to be plugged in at all times, which makes sense because it’s a stationary desktop computer. However, if you live in an area where power outages are frequent, you may want to consider buying a MacBook or an iPad instead.

The iMac M1 includes four USB-C ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and supports gigabit ethernet. So you will likely need to buy extra dongles or depend on cloud-based and other wireless solutions. Personally, I’m not bothered by the lack of a port variety on newer Apple devices. My setup is completely wireless and my work is internet browser-based, for the most part at least. If your major requires you to connect to different kinds of devices that don’t support USB-C, then you will have to buy extras separately.

This powerhouse comes with 8GB of RAM, but it’s upgradable to 16GB — if you require the extra memory. The base model has 256GB of SSD storage and can be upgraded to 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB. The M1 chip has an always-on processor, an eight core CPU with four perform­ance cores and four efficiency cores, an eight core GPU, and a 16 core Neural Engine. This turns it into a mighty machine in comparison to similar computers. These configurations should be more than enough to fit your student needs, no matter what you’re majoring in, and even surpass them.

The iMac supports one external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz and has high-fidelity six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers, wide stereo sound support, spatial audio when playing music or video with Dolby Atmos support, studio-quality three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beam-forming, in addition to Hey Siri support.

The Apple iMac M1 comes with macOS 11 Big Sur pre-installed. It will receive the macOS 12 Monterey update later this fall, and you can always get your hands on it now if you’re willing to join the beta program. However, we don’t advise students to run beta macOS versions on their daily drivers because apps they use may stop working as expected or completely break.

This desktop computer would be a great fit for students who are studying remotely at all times, due to the fact that it remains stationary. So if you attend classes in person, you might want to look into buying a MacBook or an iPad. It has more than enough power for an average student, so it’s more aimed at students who work in audio/video editing and other intensive tasks. Don’t forget that you can even get it cheaper from Apple if you’re eligible for the Student Discount.

The iMac M1 is available in seven (!) colors — Blue, Green, Pink, Silver, Yellow, Orange, and Purple. So if you’re a fan of vibrant colors, you’ll love the various options you’ve got when choosing your new device. The base model is priced at $1,499 in the US, without the Student Discount, and it comes with a Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and Magic Mouse.

Best mid-range tablet: Apple iPad Air 4th Gen 10.9″

If you like the concept of an iPad replacing your laptop, but the affordable iPad 9th Gen doesn’t offer enough power for you, and the iPad Pro M1 is too expensive for your budget, then you may want to look into the Apple iPad Air 4th Gen. Obviously, it’s not as powerful as the iPad Pro M1, but it’s a significant upgrade when compared to the affordable iPad 9th Gen. So it’s one of the most powerful mid-range tablets you can get for this price tag.

The Apple iPad Air 4th Gen comes with a 10.9″ Liquid Retina LED-backlit Multi-Touch display with a 2360 x 1640 pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch. It supports True Tone display — which makes colors a bit warmer in certain lighting conditions — and the Apple Pencil 2nd Gen. If you’re studying an art major, this might be a great pick for you.

This iPad is powered by the Apple A14 Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture. When it comes to memory and storage, the iPad Air has 4GB of RAM and 64Gb or 256GB of SSD. While there aren’t a lot of configurations here, it’s still more than enough for an average student looking for a mid-range device.

The iPad Air has an edge-to-edge and no physical home button, thanks to the recent redesign. Touch ID has been moved to the power button. So while it might look like an iPad Pro, it still doesn’t support Face ID because it lacks a TrueDepth camera system. It also offers a cellular model, so you can study on the go, while camping, or commuting.

This slab has a built-in 28.6-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery that you can charge through a USB-C cable. It can last up to 10 hours when surfing the web on Wi-Fi or watching video, according to Apple. So that’s a full day of studying without having to worry about running out of juice.

The Apple iPad Air 4th Gen 10.9″ is available for $599 for the base model in the US, without the Student Discount. It’s offered in five colorful finishes — Silver, Space Gray, Rose Gold, Green, and Sky Blue. Apple Pencil 2nd Gen, keyboard cases, and other accessories are sold separately.

If I had to choose one of these products for my university studies, I would go for the Apple iPad 9th Gen 10.2″. This is simply because I was actually using the affordable iPad 6th Gen when I was still a student. While it wasn’t the perfect device for my studies, it offered just enough for someone who was majoring in English Language and Literature. I mostly needed it to read novels and books, type assignments, research, and attend online classes. At the time, I could manage without a desktop operating system.

If you’re not very low on budget, I would recommend the Apple MacBook Air M1 13″. When you graduate, you can also use it for work, rather than needing to buy a new device. That’s assuming you don’t need the power of a MacBook Pro. Evaluate your needs and balance them with your budget. After all, only you know best what device is right for you. We have merely laid out the options for you to make picking one easier.

Will you be buying any of these devices for your studies? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section below.



XDA » News Brief » These are the best Apple products for students in 2021

About author


Mahmoud is an Istanbul-based Beiruti who has always sought freedom through writing. His hobbies include keeping up with tech news, writing articles about Apple devices & services, crocheting, meditating, and composing poetry. You’ll likely find him jogging at a park, swimming in open water, brainstorming at a coffeehouse, or merely lost in nature. His personal pieces are available on his website, MahmoudItani.com, and he can be reached via [email protected] or the provided social links.