While shorthand and cursive are handy skills when it comes to hastily jotting ideas, there’s no denying that the technology can offer the best of both digital and analog worlds when it comes to note-taking. More than just a glorified smartphone, the best tablets for taking notes also work with a stylus so you can quickly write things down, keep everything organized on a hard drive or cloud, and search through everything later — which is why they’re perfect for high schoolers, college students and professionals.
If you’re debating which note-taking tablet with stylus compatibility is right for you, consider whether you’re also using it for studying, web browsing, checking emails, watching videos and playing games in addition to writing, compiling lists or drawing. Generally speaking, a good tablet for multi-tasking should have at least three gigabytes of memory (RAM) and 128 gigabytes of storage so you can play content, download files and create documents. Many devices also allow you to expand storage with an SD card, and today’s tech means you’ll also get decent front and back cameras for quickly snapping photos (like that whiteboard before it’s erased) and video calling.
Another factor to consider is security. Most devices now have secure authentication such as facial or fingerprint recognition in addition to a standard passcode, so your notes, files, email and other content stay safe if you ever lose your device.
Ahead, we’ve rounded up the best tablets for note-taking at school or work, from the latest Apple and Microsoft releases (including the new iPads and Surface Go 3) to options for Android users. All of our selections are compatible with stylus pens and equipped with the above-recommended specs, and they’re also available in other options (say, more or less memory or storage) to adapt to your needs or budget and are compatible with most note-taking apps such as GoodNotes, OneNote and others. Check out our top productivity-friendly picks below, many of which make a great gift for students, gamers and techies.
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1. 2021 Apple 11-inch iPad Pro with Wi-Fi, 128 GB
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line device that can handle note-taking and then some, Apple’s M1 chip-equipped 2021 iPad Pro (regularly $799, currently on sale for $50 off) with Wi-Fi is a great laptop alternative for college students and professionals seeking a speedy and powerful tablet. When paired with the Apple Pencil ($125) or Magic Keyboard ($150), it’s one of the best tablets for taking notes without any lag, and it’s also the slimmest at just .23 inches thick, 9.7 inches tall and 7 inches wide.
The tech giant’s built-in Notes app can recognize and index your handwriting, making it easier to search what you’ve jotted down. What’s great is you can also tap on your iPad’s lock screen with the Pencil to start taking notes without unlocking the device, and you can save it all on iCloud for seamless access across all of your Apple devices.
The 11-inch iPad Pro features a 5G connectivity, vibrant Liquid Retina display (or you can upgrade to the 12.9-inch XDR version for color-faithful viewing), while high-res cameras and a LiDAR scanner (which can “mesh” objects and spaces) let you take visual notes or stunning photos.
2. 2021 Apple 10.2-inch iPad with Wi-Fi, 256 GB
BEST BUDGET APPLE TABLET
There are plenty of cheap tablets for note-taking that offer basic functionality, but Apple’s 2021 iPad ($329 and up) offers a major upgrade with the new A13 Bionic chip, which is 20 percent faster than its predecessor and lets you seamlessly switch between taking notes or playing games. The ninth-generation of Apple’s tablet has a TrueTone screen that automatically adjusts to the color temperature of the room, making it easier on your eyes whether you’re taking notes in a giant lecture hall or outdoors. The new and improved rear camera takes better photos in low-light settings, so you can easily take visual notes.
It pairs with the 1st gen Apple Pencil ($95) and Bluetooth keyboards so you can write down your thoughts on the Scribble note-taking app, mark up PDFs and screenshots, highlight items, convert your handwriting into text, sketch illustrations and design logos. The 10.2-inch Retina display delivers vibrant details and colors for watching TV shows and movies, and the tablet weighs about one pound, making it a travel-friendly option for mobile entertainment.
3. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, 128 GB
BEST TABLET FOR ANDROID USERS
Though the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 is rumored to be unveiled in October, its current model (regularly $650, currently $520) is still a worthy buy. Measuring 10 inches tall by 6.5 inches wide by .25 inches thick, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 (the first in the U.S. to offer 5G) is one of the best Android tablets right now, thanks to the incredibly fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus processor that handles multitasking with ease. Students, gamers and movie lovers will enjoy a powerful device with an impressive battery life.
The tablet comes with the redesigned S Pen, which now has nine-millisecond latency for quick responsiveness, so you can take notes right after unboxing. The Samsung Note app lets you convert your handwriting into searchable text, sync your notes and voice recordings, manage all of your pages and organize files. You can use the included stylus to control presentations, and your files and content can be synced with other compatible Samsung devices.
If you prefer the functionality of a laptop without the extra weight, the tablet can be expanded with Samsung’s Bluetooth book cover keyboard that also acts as a screen protector. For entertainment, the tablet boasts an edge-to-edge display and Dolby Atmos surround sound speakers for a cinematic viewing experience on the go.
4. Microsoft Surface Pro 8, 128 GB
BEST WINDOWS LAPTOP-TO-TABLET
Debuting Oct. 21, Microsoft’s 13-inch Surface Pro 8 ($1,099 and up) is the tech company’s lightest and sleekest laptop-to-tablet yet at just under two pounds. It’s the first in the brand’s Surface lineup to feature the Intel Evo platform, which delivers high performance and up to 16 hours of battery life. Note-takers will get a pen-to-paper-like experience when they pair the tablet with the Slim Pen 2 ($130, sold separately), while the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard ($279 and bundled with the stylus) gives the device the functionality of a laptop, especially when the built-in Kickstand is in use.
Compared to its predecessor, the Surface Pro 8’s Intel Core i5 or i7 processor makes it a powerful mobile gaming station for casual players, a vibrant screen for watching movies and TV and a versatile device for multi-taskers who also want to create documents and edit photos. The tablet supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth, and can be connected to external GPUs and 4K monitors.
It’s worth noting that the extra cost of accessories
puts the tablet at essentially the same price as a traditional laptop, but with touchscreen capabilities. For note-takers and multi-taskers on a budget, the
Surface Pro 7
might be a more appealing option that still delivers powerful performance and portability.
5. Lenovo Tab Pro P11 Tablet, 128 GB
BEST VALUE TABLET
If you’re looking for a multi-tasking tablet built for note-taking, gaming and video streaming, Lenovo’s Tab Pro P11 tablet ($500) is the way to go. Equipped with the speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor, this high-performance tablet delivers seamless graphics in a lightweight package.
The device comes pre-loaded with Microsoft Office apps, and you can connect Lenovo’s Precision Pen 2 ($70, sold separately) and wireless keyboard ($90, sold separately) for easy note-taking in class or at the office. Whether you’re a college student or an executive, you can easily jot your thoughts on OneNote, write papers on Word and organize your files, among other productivity tasks.
6. Microsoft Surface Go 3, 128 GB
BEST BUDGET WINDOWS TABLET
Windows users will have no problem adapting to Microsoft’s newest Surface Go 3 ($400 and up), which is now equipped with Bluetooth and a brighter screen. Just like its predecessor, it’s compatible with the brand’s Surface Pen ($89, sold separately) that writes as smoothly as a regular writing tool on paper and includes a natural-feeling “eraser,” which is why it’s a favorite among digital artists. Clocking in at just 1.2 pounds, the Surface Go 3 isn’t going to replace your desktop computer or laptop — but it’s one of the best note-taking tablets for anyone seeking a lightweight device that can also handle lighter tasks such as answering emails, streaming videos and browsing the internet.
As far as writing things down, the tablet is equipped with the latest version of Microsoft’s OneNote app, which lets you create and edit Word documents, convert your handwriting to text, search notes and more. With the Surface Pen, you can also take notes on web pages using Microsoft Edge and even write reminders to yourself directly into Cortana.
7. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, 128GB
BEST FAMILY-FRIENDLY TABLET
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite ($350 and up) is one of the best lightweight tablets for users who want productivity, entertainment and minimalism in one device. We like that the tablet includes the S Pen, so you don’t need to buy a separate accessory for note-taking. Perfect for schoolwork, the device’s Samsung Notes app lets you take notes effortlessly as well as organize your writing, convert it to text, rearrange pages and more.
This is also one of the best tablets for younger students, as the unit also comes with Kids Mode, which lets parents set usage limits and control access to certain content and apps. For entertainment, the crystal-clear display and Dolby Atmos surround-sound speakers offer a vibrant and engaging viewing experience, and you can also use the unit as a hotspot or share content to other devices.
When charging, the tablet screen displays your calendar, the weather or your music, so you can stay productive even when the unit is docked.
8. ReMarkable 2 Tablet
BEST E-PAPER TABLET
Prefer the feel of paper but want the perks of technology without the digital distractions? Named Time‘s Best Invention of 2020, the ReMarkable 2 ($399) features a monochrome digital display that lets you turn your handwritten notes into searchable text, organize your notes across devices, review documents and write directly onto PDFs. And that’s it. No distracting bells and whistles, such as social media notifications or email chimes.
At just .19 inches thick, the e-paper device is the thinnest tablet out there, and the 8 GB internal storage can accommodate about 100,000 pages. The device also works on 5G, and you can sync files between ReMarkable’s apps for Android, iOS, MacOS and Windows 7 and newer.
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