Best Tablets for Note-Taking and Drawing
Tablets make it easy to take notes on the go and provide almost as much computing power as a laptop.
Say goodbye to paper notebooks for jotting things down and say hello to having the best tablets for note-taking and drawing. These lightweight, portable laptop alternatives can do almost everything a full-size laptop can, but from a much smaller package. They’re larger than a mobile phone but usually smaller than a typical laptop. Laptop tablets can also function as both.
A tablet’s touch screen makes it easy to interact with apps or a tablet stylus for taking notes. Once you’ve got those notes on a digital interface, you can use apps to digitize, share, or save them for easy access later on. You just need to figure out what size, operating system, and extra features will help you navigate school, office, or home life successfully. We’ve got answers to help you determine the right tablet for your personal and professional needs.
— Best Overall: Microsoft Surface Go 2
— Best iPad: 2020 Apple iPad Air
— Best for College: 2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro
— Best Android Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
— Best Budget: Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet
How We Picked The Best Tablets For Note-Taking
Tablets may all look similar, but it’s what’s on the inside that determines what the devices can do and how well they function with the demands you put on them. Here’s what to look for:
Operating system: Android, iOS, and Windows are the big three, and we made sure to pick a tablet from each because they all have their pros and cons, depending on how you use the tablet.
Performance: Processing power determines how long the tablet will run smoothly. Generally speaking, the higher the GHz, the better the tablet will perform. However, there also needs to be at least 2GB of RAM.
Connectivity: We considered whether the tablet offered WiFi only (a less expensive option) or gave you a choice to connect to a data plan. Connectivity also includes Bluetooth capabilities (the latest version is best) and the number and type of ports.
Storage: Expandable storage will keep the tablet up and operating longer.
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The Best Tablets for Note-Taking: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Note-Taking Tablet: Microsoft Surface Go 2
Why It Made The Cut: The Windows operating system makes the Surface Go 2 most like a traditional laptop and one of the most versatile tablet options.
— Weight: 1.19 pounds
— Screen size: 10.5 inches
— Processor: Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4425Y or 8th Gen Intel Core m3
— Storage: 64GB or 128GB
— Lightweight design and premium build quality
— Face recognition camera (1080p)
— Quiet, fan-less operation
— Built-in kickstand
— Slightly grainy resolution
— Can get pricey with upgrades and accessories
The Microsoft Surface Go 2 falls into the 2-in-1 category, as in it can function as a tablet or laptop. However, it definitely leans toward the tablet side of that spectrum and is our pick for the best note-taking tablet.
It comes with either a Pentium Gold processor or an Intel Core m3 processor. The m3 is definitely worth the upgrade, providing faster, smoother processing, especially when you’re switching between running apps. It can also be bought with either 64GB or 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM.
This model makes the note-taking cut for its versatility. There’s potential, if your computing needs are light, for the Surface Go 2 to take the place of a laptop. The SSD drive doesn’t have a fan, making the operation quiet. One of the other great benefits is the built-in kickstand, which works well on flat or curved surfaces (like your legs).
The only downside is that the display resolution isn’t the best for those who like premium viewing. It’s slightly grainier than an iPad.
Best iPad for Note-Taking: 2020 Apple iPad Air
Why It Made The Cut: As the best iPad for note-taking, the Apple iPad Air offers the best bang for your buck of all of the iPads available, with impressive processing and internet speeds and a build that rivals the more expensive Pro.
— Weight: 1 pound
— Screen size: 10.9 inches
— Processor: Apple iPadOS
— Storage: 64GB
— 7mp front-facing camera
— Fast processing and internet speeds
— High-quality build
— Cannot run the camera at the same time as another app/document
The Apple iPad Air falls between Apple’s more expensive powerhouse Pro and the base iPad model. Of the three, it’s the best value if an iPad is a must-have on your list. The iPadOS operating system combined with the RAM and storage provides fast processing for apps and streaming.
In specs, the Air isn’t quite as responsive as the Pro when using a stylus. But in the real world, the human eye can’t tell the difference. The Apple iPad Air also gets the benefit of having most apps from major software companies like Photoshop and illustrator catering to the iPadOS system. Consequently, it’s compatible and user-friendly with a lot of programs.
The Air also gets high marks for the 7mp front-facing camera. The rear camera is great, too. However, the front-facing does extremely well in low light. For people who Zoom for school or work, that’s going to make you look a whole lot better.
The downside to the Air is that the camera cannot run at the same time as another app, window, or document. It shuts off, though audio will keep going if you’re in a Zoom meeting. That can get problematic if you need to take notes or look like you’re taking notes while on Zoom.
Best Tablet for College: 2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro
Why It Made The Cut: The iPad Pro made the cut for the processing power and versatility of use for classes that range from video and photo editing to Zoom meetings and organizing research.
— Weight: 1.5 pounds
— Screen size: 12.9 inches
— Processor: Apple iPadOS
— Storage: 128GB
— Processing power of a desktop CPU
— 5G performance
— Bright, clear screen
— Operating system can’t take advantage of the processing power
The Apple iPad Pro offers just about everything a college student could want, from access to helpful apps to the ability to use the best video, audio, and photo editing software. It can truly take the place of a laptop or desktop CPU with Apple’s M1 processor that’s also used in several laptop models.
That’s put to good use when using complex apps and working with various media for presentations. It also offers impressive 5G performance (extra add-on) on a bright, clear screen with minimal reflectivity. Adding on that 5G improves performance if you’re using programs or streaming from odd locations.
The price can be a deterrent with this model. Yes, it’s the best tablet for a college student that can take you from undergrad to professional without a hitch. However, you’ll pay as much or more than a laptop. Additionally, the M1 outmatches the iPadOS operating system, which doesn’t let you take full advantage of all that power. That gap manifests as poor multitasking abilities.
Best Android Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
Why It Made The Cut: A solid build and gorgeous but natural feeling screen and stylus puts the S7+ at the top of Samsung’s tablet offerings.
— Weight: 1.3 pounds
— Screen size: 12.4 inches
— Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
— Storage: 128-512GB
— Clear, bright AMOLED display
— Optional 5G
— Battery life
— Excellent at multitasking
— App offerings doesn’t compare to Apple
— Stylus easily becomes dislodged
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ puts together some of the best features of other tablets into one high-powered machine. The display is bright and clear with excellent contrast that’s highly visible in sunlight. The feel of the display with the stylus goes unmatched. However, the connector for the stylus isn’t very secure, so it’s easy to lose the pen.
Samsung packs in some serious battery power that can last over seven hours, depending on what you’re doing. And when the battery runs low, the S7+ charges quickly, so you’re not left in the lurch.
There’s a 5G option, so you can take advantage of connections from various locations. Excellent speakers round out the many features worth noting on this tablet.
Where this model falls short is where many Android models can’t compete. Basically, there just aren’t as many apps for Android, and some of those apps don’t function as well as they do on Windows or iOS.
Best Budget Tablet: Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet
Why It Made The Cut: The Fire keeps things basic but still offers what you need for taking notes, streaming, and controlling Alexa.
— Weight: 16.4 ounces
— Screen size: 10.1 inches
— Processor: MediaTek Helio P60T
— Storage: 32GB or 64GB
— Adequate RAM
— Good processing at this price point
— Excellent at consuming Amazon services
— Poor app selection
The Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet is the best budget tablet for under $200. It may not function like models designed to replace a laptop, but it can do the basics very well. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, the benefits go even deeper because you can access pretty much everything.
For the price, the MediaTek Helio P60T offers good processing speeds. You can stream media (Amazon’s media, of course) or work in the available apps without it slowing the tablet down. The 3GB RAM is enough to keep things running smoothly for basic functions. Finally, you can’t beat the affordable price as long as you’re willing to give up using the tablet like you would a laptop.
The only other issue with the Fire is that Amazon doesn’t have the wide app selection of Apple or Android at this point.
The Best Accessories for Tablets for Note-Taking
Once you invest in one of the best tablets for note-taking or drawing, you’re going to want to maximize the experience by choosing the best pen, or stylus, to write, doodle, or even ‘paint’ with your tablet.
The Best Stylus
Best Stylus Overall: Apple Pencil (2nd Generation)
Why It Made the Cut: This elegant pencil is ideal for digital artists, known for its precision and easy ability to switch between modes, and compatibility with a range of iPads.
— Dimensions: 6.53 inches long x 0.35 inches wide x 0.35 inches high
— Weight: .73 ounces
— Power: Lithium polymer battery (included)
— Wireless charging
The Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) is known for its precision and it’s excellent for drawing, sketching, and taking notes alike. You can double tap it to change the mode from pencil to charcoal to paintbrush. Powered by an included polymer lithium battery, the Apple pencil is compatible with the iPad mini (6th generation), iPad Air (4th generation), iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd, 4th, and 5th generations), iPad Pro 11-inch (1st, 2nd, and 3rd generations) and magnetically attaches to certain devices to charge wirelessly.
Best Budget Stylus: Meko Universal Stylus
Why It Made the Cut: This stylus is a steal that works across a range of devices and operating systems.
— Dimensions: 5.5 inches long x 0.35 inches wide x 0.35 inches high
— Weight: .7 ounces
— Power: Wireless charging
— Feels like a pen
— Works with a range of devices
— Great price
— Not super precise
If you’re looking for the feel of a real pen for note-taking, consider the Meko Universal Stylus. Made from stainless steel and aluminum, this pen comes with a selection of tips for additional precision. Available at a great price, this stylus is also incredibly versatile, charging wirelessly and working with a range of devices, from Samsung Galaxy smartphones to Kindles, iPhones, and iPads.
The Best Tablet Covers
Best Overall: Moko Case Fit
Why It Made the Cut: This sturdy and affordable tablet cover comes in a range of sizes to fit a variety of devices.
— Dimensions: 11.8 inches long x 8.2 inches wide x 0.7 inches high
— Weight: 8.5 ounces
— Material: TPU and polycarbonate
— Ideal for daily use
— Come with handstrap and pen holder
— Easy keyboard detachment
— Only fits certain devices
Moko is a leading brand in digital accessories that makes tablet covers for a variety of models. Specifically created to work with the Microsoft Surface Pro series, this rugged tablet cover is made of TPU and polycarbonate that can stand up to daily use. This tablet cover is designed with hand strap for easy transport and a pen holder to keep your important accessories close. You can also detach your keyboard without removing the cover. And it all comes at an affordable price.
Best Budget Tablet Cover: Amazon Basics Tablet Sleeve
Why It Made the Cut: This utilitarian case is compatible with both the iPad and Samsung Galaxy tablets and is water resistant.
— Dimensions: 10.5 inches long x 7.6 inches wide x 1.2 inches tall
— Weight: 8 ounces
— Material: Neoprene
— Durable construction
— Comes with front pocket for other accessories
— Have to remove device to use
If you’re looking for a no-frills tablet case that covers the essentials, Amazon Basics Tablet Sleeve is worth considering. Made with a handy handle for carrying, this bag will fit most 9.7-inch to 10-inch Samsung Galaxy tablets and iPads. The neoprene material is rugged and water-resistant. And a front pocket acts as additional storage for your other tablet accessories and smartphone
Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Tablets for Note-Taking
Consider how you’ll use the tablet to determine what kind of storage you’ll need. Storage affects processing speed and how long the tablet will continue running at optimum speeds. Storage generally ranges from 16GB to 512GB, which is a pretty wide range. Some models (Apple) come with the only storage they’ll ever have unless you want to use an SD or microSD card to expand the storage options. However, models with Windows and Android often have expandable storage available.
WiFi and/or 4G or 5G
For most people, WiFi alone is enough for tablet use. Adding on 4G or 5G can add $50 to $200 to the price of the tablet. You can save the cash and use your mobile as a hotspot in most cases. However, there are those who want to have seamless access to the internet, in which case, it’s worth the extra dollars.
A small seven- or eight-inch screen is usually enough for reading and light note-taking. However, for extensive note-taking, streaming, and artistic applications, a larger 10- to 12-inch screen will go easier on the eyes.
There’s a wide range of apps on the market, but they’re not available with every operating system. Apple still takes the top prize for apps, with most of the major software companies catering to their iOS system. Android lags behind but not too far behind. Windows, too, isn’t quite on par with Apple but functions the most like a laptop. Amazon’s tablets have the least amount of apps available, but they’re great for accessing Amazon media and books.
Q: How do I choose a good tablet?
The tablet should be suited to how you want to use it and stay within your budget. When deciding on a budget, consider that upgrades like extra storage or 5G may add a few hundred dollars to the price. Next, think about portability. The smaller eight-inch tablets often weigh less than a pound. Even the larger models are under two pounds. How versatile do you want the tablet to be? Do you want to replace your laptop on business trips, or simply use the tablet for streaming videos while you work out or lay in bed? The goal is to pick a model that’s within your budget but performs the functions that matter most to you.
Q: Are iPads good for taking notes?
Any of the iPad variations are great for taking notes. Mostly because there are many great note taking apps available for the iPad. Most iPad models also work with the somewhat pricey Apple Pencil, which allows handwritten notes, drawing, and other note taking help. (It will set you back about $130.)
Q: Which is better, laptop or tablet?
The answer to this question depends on what you plan to do with the device. Laptops usually (though not always as in the case of the iPad Pro) have better computing power and internet speeds, though they’re not as portable. They may also handle multitasking better, but again, it depends on the model. Tablets with the right apps can give you a more hands-on feel to design, art, and note-taking. They’re great for reading and media because they’re smaller and lighter. Some tablets function like a laptop, but this type usually costs as much as a laptop too.
Final Thoughts on the Best Tablets for Note-Taking
The Microsoft Surface Go 2 gets the top spot for the best tablets for note taking. It’s not quite as sleek as some of the iPads, but it handles multitasking like a laptop and provides impressive versatility. The iPad Pro offers the ultimate in tablets with the power of a laptop. However, if you want a powerhouse with an equally powerful battery life, try the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+. It’s a great choice for Android users who want a great tablet with a gorgeous screen.
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