Say goodbye to jotting things down in paper notebooks — from here on out, we’re upgrading to tablets for all of our note-taking needs.
A tablet's screen is typically far larger than a smartphone's display, and without the attachment of a keyboard (like on a 2-in-1 laptop) long-form notes and illustrations are much easier to make. The number of note-taking and digital art apps available on tablets is another feature that sets them apart. This software was built from the ground up to account for a tablet's larger touch screen, processor, memory, and storage. Tablet-optimized apps have also gotten much more sophisticated while remaining intuitive to use, making tablets a true happy medium between smartphones and laptops when it comes to digital note-taking or drawing.
With that in mind, all that’s left is to figure out what size, operating system, and features will help you navigate school, the office, or home most successfully. We’ve compiled a list to help you find the best tablets for note-taking this year.
— Best Overall: Microsoft Surface Go 3
— Best iPad: 2022 Apple iPad Air
— Best for College: 2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro
— Best Android: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
— Best Budget: Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet
— Best for Creatives: Wacom Cintiq Pro 16
How We Picked The Best Tablets For Note-Taking
Let's be honest, most tablets look the same: A slim, rectangular-shaped slab of metal or plastic with a few buttons, a couple of cameras, and a headphone jack (maybe). You'll typically need to look underneath the surface — pardon the pun, Microsoft — in order to find substantive differences.
We've had the opportunity to test some of the best tablets for note-taking for ourselves, and our recommendations are based in part on our experiences in real-world use. Our needs are fairly typical, light sketching, keeping up with writing for meetings, etc. The good thing is that most tablets developed today are really good at these tasks, so you won't need to break the bank if you're performing common tasks.
If your demands are higher, or you tend to use your technology for a long time between upgrades, we'd recommend getting a higher-end tablet instead. 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:
Screen size: The only physical difference you need to worry about when selecting a tablet is the size of its screen. This determines how big of a canvas you have for drawing, and how many words you can see on a screen when typing. Our note-taking tablet recommendations have displays that are over 10-inches long from one corner to the other, which should be enough for just about any task.
Operating system: The tablets in our guide run either Windows, iOS, or Android, all of which are mature operating systems that are feature-rich and relatively bug-free. The difference between these systems is the apps that they're able to run. Many big developers (think Adobe, who makes Photoshop) have versions of their apps on multiple operating systems, but smaller ones may only have the resources to build and maintain software on one platform. Be sure to do some independent research to find out the apps you want to run on the tablet you're planning to get.
Performance: Two hardware features determine how smoothly a tablet with run: The amount of memory it has (measured in gigabytes), and the speed of its processor (measured in gigahertz). These metrics are less important than they used to be because computer hardware has evolved enough that even entry-level tablets are equipped with enough memory and processing power for note-taking and drawing.
Connectivity: There are three ways a tablet can be connected to the Internet, tech accessories, or a computer: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a physical port; our tablet recommendations support all three. Wi-Fi allows you to wirelessly connect to the internet at home, or in shared public spaces like a classroom, cafe, or hotel. Bluetooth lets you pair your tablet with tools like a stylus for work or headphones for listening to music while you work. Finally, a tablet's port can be used for charging or quickly syncing large files between your computer and the portable machine.
Storage: A tablet's storage determines how much data it can hold at one time. Tablets used to support upgradable storage, but that feature has become very rare. Instead, newer tablets allow you to easily sync files between your machine and the cloud. This is a fine solution, but requires you to have a very fast internet connection if you want to sync large amounts of data (like multi-layered image files, or video).
The Best Tablets for Note-Taking: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Microsoft Surface Go 3
Why It Made The Cut: The ability to run Windows makes the Surface Go 3 most like a traditional laptop and one of the most versatile tablet options.
— 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 3 falls into the 2-in-1 category, which means it can function as a tablet or a fully-fledged laptop. It's the only tablet in our guide that runs a "full" operating system, which means that any program designed for Windows will run on this thin, ultra-light machine.
In practice, however, the Surface Go 3 is better used as a tablet. It's powerful enough that it held up well during our general use tests, which include browsing the web, streaming video, and working on documents. The Intel Pentium Gold processor isn't powerful enough to handle massive Photoshop documents or 4K video, however. This is true even if you get the upgrade model, which includes a more powerful Intel Core i3 chip.
This tablet's processor is a little weak for resource-intensive tasks power users want, Microsoft designed it with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage, which is pretty generous when you view this device as a tablet. This becomes even more true if you bump up the Go 3 to its maximum 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage option.
We found the Surface Go 3's touch screen to be very responsive, and you can get away with using any stylus you want for casual note-taking. For the best experience, you'll want to pony up the extra cash for Microsoft's Surface Slim Pen 2, which is much more responsive. The Slim Pen 2 also turns the Surface Go 3 into a solid drawing tablet.
Our favorite part of the Surface Go 3's design, and the reason we can recommend it to all note-takers, is its built-in kickstand. The kickstand is sturdy enough that you can use this tablet when it's sat on your legs, or on a desk. You'll even be able to get away with using it on an airplane tray table when the person in front of you is totally reclined. You can also save money with a refurbished model. Learn more about how we gauge sustainability.
Best iPad: 2022 Apple iPad Air (5th Gen)
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 or 256GB
— Price: $559 - 569.99
— Available at Amazon
— 12mp 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 and the 2022 model is a substantial upgrade. The iPadOS operating system comes with a powerful Apple M1 chip and a significant memory upgrade to 256GB that 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 its 12mp front and rear-facing cameras, also a major upgrade from the previous generation. 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 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.
— 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 an 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: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
Why It Made The Cut: A solid build and gorgeous but natural feeling screen and stylus put the S7+ at the top of Samsung's tablet offerings.
— Clear, bright AMOLED display
— Optional 5G
— Battery life
— Excellent at multitasking
— App offerings don’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: 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.
— 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 of 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.
Best for Creatives: Wacom Cintiq Pro 16
Why It Made the Cut: The Cintiq Pro’s vivid, low-gloss display combined with a powerfully responsive pen makes digital creation and note-taking a breeze.
— Weight: 4.2 pounds
— Screen size: 16 inches
— Processor: N/A
— Storage: N/A
— Price: $1,399.99
— Available at Amazon
— Responsive and customizable stylus
— Huge display for easier drawing
— Displays 98 percent of Adobe RGB
— Slight pen lag depending on the laptop you use
With a responsive pen and natural-feeling screen, the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 gives artists and creative note-takers alike superior creative control over their digital art. The 16-inch screen is made of etched glass that minimizes glare, and the pen has 8,192 pressure sensitivity, meaning you can more easily control how it executes specific features. The tablet comes with USB-C or HDMI cables to hook up to your Mac or PC, making it easy to transfer and access your artwork or in-depth notes. (Read our full review of the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 here.)
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)
— Price: $129
— Available at Amazon
— 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
— Price: $13.95 - 14.99
— Available at Amazon
— 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
— Price: $26.99
— Available at Amazon
— Ideal for daily use
— Come with hand strap 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 a 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: Platinum Universal Sleeve
Why It Made the Cut: This sleeve is compatible with most tablets up to 12 inches and its lightweight design makes it easily portable.
— Dimensions: 11 inches long x 14 inches wide x 1 inch tall
— Weight: 1 ounce
— Material: Nylon
— Price: $14.99
— Available at Best Buy
— Lightweight material
— Comes with a side pocket for other accessories
— Have to remove device to use
If you're looking for an extra layer of protection when transporting your tablet, the Platinum Universal Sleeve has you covered. The sleeve will fit most tablets up to 12 inches and includes a side pocket for keeping your additional accessories together. The Platinum Universal Sleeve is lightweight, sturdy, and will protect your device from scratches and bumps as you make your way into the office, or can even act as storage for when you put your tablet away for the evening.
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 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. If you're looking to upgrade, find out how to recycle electronics.
Final Thoughts on the Best Tablets for Note-Taking
The Microsoft Surface Go 3 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 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.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.