People keep asking me about more sophisticated devices for artists and creatives, like a full-featured portable tablets which also work well as note taking tablets.
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In addition to just asking me what I would recommend for note taking, or what are the best note taking tablets, people have been asking more specific questions like:
- Can I use my iPad as a note-taking tablet?
- What’s the best artist tablet with stylus pen to use as a note taking tablet?
- Can I take notes and sketch on a tablet at the same time?
- What tablets support the S Pen (and what is it, anyway)?
- Is there a good Windows tablet for note taking?
- What’s the best Android note-taking tablet?
- What is the best cheap note-taking tablet?
So, as a kind of supplement to my last article, today I’m going to talk in some depth about using normal tablets for taking notes, and make a few recommendations for the best tablets for note-taking available today .
Can I Use a Normal Tablet for Note Taking?
This is in fact something I do all the time with my iPad, and so it is easy to understand all of the interest in taking notes with tablets.
I use Procreate as my main drawing app on the iPad, essentially using my iPad as the main drawing and note taking tablet, and I use it for notes too – for an artist or creative (or, I think, for lots of people) this is a wonderful way to get down ideas and inspirations, which often seem to flow between words and images. Plus, I just love to doodle!
So basically, I open up Procreate and kind of go back and forth between painting, drawing and note taking, and I find that the visual and verbal really spur each other on, leading to even more new ideas, new inspirations and new directions.
Whether on paper or on a screen, this interplay between verbal and visual is a great exercise for any artist, writer or other creative person, and I highly recommend doing it if you don’t already .
It is a great way to not just capture something in your head before it goes poof, and it’s also a brilliant way to really explore and expand ideas – that is, really see an idea in different dimensions, find out more about it and where it wants to go.
Sometimes things really come to a fullness in these fun and fruitful sessions, but even if they don’t, they always leave me a beautiful and suggestive record of what I was thinking or feeling at the time, a verbal and visual reference which really lets me revisit that place later on and explore some more.
I can even see taking this process to the next level, and creating fully realized art pieces kind of like illustrated or illuminated books – I have an image of William Blake sitting in a café with an iPad in his hand, feverishly scratching at the screen as profound poetry and godlike pictures pour out of him.
You could even bring in other media and technologies, including sound and animation, but even just the words and images can make really beautiful pages, the making of which can be invaluable to any artist or writer.
What is an S Pen, and What Is the User Experience
Samsung must be doing a great job with marketing, because “S Pen” has become a real buzzword – even people who have or want Apple or Windows tablets always ask “what is an S Pen?” “can I use it with my tablet?” “do I need an S Pen?” or “what does the S Pen do?”
In fact, the S Pen may not need that much marketing hype, because it is a fairly cool little gadget, and people who know and use them do tend to rave about them and how it’s changed their lives and working processes.
It is, however, only fully functional with Samsung Android products, but what functionality!
This stylus pen will not just write and draw, it will act as a remote control for slide shows and presentations, movies and music, will magically take notes even when your Samsung is locked, magnify your screen, open, close and switch between apps, recognize your handwriting notes and turn it into text, make a fire and find fresh water if you’re lost in the woods and all kinds of other stuff.
Ok, I don’t really think it will make fire or act as a dowsing rod, just to be clear, but the S Pen is pretty amazing.
Is an iPad, Windows or Android a Better Tablet for Note Taking?
That said, the functionality and capabilities of iPads and Windows tablets are pretty amazing too, and each platform, processor and operating systems has its own advantages.
iPadOS will, for example, automatically recognize your handwriting notes and turn them into editable and usable text, as will lots of Windows apps, and you may find that either iPad or Windows has drawing apps that are better and simpler to use for drawing and note taking on a single page, and are almost definitely better if you also want to use the tablet for higher-level art work.
If you are already in one platform or the other, Apple, Windows or Android, and you’re happy with it, you might just want to stay there, and you are sure to find a tablet with a processor which will offer such easy, natural and advanced note taking that you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.
How Can I Find the Best Tablet for Note Taking in 2021?
I’m going to include great choices for note taking tablets from all three platforms, all of which will offer full functionality and all of the newest tricks, and all of which will cater to not just artists but anybody who is creatively inclined – a person who might sometimes just want to take notes, but who also wants to let their mind and ideas go, adding pictures and visuals as they occur and creating not just a record of the moment but something beautiful and inspiring in its own right.
So, if that sounds like you, all you need is an idea of whether you want Android, Apple or Windows, and you will find a wonderful and creative note taking device in my recommendations below.
Not just the best note-taking tablet on the market, an ideal personal assistant for taking that note and capturing that idea, but an advanced artist’s tool as well, with the features and capabilities, the beautiful screen, big enough screen size, powerful processor, the advanced stylus pen and the best software, which will let you fully realize that idea – or any idea, inspiration or art piece – at the very highest level.
Indeed, even if you are not an artist, you will still find a great note taking tool here, which will capture your moments, stimulate and support your own creativity, and offer all the other functions and features of the best note-taking tablets available today.
Overview: The Best Tablets for Note Taking in 2021
- Apple iPad Pro (11-inch, Wi-Fi, 128GB)
- New Apple iPad Air (10.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB)
- Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi, 64GB)
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S7
11 inch Liquid Retina Display – ProMotion; True Tone; P3 Wide Color Gamut; 600 Nits Brightness
128 GB - 1 TB Internal SSD Memory
10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone and P3 wide color
64GB | 256GB
7.9-inch Retina Display with True Tone and wide Color
64GB | 256GB
Display size: 11-Inch
Display resolution: 2560 x 1600 (WQXGA) TFT
Internal memory: 6/8GB(RAM) + 128/256/512GB
Exceptional battery life
The Best Apple Tablet for Note Taking in 2021
Features of Apple iPad Pro (11 inch)
- 11 inch Liquid Retina Display – ProMotion; True Tone; P3 Wide Color Gamut; 600 Nits Brightness
- 128 GB – 1 TB Internal SSD Memory
- A12Z Bionic Processor with Neural Engine
- 12MP Wide camera, 10MP Ultra Wide camera, and LiDAR Scanner
- 7MP TrueDepth front camera
- Wi Fi or Mobile connection
- Amazing 10+ hours of battery life
- USB C port
- Apple Pencil sold separately
Not just the best Apple tablet, the iPad Pro is easily one of the best art tools of any type available today. It is also one of the finest tablets of any type, for any use and for any user, and makes the perfect choice for note taking as well as general tablet / computer usage.
And if you are an artist – a serious, working commercial artist, fine artist, art student or beginner – and want your new tablet to be able to grow with you and handle all of your ideas, inspirations and boundless talent – no matter how far they go – and to help you fully realize them at the highest level, there is no better choice than the Apple iPad Pro.
For note taking, general tablet usage and even advanced art work, I believe the most basic iPad Pro is more than sufficient, with plenty of RAM, 64 GB of storage and its stunning 11 inch Liquid Retina display – IMHO the most beautiful retina display on any tablet at any price. You can use Procreate, like I do, and make pretty and inspiring art pages with notes, pictures and more, or you can simply write out verbal ideas in a simple notepad app and have your new iPad turn them into usable computer text, for editing and sharing later.
While many have the idea that the iPad Pro is quite expensive, this opening model is surprisingly affordable, and represents a real value considering its quality, reliability and performance – it is still, after all, the best iPad made, with truly state of the art performance and technology, but just with the smaller screen size and less storage.
One of the best tablets of any type, this basic iPad Pro paired with the Apple Pencil is the best Apple tablet for taking notes, and will become an invaluable companion – for this and much, much more – in no time at all.
You will need to purchase the superb Apple Pencil separately, and I also recommend the Apple Magic Keyboard, which makes the iPad an even more powerful and useful personal computer and protects that beautiful screen.
If your budget just doesn’t allow for a Pro, however, you can still get into the iPad world with the less expensive iPad Air – still an incredibly advanced and powerful tablet with a beautiful 11 inch Liquid Retina display, and an even lighter overall package, but with a slightly slower processor and less storage, for hundreds of dollars less – Apple iPad Air 10.9 Inch with 64GB Storage – the best mid-priced Apple iPad for note taking available today! Again, you will need the Apple Pencil, and might also want the Apple Magic Keyboard.
What is more, all iPads offer a briliant battery life which will support you in all of your creative endeavours.
Finally, there is even a super-budget version available, which will still open up the whole range of iPad software and capabilities, and still makes a great artist tool (albeit with an even smaller screen size) and an ideal small note taking device – the Apple iPad Mini 7.9 Inch with 64GB Storage is the best budget iPad for taking notes in 2021, and an incredible value overall in today’s tablet market. You will need a pen, and to keep the price low and still be able to fully express yourself you might want to opt for the wonderful Adonit Note Stylus Pen for about a third of the price, but keep in mind that the Apple Pencil really is the best.
The Best Android Tablet for Note Taking in 2021
Ok, back to the S Pen! It is such a cool stylus pen that you might think that it is the main reason for recommending the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 as the best note taking android tablet, but to be fair everything about this tablet is pretty amazing.
The screen is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen on any tablet, with deep saturation, vivid, accurate colors, incredible brightness and contrast. The sound is amazing, especially for a tablet with such apparently tiny speakers. The overall look and feel, bezel-less design, great user interface and pen to screen interaction and pressure sensitivity are all top-rate. Now that there are good art programs for Android, I can see that a tablet like this Samsung will support even the most advanced artists and their work.
And, yes, the S Pen is really nice. With full pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition, a nice feel against the glass and a trouble-free flow, it makes note taking a joyous and productive user experience, and lets you do whatever you want with pictures, lines, color and any other visual elements, with real expressivity and control. Or, if you are simply taking notes, this is the easiest and most intuitive tablet I’ve ever used for getting them down immediately without any distractions or excess fuss. Again, the phone doesn’t even need to be awake!
Android tablets will, undoubtedly, become more and more popular with artists now that Adobe and other top art software companies are making more of their programs compatible with Android (not to mention the increasing compatibility of other art tools like Wacom input device), and this Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is certainly a fully realized art tool on the highest level. But even if you are only, or mainly, focused on taking notes, or on getting the best Android tablet overall with the idea that, should they arise, your creative ideas and urges will still be well-served, the Tab S7 is still by far the best choice, an extraordinary Android tablet in pretty much every way, and very highly recommended.
You might also want to consider the Samsung Keyboard, which can turn your Tab S7 into an even more complete personal assistant, and protects it at the same time.
If budget is a main factor you would still be doing wonderfully well with the smaller, less expensive Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, with an ever-so-slightly smaller screen size and somewhat lower specs for a couple hundred dollars less – it still, however, has the S Pen, so how can you go wrong? The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is, for my money, the best budget Android tablet for note taking available in 2021. Even with the sweet little Fintie Keyboard and Cover, the whole package is still incredibly inexpensive.
Both Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 offer an above average battery life which will support demands of your creative life.
Features of Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 / Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
- Screen Size: 11 inches
- Resolution: 2560 x 1600 WQXGA
- Octa Core Processor (3.09+2.4+1.8GHz)
- 64 – 512 GB Internal Storage
- Includes S Pen
- Wi Fi or Mobile connection
- USB C port
- Offers exceptional 14+ hours of battery life
The Best Windows Tablet for Note Taking in 2021
I’m not sure exactly why this is, but there have never really been many nice, smaller tablets using the Windows 10 platform. Other than a few suspiciously unheard of brands on Amazon, the small Windows 10 tablet doesn’t seem to have ever materialized, and despite a couple of glowing reviews which often sound like they might have been auto-written by the very tablet they laud, those no-names don’t inspire much confidence.
Luckily, there is one perfect choice for the best Windows 10 tablet for taking notes on, a small, light, extremely portable tablet which is also a very powerful Windows 10 computer – the Microsoft Surface Go 2. Microsoft Surface tablets are the true gold standard in tablet computer design, performance and quality, and are some of the finest computers on the market today (and not just our recommendation – the whole line of Microsoft Surface tablets is stellar!).
Most of the Microsoft Surface tablets, though, are probably too big to be considered ideal choices for quick and easy portable note taking, but the new little Go 2 is different. Even with the type cover, which is a pretty necessary accessory, the Surface Go 2 comes in at well under 2 pounds, and its beautiful 10.5 inch HD touchscreen puts it in the same general size range as many other recommendations on our list of best tablets for note taking in 2021.
What sets the Surface Go 2 apart from others, though, besides the deservedly legendary Microsoft Surface design, material and build quality and performance, is the enormous range of software available on the Windows platform. The Surface Go 2 is an interesting machine, in that it comes standard with a Windows S-Mode operating system, which many people dislike because of its limitations, but you can super-easily flick one software switch and turn the Go 2 into a normal, full power Windows 10 computer. S-Mode is nice for kids, and if you wanted to keep your machine as focused and simple to operate as possible, but I personally would immediately switch it over to normal Windows.
And with Windows 10 you get an unmatched selection of note taking, handwriting recognition, words and graphics combo programs both simple and advanced, word processing software and the very best, most powerful art, illustration and other graphics programs available today. This also includes the new Windows Ink software, which is free and comes with the Surface Go 2, and focuses on easy and intuitive note taking and doodling – hey, that’s just what we’re talking about here!
So if you want a small, portable, simple and easy note-taker, the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is an ideal choice, sturdy, beautiful and inexpensive. And if you want everything else, well, that is also included in this full Windows 10 tablet – a brilliant no-compromise solution, and easily the best Windows 10 tablet for note taking on the market in 2021.
What are not included, though, are the Microsoft Surface Go Type Cover and the Microsoft Surface Pen, and I would have to say that they are both really necessary add-ons. Especially the Surface Pen, which ensures great pressure sensitivity and the joy of handwriting notes on your Surface Go. Luckily, the whole package is still a genuine bargain, especially considering how great a computer the Surface Go 2 really is.
Microsoft Surface tablets for note-taking offer a long battery life which make them great creative companions.
Features of Microsoft Surface Go 2
- Screen Size: 10.5 inches Touchscreen
- GPU: Intel HD Graphics 615
- Intel Pentium Gold Processor: 4GB/64GB
- 64 – 128 GB Internal Storage
- Wi Fi or Mobile connection
- USB C port
- Offers long battery life
Final Thoughts: Is an iPad, Android or Windows 10 a Good Note Taking Tablet?
Yes, I have to say that it can be a great idea to use a normal Apple iPad, Android or Windows 10 tablet for doodling, drawing and note taking, and even as a nice, sophisticated creative electronic journal. That way you can really capture things as they come up, and you can also use it for everything else a good tablet will do these days. But you do have other choices – especially if you want things simpler or cheaper.
Again, my last article talked about two different types of dedicated digital notepads – either paper based or screen based – which are designed to allow you to take notes, doodle and even make more advanced artwork quickly, easily and without a lot of distractions or unnecessary steps, and if that is really what you are looking for please check out the article HERE, and you will find several recommendations for the best digital notepads currently available.
If, on the other hand, you would prefer to have a full-function iPad or Android tablet, or even an actual Windows 10 PC, which can offer a lot more than journaling, drawing and note taking, but still does those things quickly, easily and beautifully, then any one of my choices for best tablets for note-taking in 2021 would be a great idea – a simple and highly useful way to capture even the most fleeting of ideas, images and inspirations, which also serves as a great personal computer and even a highly advanced portable art studio and creative tool.
Thanks so much for reading my latest article – Best Tablets for note taking in 2021: A Detailed Buyer’s Guide for Artists – and I encourage you to visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for other buyer’s guides, online courses, articles and lots of other resources.
Other articles in digital notepads series: