/>
X
Tech
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

The best note-taking tablets: Expert tested and reviewed

ZDNET went hands-on with the best note-taking tablets from Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, and more to help you take notes the modern way.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Nina Raemont
Apple iPad Air (5th generation) | Best note-taking tablet overall
iPad Air 5th gen
Apple iPad Air (5th generation)
Best note-taking tablet overall
View now View at B&H Photo-Video
Microsoft Surface Go 3 | Best lightweight note-taking tablet
The Surface Go 3 (left) has a slimmer screen bezel than the first-generation model (right), but is unchanged from the Surface Go 2.
Microsoft Surface Go 3
Best lightweight note-taking tablet
View now View at Amazon
Amazon Kindle Scribe | Best note-taking tablet for reading
kindle-scribe-81
Amazon Kindle Scribe
Best note-taking tablet for reading
View now View at Best Buy
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 | Best note-taking tablet for Android users
samsung-galaxy-tab-s9-s-pen
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9
Best note-taking tablet for Android users
View now View at Samsung
Amazon Fire Max 11 | Best budget note-taking tablet
fire-max-11-8
Amazon Fire Max 11
Best budget note-taking tablet
View now View at Amazon

Tablets serve a variety of functions, but one of their go-to uses these days is for taking notes. These machines make it easier than ever for students or professionals to jot down everything they need while being portable and even powerful enough to replace a heftier laptop. 

Tablets run the gamut in terms of everything they can do (and all the prices they show up at), so even if you're looking for a tablet to take notes in classes or meetings, it's important to consider what else you might want to use your tablet for. For students, you might get a tablet for school instead of a laptop, while professionals might carry one for commuting purposes since they are much more portable. There are tablets on the market that fit both of those scenarios. 

Also: The best tablets you can buy

ZDNET went hands-on with the following tablets, with our top contender being the iPad Air, thanks to its lightweight build and compatibility with the second-generation Apple Pencil. But we also included tablets from Microsoft, Amazon, and more to take digital notes on.

The best note-taking tablets of 2024

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Fully customizable with color, storage, and access
  • Fast speed with Apple's M1 chip
  • Retina display
Cons
  • Only compatible with iOS
  • Camera cannot be used with other apps
More Details

iPad Air (5th generation) tech specs: Display: 10.9-inch Retina display | Processor: Apple Silicon M1 | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Biometrics: Touch ID | Colors: Space gray, starlight, pink, purple, blue | Cameras: 12MP rear, 4K video. 12MP Ultra Wide camera | Weight: 1.02 pounds | Dimensions: 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.24 inches | Connections: USB-C port | Battery life: 10 hours

Even Android fans will like Apple's iPad Air. The lightweight tablet can do everything -- including taking notes. Compatible with the Apple Pencil (second generation), the iPad Air makes it easy to take notes in class or meetings and watch seminars virtually if needed. Apple's products are largely customizable, and this is no different: you can opt for one of five colors and get more or less storage depending on what you need. 

In addition, you can also equip your iPad to use cellular data if Wi-Fi doesn't feel sufficient for classes or commuting. For students or professionals who might need to use their tablets while on the go often, a cellular data plan ensures you can always get online to access. 

Review: iPad Air (2022): So good I almost regret buying my iPad Pro

ZDNET contributor, Jason Cipriani, went hands-on with the iPad Air and was impressed by its 2-in-1 compatibility thanks to the Apple Keyboard and Apple Pencil additions. 

"It's as powerful as the iPad Pro, but costs hundreds of dollars less -- even when you max out the storage -- with a display that's on par with the 11-inch iPad Pro," he wrote. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Fully customizable
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Stylus and keyboard sold separately
  • Customizations can get pricey
More Details

Microsoft Surface Go 3 tech specs: Display: 10.5-inch PixelSense Display | Processor: Intel Pentium Gold or Intel Core i3 | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Memory: 4GB or 8GB | Biometrics: Windows Hello face sign-in | Colors: Platinum | Cameras: 8MP rear, 1080p video. 5MP front facing camera | Weight: 1.07 pounds | Dimensions: 9.65 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches | Connections: 1 x USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, 1 x Surface Connect Port, microSD card reader | Battery life: 11 hours

The Microsoft Surface Go 3 is a lightweight tablet that you'll hardly even notice it in your bag. It's just over a pound, and even if you add a keyboard to it, it still doesn't take up too much space. The Surface Go 3 has a hefty battery life that can last you through a full day and also charges quickly if you need it in a hurry.

Review: Microsoft Surface Go 3: A portable and versatile 2-in-1, but battery life disappoints

The Microsoft Surface Go 3 also has a facial recognition camera to add a layer of security and runs a Windows operating system. It's also compatible with the Surface pen, should you want to use a stylus while taking notes. It also has a crisp 1920x1280 resolution for joining Zoom calls or simply watching Netflix. 

Contributing writer Mary Branscombe tested the Microsoft Surface Go 3 when it first debuted back in 2021 and called out that it's "a real PC that can run standard Windows workloads -- just in a tiny, light and slim package."

"Like the previous models, the Surface Go 3 shines as a portable device: it's perfect for working on an airplane tray table or a crowded train, and for throwing in a backpack or the kitbag in the back of a vehicle," she wrote.

In addition, you can customize your machine with different storage options and processors to boost it up if you want it to run faster or have more space. Just keep in mind that the more you customize, the higher the price tag. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Impressive battery life
  • Included pen for handwritten notes
  • Compatible with Microsoft Word
Cons
  • Premium Pen upgrade will cost you more
  • Does not support note-taking on magazines or newspapers
More Details

Kindle Scribe tech specs: Display: 10.2-inch 300 ppi Paperwhite display | Storage: 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB | Weight: 0.96 pounds | Dimensions: 7.7 x 9.0 x .22 inches | Battery life: Up to 12 weeks (at 30 minutes per day)

The Kindle Scribe is perhaps the perfect example of part e-reader, part tablet. It has the same functions you've come to know and love in a Kindle, like a 300 ppi glare-free screen, weeks of battery life, and adjustable warm light. It's also compatible with Amazon's Basic or Premium Pen, so you can take handwritten notes or underline important quotations within the book you're reading. 

Your notes are automatically organized in one place for every book so that you can browse, review, and export them via email. The Kindle Scribe also comes with preset templates to help you create notebooks, journals, and lists, and you can create sticky notes in Microsoft Word and other compatible Word documents. 

Review: Amazon Kindle Scribe: 7 months later, it's so close to perfect

The Kindle Scribe comes with the Basic pen, but for the more advanced features like a dedicated eraser and the shortcut button, you'll need the premium pen, which costs $30 extra. 

ZDNET contributor, Matthew Miller, called this 2-in-1 tablet "close to perfect" in his hands-on review. 

"A key function is how I can quickly and easily erase my handwritten notes by 'brushing' the eraser portion of the $59 Premium Pen. It's an optional accessory for the Scribe, but one that I highly recommend picking up if you want the full note-taking experience," Miller advises. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Stunning display
  • S Pen in box
  • Many of the same features as the pricier S9 Ultra and S9+
Cons
  • Missing apps
More Details

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 tech specs: Display: 11-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 2560 x 1600 display | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 | Storage: 128GB or 256GB (expandable with microSD) | Memory: 8GB or 12GB | Colors: Graphite or Beige | Cameras: Front: 12MP UW, Rear: 13MP | Weight: 1.10 pounds | Dimensions: 10.01 x 6.53 x 0.23 inches | Connectivity: USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 1 | Battery life: 8,400mAh

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 is part of Samsung's latest tablet series released this year. The Tab S9 comes with 8GB or 12GB of memory and starts at 128GB of storage which can be expanded by up to 1TB thanks to microSD card support. Inside the Tab S9 is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. 

The 11-inch LCD display is compact enough to make the tablet portable. But most importantly, included in the box with the S9 is an S Pen that you can use to write or draw in your favorite apps, just like you can with the Samsung Galaxy Note lineup.

Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S9

Miller also tested this base Tab S9 model, saying it was an enjoyable experience, including the new and improved S Pen that has an IP68 waterproof rating and a 2.9ms latency. 

"Samsung clearly beats Apple by including the S Pen with the tablet, and I love using the Samsung Notes app that includes support for syncing flawlessly with OneNote. It's hard to beat a Samsung tablet when it comes to taking notes, and I stand by that," he wrote. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Affordably priced, especially when bundled
  • Solid battery life
  • New, modernized design
Cons
  • Performance is just alright
  • Important productivity apps are missing
More Details

Amazon Fire Max 11 specs: Display: 11-inch, 2000 x 1200, 410 nits brightness, 213 ppi | Processor: MediaTek MT8188J, 2.2Ghz Octacore processor | Storage: 64GB or 128GB | Memory: 4GB | Colors: Gray | Cameras: 8MP rear and 8MP front-facing camera | Weight: 490 grams | Dimensions: 259.1 x 163.7 x 7.50 millimeters | Connections: 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C port | Battery life: 14 hours

With a starting price of $245, the Fire Max 11 brings an 11-inch display, 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage with support for 1TB of microSD card storage. If you're looking for a tablet for work and play, the Fire Max 11 Productivity Bundle costs $370, but comes with a keyboard with touchpad, case, and a stylus that has 4,096 levels of pressure.

Review: Amazon Fire Max 11: Easily the best Fire tablet yet

Cipriani also went hands-on with the Amazon Fire Max 11 and said that it is "easily the best Fire Tablet Amazon has made yet."

"You can use the pen to write in the search field of the Silk Browser or the search bar on the Fire Max 11's main screen," he wrote. "The handwriting recognition is pretty good, converting my horrible handwriting to text with impressive accuracy." Plus, it has an impressive battery life of up to 14 hours. 

What is the best note-taking tablet?

The best note-taking tablet is the iPad Air based on price, ratings, display, features, and more. It's also super lightweight, making it the perfect choice to carry anywhere.

Note-taking Tablet

Price

Display

Pen/Stylus

Apple iPad Air

$559

10.9-inch Retina display

Apple Pencil (2nd generation)

Microsoft Surface Go 3

$390

10.5-inch PixelSense display

Surface Pen

Kindle Scribe

$390

10.2-inch 300 ppi Paperwhite display

Amazon Basic or Premium Pen

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9

$800

11-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 2560 x 1600 display

S Pen

Amazon Fire Max 11

$329

11-inch 2000 x 1200 display

Amazon Stylus

 *Lowest price at the time of writing. Please note that prices may vary based on retailer and available promotions, sales, or discounts.

Which note-taking tablet is right for you?

Choosing a tablet really comes down to what you want to use it for and what you want to spend. Basic tablets tend to be cheaper, so if you don't plan to use them for much other than taking notes, you can look at spending a little less and getting something like an Amazon Fire Tablet. 

However, if you want a tablet you can use for school and and for everyday things like streaming, photo editing, and more, something like an iPad might be a better choice.

Choose this note-taking tablet...

If you want...

Apple iPad Air

The best overall option. It's as powerful as the iPad Pro but much lighter in weight and less expensive. 

Microsoft Surface Go 3

A lightweight note-taking tablet. The 11-hour battery life can last throughout a school or work day.

Amazon Kindle Scribe

A tablet and e-reader in one. You can make notes within the book(s) you are reading, as well as through apps like Microsoft Word.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9

An Android tablet for note-taking. An S Pen is included in the box.

Amazon Fire Max 11

A budget-friendly tablet for under $350. It is compatible with the Amazon Stylus pen, and you can also attach a keyboard to it.

How did we choose these note-taking tablets?

In choosing these tablets for note-taking, we considered tablets we have used hands-on and reviewed at ZDNET. We also considered reviews (both good and bad) in our decision-making process. Ultimately, it came down to the following factors when making our top picks: 

  • Display: A tablet's experience is largely based on its display, so we paid attention to tablets with HD resolutions and even paper-like displays. 
  • Stylus compatibility: Most people use a stylus when taking notes on a tablet, so we considered tablets that either come with a stylus right out of the box or have the option to buy one from the maker separately. It's important to note most universal styluses will also work with these tablets. 
  • Size: Tablets that you will mainly use for note-taking purposes will have different requirements than tablets you need to replace a laptop with. Smaller size tablets are best for note-taking purposes and are lightweight and portable.
  • Price: Tablets will vary in price from $150 all the way up to $1,000 or more, depending on storage capacity, display quality, processors, and more. We included a wide range of prices for every budget. 

Do I need a stylus for a note-taking tablet?

Using a stylus is totally up to you, but it can definitely help with functionality. Some tablets come with a stylus, while others will have them sold separately. If you're looking at this from a cost perspective, consider the fact that the stylus will often be an added expense, but you may find it worth it for ease of use, especially if you're the type that likes the feeling of writing out your notes rather than typing them.

What are the best note-taking apps?

The best note-taking apps let you digitize your notes and to-dos while keeping them all in one place or syncing them to a cloud. Our favorites are Notability, Evernote, GoodNotes 5, and even Apple's free Notes app is a worthy choice.

Does the Apple Pencil convert handwriting to text?

Yes--the Apple Pencil can convert your hand-written notes into text for better legibility. Here's how: 

  1. In the Notes or Freeform apps, tap to show the tool palette.

  2. In the tool palette, tap the Handwriting tool (to the left of the pen).

  3. Write with Apple Pencil, and Scribble automatically converts your handwriting into typed text.

Are there alternative note-taking tablets worth considering?

If none of the above caught your eye or don't seem quite like what you're looking for, there are some similar models at different price points that will also serve you well in taking notes at school or at work.

View at AmazonView at Best BuyView at Amazon
Editorial standards