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Despite the convenience of smart-planning with technology, sometimes you just have to write down your to-do lists, class notes, and random reminders in a old-school notebook. As a hybrid option, a smart notebook offers the nostalgic pen-to-paper feeling while integrating cloud storage for note accessibility for moments you don't want the physical presence of pad and paper.
To help you decide which smart notebooks are worth the investment, ZDNET tested and researched the best on the market, keeping in mind notebook feel, storage capabilities and options, special features, and price. Here are our selections.
Also: The 4 best smart pens
Rocketbook Fusion features: Color options: nine | Pages: 42 | Page styles: seven
The Rocketbook Fusion Smart Notebook is our top pick thanks to its decent price range, ratings, and versatile page and template options. The notebook's synthetic paper allows you to write the included Pilot FriXion pen, then wipe the page clean with a damp cloth to reuse it again and again.
In addition, you can save your pages to the Rocketbook app's cloud by tapping your pen on the icon at the bottom of the page to make them easy to find later.
I have gone hands-on with the Rocketbook Fusion, and it scratches that itch of satisfaction when hand-writing notes/to-do lists while also letting me check those lists via the app when I'm out and about.
I also appreciated the the different page styles to choose from such as weekly and monthly planners, goal setting, task trackers, an ideas page, dot grids, and lined pages, so I can carry around one notebook instead of three.
Moleskine Pen+ features: Color options: black | Pages: 176 | Page styles: ruled and dot grid
If you appreciate the look and feel of Moleskine notebooks, then the company's Pen+ Smart Writing set could be the right smart notebook for you. The notebook features the signature dotted Moleskine page in a "paper tablet" format, so the pages are tucked in between a sturdy tablet-like design. Ncoded technology is embedded within each page, which enables the accompanying smart pen to recognize where it is within the notebook and to transfer all your freehand notes from page to screen in real-time.
You can upload or share your notes digitally through the Moleskine Notes app and share them to Google Drive or Evernote. In addition, you can use the pen to record audio that lines up with what you've written, creating a multimedia note-taking experience.
Read the review: Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse: Smart note-taking cuts out digital distractions
ZDNET put the Moleskine Pen+ to the test and particularly appreciated the replay option, which allows you to re-run how your notes came together.
"This might not seem very useful for simple note taking," we said, "but if you are drawing or brainstorming it's really quite handy to see how an image or a set of ideas come together."
We thought that artists, in particular, may find playback useful to see how their drawing process evolved.
Rocketbook Mini Notebook features: Color options: 13 | Pages: 48 | Page styles: Dot grid
For those looking for a much more budget-friendly smart notebook, Rocketbook's Mini notebook is a great alternative to its larger-sized notebooks and is tiny enough to carry in your pocket or purse.
Like the Rocketbook Fusion notebook, this model comes with a Pilot Frixion Pen and a microfiber cloth to reuse the pages, although it comes with 48 dotted pages to fill up first.
This mini version is also compatible with many popular cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneNote, and others.
Also: Smart, reusable sticky notes? Rocketbook is optimistic
reMarkable 2 features: Color options: Black, blue, red, gray, and white | Storage: 8GB internal storage | Pages: Stores about 100,000 pages | Resolution: 1872 x 1404
Those diligent note-takers looking to really splurge on a smart reusable notebook should consider the reMarkable 2. This notebook is more of a large-screen tablet with a low-latency E-Ink writing experience that makes you feel like you're writing on paper rather than on a tablet screen. In addition, with reMarkable's cloud app called Connect, you get access to standout features like screen share, handwriting conversion, unlimited cloud storage, and more.
Read the review: reMarkable 2 E-Ink tablet review: Superb for on-screen writing, but key features are still missing
ZDNET contributor, Sandra Vogel, was impressed with how it felt writing on the notebook.
"There's a 'gritty' feel to using the stylus on-screen that's not unlike writing on paper," she said. "Both styli support 4,096 pressure levels, and there are plenty of pen choices and ink thicknesses to select from."
The reMarkable 2 comes with the option of either the Marker or Marker Plus pen that doesn't need charging and has a built-in eraser (only in the Marker Plus).
Kindle Scribe features: Colors: Black with colored folios | Storage: 16GB/32GB, or 64GB | Display: 10.2-inch display with 300 ppi, 16-level gray scale | Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
The Kindle Scribe is perhaps the perfect example of a smart notebook that doubles as a tablet of sorts. It has the same functions you've come to know and love in a Kindle, like 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 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 can create sticky notes in Microsoft Word and other compatible Word documents.
Read the review: Amazon Kindle Scribe review: 7 ways it could be even more remarkable
ZDNET's Matthew Miller, said that the Scribe has "made paper and pen notes obsolete for me."
"While I have various other tablets, I've yet to find a pairing that feels natural, both in hardware and software, and often end up rarely ever using the stylus that they support," he wrote. "Also, I love that I can highlight text, make notes, and even sign documents with a signature that doesn't look like that of a two-year-old with the Scribe."
In addition, 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.
The best smart notebook is the Rocketbook Fusion Smart Notebook. I made this pick based on its quality for the price, average rating, and standout features it offers, such as seven different page styles.
Moleskine Pen+ Smart Writing Set
Stores about 100,000 pages
16GB, 32GB, or 64GB
While any of these smart notebooks are great options, it ultimately comes down to what size notebook you want, what kind of notes you will take, and what price you're willing to spend.
Choose this smart notebook...
If you want...
The best overall option. It comes with different page types so you have everything inside one notebook.
Moleskine Pen+ Smart Writing Set
A stylish smart notebook from a classic brand. You can even record audio notes.
A budget-friendly smart notebook that is compact. It has 48 dotted pages for you to fill up.
A smart notebook packed with plenty of features worth the splurge. You'll feel like you're writing on real paper thanks to the low-latency E-Ink writing experience.
A smart notebook that's also a great reading tablet. You can easily make notes inside the books you're reading.
I considered my own hands-on experiences with the products, as well as other ZDNET staff that have used and recommend these smart notebooks along with extensive research. Ultimately, the factors that helped decide if these considered a best ZDNET title came down to Notebook feel, storage capabilities, price, and other special features.
Smart notebooks digitize your handwritten notes so you can make them a PDF, share them with friends or colleagues, or always keep your ideas with you and properly organized. Smart notebooks usually work hand-in-hand with a smart pen, and most are sold together to work in tandem.
I chose the best smart notebooks based on pricing, styling preferences, and purposes. If you want a few more choices, here are alternatives:
This Rocketbook model is a little fancier since it has a hard, vegan leather cover and an embedded NFC hotspot.
The semi-transparent surface on this smart notebook allows you to take notes on different templates or to mark up documents.
This smart notebook has 50 sheets of 100 pages, and each page can be erased over 500 times.