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The best smart notebooks you can buy: Expert tested

Looking for a new way to take notes? We tested electronic notebooks that digitize, store, and share your notes or lists more effectively.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Kayla Solino
Boox Note Air 3 C | Best smart notebook overall
Overhead photo of a tabler with notes on its screen and someone with a pen in their hand
Boox Note Air 3 C
Best smart notebook overall
View now View at Best Buy
Rocketbook Fusion Smart Notebook | Best budget smart notebook
Blue rocketbook smart notebook with a pen and a cloth on top of it
Rocketbook Fusion Smart Notebook
Best budget smart notebook
View now View at Walmart
Kindle Scribe | Best smart notebook for reading
kindle-scribe
Kindle Scribe
Best smart notebook for reading
View now View at Amazon
Moleskine Pen+ Smart Writing Set | Best stylish smart notebook
An open notebook with a pen sitting on top of it
Moleskine Pen+ Smart Writing Set
Best stylish smart notebook
View now View at Amazon
reMarkable 2 | Best smart notebook splurge
ReMarkable 2 with pen and keyboard case
reMarkable 2
Best smart notebook splurge
View now View at Best Buy

Writing down your to-do lists, class notes, and random reminders in an old-school notebook doesn't have to be your first option. 

As a hybrid option, digital notebooks, also known as smart notebooks, offer the nostalgic pen-to-paper feeling while integrating cloud storage for note accessibility when you don't want the physical presence of pad and paper. If you enjoy the feeling of writing on paper but want the convenience of digital storage and organization, then a digital notebook might be up your alley. 

Also: The best tablets we've tested

What is the best digital notebook right now? 

To help you decide which smart notebooks are worth the investment, we tested and researched the best ones on the market, considering notebook feel, storage capabilities and options, special features, and price. Based on our hands-on experience, our pick for the best smart notebook overall is the Boox Note Air 3 C thanks to its note-taking and productivity features and smooth color display. We also included notebooks from brands like Kindle, Rocketbook, and others that ZDNET staff use and recommend. 

The best smart notebooks of 2024

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Pen-to-paper writing experience
  • Excellent note-taking features and templates
  • BOOXdrop to share files
Cons
  • Screen can lag when browsing web or watching videos
More Details

Based on my hands-on experience with the Boox Note Air 3 C, it is the best smart notebook I have tried. While it doesn't have as crisp a color display as a traditional tablet like an iPad, this tablet's purpose is for note-taking, and it does an excellent job. 

It has all the best features of the best apps, like templates, audio recording, color-coding, inserting links and attachments to notes, and more. Plus, built-in artificial intelligence allows for text recognition, shape perfection, and a strikethrough erase feature that makes erasing much easier.

Review: The best E Ink tablet I've tested is not by ReMarkable or Kindle

Some of its standout features enhance your productivity, like the split screen feature that allows you to switch between two different apps, so you can take notes on one side while reading an article on the other. 

In addition, if you need to use this tablet for work or school, you can easily send files to the tablet from your computer or smartphone using BOOXdrop. It takes mere seconds, and you can easily annotate PDFs and other Word documents. One Reddit user noted that the tablet is outstanding in terms of PDF files. 

Boox Note Air 3 C tech specs: Colors: Black | Storage: 64GB | Display: 10.3-inch Kaleido 3 display, 1240 x 930 (150 PPI) for color and 2480 x 1860 (300 PPI) for black and white | Connectivity: Wi-Fi (2.4GHz + 5GHz) + BT 5.0

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Transfers notes from book to app
  • Different page styles allow for different uses
  • Compatible with popular cloud services like Dropbox, iCloud, Evernote, and more
Cons
  • No hardcover option
More Details

The Rocketbook Fusion Smart Notebook has versatile page and template options for only $40. The notebook's synthetic paper allows you to write with the included Pilot FriXion pen, then wipe the page clean with a damp cloth to reuse it repeatedly.

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 different page styles, such as weekly and monthly planners, goal setting, task trackers, an ideas page, dot grids, and lined pages, so I could carry around one notebook instead of three. 

Amazon customers who have bought and reviewed this smart notebook also agree that the Rocketbook Fusion's ease of use, quality, organization, performance, and writing experience make it a great budget option. 

Rocketbook Fusion features: Color options: Nine | Pages: 42 | Page styles: Seven

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

The Kindle Scribe is the perfect example of a smart notebook that doubles as a tablet. It has the same functions you've come to know and love in a Kindle, like a 300ppi 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. 

Read the review: Amazon Kindle Scribe review: 7 ways it could be even more remarkable

ZDNET's Matthew Miller said 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. Overall, 93% of customers who have bought the Kindle Scribe at Best Buy said they would recommend it.

Kindle Scribe features: Colors: Black with colored folios | Storage: 16GB/32GB, or 64GB | Display: 10.2-inch display with 300ppi, 16-level gray scale | Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Real-time sync creates digital notes as you write them
  • Sleek and stylish Moleskin notebook
  • Thick and resistant 100 g/m paper
Cons
  • Pages can stick together
  • Sometimes slow transcription
More Details

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," Steve Ranger, who wrote the review, 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. Customers who have bought the Moleskine agree, saying it's great for sketching, but cautions that the transcription process is a little slow. 

Moleskine Pen+ features: Color options: black | Pages: 176  | Page styles: ruled and dot grid

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Free one-year subscription to Connect app
  • Left-handed mode
  • Easily markup documents
Cons
  • Expensive option
  • Have to buy the marker separately
More Details

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: 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). Customers rate this smart notebook a 4.6 out of 5, calling out its use as an organizational tool for students and professionals alike.

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 

Digital notebooks, compared

The best smart notebook is the Boox Note Air 3 C. I made this pick based on its quality for the price, average rating, and standout features it offers, such as templates, split-screen, text recognition, and more.

Smart Notebook

Price

Pages/Storage

Boox Note Air 3 C

$500

64GB

Rocketbook Fusion

$40

42 pages

Kindle Scribe

$450

16GB, 32GB, or 64GB

Moleskine Pen+ Smart Writing Set

$199

176 pages

reMarkable 2

$549

Stores about 100,000 pages

*MSRP at the time of writing. Please note that actual prices may vary depending on available sales, deals, discounts, and coupons.

Is a smart notebook just a fancy way of saying tablet?

If you're on the fence about buying your first tablet:

  1. What exactly is a digital notebook?
    The sole purpose of a smart notebook is exactly that, to digitize a normal notebook. A smart notebook will enhance your basic note-taking experience to another level with better handwriting integration and cloud services.
  2. Digital notebook vs tablet, what's the difference? 

    A tablet, usually runs on a mobile operating system and offers a wider range of functions such as browsing the web, multimedia, gaming, and other tasks. A digital notebook is more niche and designed specifically for note-taking and digital writing tasks. 

  3. Is a digital notebook worth it?
    You can find a digital notebook for well under $20, making it a pretty budget friendly option for students or anyone looking to organize their notes without breaking the bank. But, if you like for all your devices to be consistent in terms of software, then you might be better off spending a little more for a tablet.  

Which smart notebook is right for you?

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...

Boox Note Air 3 C

The best overall option. Its included templates and color e-ink screen make it a productive device.

Rocketbook Fusion

A budget-friendly smart notebook. It has 42 pages and seven page styles for you to fill up. 

Kindle Scribe

A smart notebook that's also a great reading tablet. You can easily make notes inside the books you're reading. 

Moleskine Pen+ Smart Writing Set

A stylish smart notebook from a classic brand. You can even record audio notes. 

reMarkable 2

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. 

Factors to consider when choosing the best smart notebook:

When making our top picks, it came down to the following important factors. 

  • Notebook feel: Does the notebook have a traditional notebook feel? Does it have a resolution that makes it feel more like a tablet as opposed to a notebook, or an appropriate latency?
  • Storage capabilities: While some of these smart notebooks use actual paper, others have digital storage options. I considered both page count and storage capacity so you have plenty of room to write notes. 
  • Price: Smart notebooks range in price points from $10 all the way up to $450. The lower price points will get you real paper notebooks you can convert to digital notes, while the higher price points are more tablet-like notebooks. 
  • Special features: You may not need special features in a smart notebook, but they are nice to have. These include audio notes, page templates, cloud compatibility, etc. 

How did we test these smart notebooks?

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. We test these smart notebooks in real-world situations focusing on features, design, performance, and overall value. For products we recommend, we write a product spotlight review that we update periodically with new features and pricing information.

I also looked at real customer reviews (both good and bad) across various retail sites.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

What's the best smart pen for my electronic notebook?

Our best pick for smart pens would have to be the Apple Pencil for Apple devices (but those only work strictly with Apple). For Windows users, the Wacom Bamboo is the next best option. but, as a general rule of thumb, you should use the pen designed for your notebook for software compatibility and functionality purposes. 

Do they come with a smart pen or are those sold separate?

Most smart notebooks already include a smart pen, but it will also depend on the manufacturer and specific model. Smart notebooks such as reMarkable 2 and Wacom Bamboo Slate include the smart pen with their notebook. 

Would I recommend a smart notebook for students?

Keeping your notes and reminders organized on a single device for school is the best way to improve your productivity in and outside of class. That is why we recommend all students look into our best list of smart notebooks and find which is right for their needs. The Boox is a great option since you can connect it to many third-party apps through the Android store and transfer any files onto it, like essays or notes from class. 

Also: The best tablets for students

Do smart notebooks feel like paper?

That depends on the specific product. For example, Rocketbook's lineup of smart notebooks are made with real paper, as is the Moleskine smart notebook. However, other options like the Kindle Scribe and the ReMarkable 2 have low-latency, e-ink screens that feel paper-like, but you can still definitely tell they are more of a tablet than an actual notebook with paper. 

Can you use an iPad as a smart notebook?

While you won't get the "feel" of real paper with an iPad, you can use an iPad as a way to take notes digitally, especially if you have a quality stylus like the Apple Pencil. iOS apps like Noteflow allows you to take notes, annotate PDFs, sketch and doodle, and more while syncing to the cloud.

Are there alternative smart notebooks to consider?

I chose the best smart notebooks based on pricing, styling preferences, and purposes. If you want a few more choices, here are alternatives: 

View at AmazonView at Huion
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