The Best Writing Tablets for 2023 – Popular Mechanics
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One of these tablets can help you boost your productivity and streamline your life.
If you’re anything like us, you’ve spent hours on end sitting on the floor of a Staples or Office Max trying to choose between an uninspired selection of notebooks for one that’ll fix all your disorganization problems. Spoiler alert: A new notebook won’t make you meet your deadlines—but a writing tablet just might.
Remove the stress of picking out a new notebook every few months with a dedicated writing tablet fit with tools to help you organize, get creative, or take notes on documents. Typically made with E Ink screens for the most paper-like feel, good writing tablets typically have features like glare resistance, palm rejection, built-in calendars, cloud syncing, and ideally, a marketplace for extra apps.
While picking up your writing tablet each time you’re ready for a new to-do list might take a bit of getting used to, the trade-off is a streamlined note-taking system that puts your notes in-hand whenever you need them (even if you don’t have your tablet on your person). Here are our favorites.
Any tablet can serve as a writing tablet, but finding one dedicated to the purpose of note-taking means prioritizing specific features like backlights, stylus feel, and syncing with other devices.
E Ink screens are the best option for dedicated writing tablets because they’re most similar to paper, they resist glare, and they’re easier to configure with palm rejection (as in, the tablet doesn’t register the side of your hand as a touch command). They’re also easier on the eyes compared to the glare of a blue screen. If you intend to draw or sketch on your tablet, look for an E Ink tablet with a high refresh rate that’ll register your pen strokes instantaneously. High refresh rates are also helpful if you write quickly or want to use your tablet to read.
Traditional LCD screens are also a good pick if you want a multipurpose tablet for playing games, sending emails, editing photos, and also writing. Some LCD screens don’t have palm rejection built in, so make sure to look out for that when shopping.
The best writing tablets have on-device storage as well as the ability to sync with your other devices. We recommend options that sync with an app on your phone or computer so you can access your grocery lists and meeting notes whenever you need them. The file types used on writing tablets are typically very small, so you don’t need a ton of storage space—around 32 GB is plenty for most users.
Every tablet uses an operating system to run its software. Some of our picks use open-source software with very few parameters, while others have lock-and-key operating systems that don’t offer any extra apps. If you’re using your tablet for purposes besides writing and reading documents, pick an option with software that allows downloads from the marketplace, such as the App Store or the Android Store.
Switching from pen and paper to stylus and screen can feel like a betrayal of your writerly sensibilities. That’s why prioritizing the feel of writing on your new tablet is so important. During testing, we found that we struggled to integrate writing tablets with poor feel into our daily lives because they didn’t remind us enough of notebooks or legal pads. A good stylus and screen combo should glide easily with a touch of resistance or friction to mimic the feel of pencil. Get a comfortable stylus to go with your tablet, or pick up a Bluetooth keyboard for even faster writing (but make sure your tablet is compatible first).
We found the best writing tablets by researching what other publications, like Digital Camera World and CNET had to recommend. We also consulted our product testing, including the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 7. We scoured through dozens of writing tablets at retailers like Best Buy, Amazon, and Walmart, and considered user reviews among the bestselling products. This list is compiled with consideration of all budgets, tablet styles, and aesthetic choices.
Looking for more productivity tools? Check out our picks for the best Chromebooks, and the best tablets for students.
The iPad Pro has as much power as a desktop thanks to its M2 Chip, which allows it to perform demanding tasks at brilliant speeds. Its Liquid Retina XDR display offers smooth performance. Whether you’re using your device as a mobile gaming machine, a note-taking app, or for processing video, it can handle it all.
For those handwriting notes, the iPadOS can translate your words into basic text instantly, plus the ability to connect to a keyboard lets users type thoughts on the go. Its stylus, the Apple Pencil, is extremely responsive and feels excellent while gliding around the iPad’s screen. Note, however, that it’s sold separately.
Read our iPad Pro review
The Galaxy Tab S8 is a powerful tablet for taking notes and drawing, and at solid processing speeds. With a screen size of just over 14 inches, this device offers a large, beautiful display for students and workers to jot down notes.
The built-in Samsung Notes app can transcribe your handwriting into text, plus compatibility with Windows and Android apps makes it easy to sync files between devices. You can also use it to record notes on the fly.
Though pricey, the tablet comes with a hefty 128 GB of default storage, plus its S Pen stylus comes bundled with its package. Users love the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra for its quick speeds and impressive speaker quality.
Windows fan? When combined with the Surface Pen stylus, the Surface Pro 7+ is an impressive note-taking machine—especially for its price. Thanks to the integrated software of OneNote, you can type, draw, or use your finger to handwrite notes. You can also translate that handwriting into typed text, all in-app. You can resize and organize notes, and sync them between Android and Microsoft devices.
A powerful Intel Core processor will maintain peak performance while you’re jotting thoughts, plus a microphone allows you to record audio. The Surface Pro 7+ can also adapt to a laptop or drawing pad as needed with a simple flip of its keyboard shell. Customers rave about this tablet’s ease of use, plus its stability while taking video calls.
The most powerful tablet in Wacom’s arsenal is the MobileStudio Pro 16. This tablet can be used for professionals who need incredible processing power to edit photos, touch-up illustrations, and even process videos. But of course, at such a high price point, this may be overkill for those who simply need a writing device.
Critical reviews of the tablet note that the MobileStudio Pro 16’s Pro Pen 2 is very responsive and won’t cause any lag. It sports an Ultra HD 4K display, and at 16 inches, it’s large enough to work on major projects without straining the eyes.
An upgradable memory and hard drive offer an expandable creative workspace, but don’t expect it to last long on a single charge if you’re working on something intensive.
Using the Boox Note Air 2 Plus is overwhelming in the best way. This tablet is supremely customizable, running on Android so you can download and use apps like Kindle, Kobo, and Google Drive. Whether you want to use it to write a novel or sketch a cube, you can adjust tons of settings, even down to the responsiveness of the stylus. There are plenty of built-in features to help your note-taking process, including a calendar, multiple brush settings for doodling, and a split-screen option for using two apps at once.
Supremely lightweight and responsive, the Note Air 2 Plus also has a microphone for recording memos and a speaker for playing audiobooks on the go. The brand offers users up to 5 GB of cloud storage just in case its built-in 64 GB isn’t enough, but we recommend turning the Boox store and cloud syncing off since the company has free rein to share certain data. It’s easy to make your tablet more secure, though, with a simple toggle to turn off these features.
The battery life lasts roughly five weeks on a single charge, depending on whether you use the warm and cool backlights and how often you use the device.
With what feels like hundreds of settings and features to make this tablet work for you, after getting our hands dirty with the Boox Note Air 2 Plus, we think it’s best enjoyed by people who are relatively tech-savvy since it requires a bit of tweaking to find the best configuration for each user. Unfortunately, it’s quite expensive, but it’s well worth the extra cash if you want to write, draw, and read all on one device.
Instead of using a Kindle purely for reading, you can write in it, too. The Kindle Scribe marries the look of a Kindle with the functionality of an Amazon Fire tablet. The 300 ppi glare-free Paperwhite display mimics that of real, tangible paper. With Kindle integration, users can make sticky notes directly in their eBooks or on top of PDF files and Microsoft Word documents.
Of course, note-taking is also available through the device’s software. You can create new notebooks, journals, and lists, with templates lined paper, grid paper, and more. An auto-adjustable backlight helps users see in dimly-lit areas, plus, Amazon claims that a single USB-C charge makes the Scribe last up to 3 weeks.
Users love the Kindle Scribe for its user-friendly interface and price point, though many note that they’re waiting on software updates to better integrate with Microsoft programs and handwriting-to-text translations.
If you want to jot down notes without relying on a stylus, the Freewrite Traveler may be your distraction-free device. This clamshell keyboard opens to a small, 4.75 inch E ink screen where you can draft your thoughts and perhaps edit later on a PC or laptop. The Traveler is designed to limit distractions, so Wi-Fi is only enabled for users to move files.
The device is better on the eyes, as it uses E Ink, but for some users the lag between typing and what appears on the screen is too long. Otherwise, some customers are impressed by this niche device and praise its four-week battery life and minimalist design.