If you’re in search of a way to create handwritten notes digitally, then you’re likely looking for a type of digital writing pad (or possibly a digital notebook) that focuses on note-taking and writing (electronically).
This is because these devices excel primarily at transforming notes for note-capture, while also providing sketching and doodling options.
- On a digital writing pad (or electronic writing pad), you can take notes, read and review documents with annotation as well as draw over them. This can be anything from a reMarkable 2 to a Surface Pro or iPad.
Keep in mind, there are also Digital writing pads for online teaching, a different style that even many who are not teachers even prefer. (they work well for the same purpose and sometimes cost less)
In this post I’m going to cover the best electronic writing pads we tested – I’ll also cover the benefits and drawbacks of each device – some you can even connect to your laptop or MacBook for cross-device use).
- What is a digital writing pad?
- 1. BOOX Note Air2: Best Digital Writing Pad (Top Overall)
- 2. LikeBook: Best Paper Tablet (NotePad with stylus pen)
- 3. RocketBook: Best budget Digital writing pad for writers (and note taking)
- 4. Wacom Bamboo Folio: Best budget Digital Notebook
- 5. iPad Air: Best Electronic Writing tablet (Digital writing pad)
- 6. JONZOO: Best Electronic pad (with a Pen)
- 7. Moleskine Pen Notebook: Best Digital writing pad (moleskin notebook)
- 8. MobiScribe: Best Digital Notepad (Paperless)
- Annotating on a digital writing pad
- How do I connect my digital writing pad to my laptop
At a glance – Best Digital Writing Pads
- BOOX Note Air 2: Best Digital Writing Pad (Top Overall)
- LikeBook: Best Paper Tablet (NotePad with stylus pen)
- RocketBook: Best budget Digital writing pad for writers (and note taking)
- Wacom Bamboo Folio: Best budget Digital Notebook
- MobiScribe: Best Digital Notepad (Paperless)
- iPad Air: Best Electronic Writing tablet (Digital writing pad)
The Tablets in this post are also known as e-ink notepads.
In most cases, you’ll want something that you can draw, sketch or convert your own handwriting into text on.
What is a digital writing pad?
A Digital writing pad is an electronic pad or area to write and draw electrically. There’s many different types, but in this post we’ll be covering the type where you can write digitally on a pad for e-writing, note-taking and more.
Tying to figure out the correct terminology for each type of digital writing or drawing pad can be confusing. For example, there are types of digital writing pads that are also considered a digital notepad (or electronic notepad), which has multiple uses)… and then there are some that only focus on only digital writing.
Then, there’s the type of writing or drawing pad that is referred to by many as a drawing tablet, such as a Wacom Intuos. These are the type that don’t have a screen; these are commonly called graphics tablets. If the drawing tablet has a screen many called it a drawing pen tablet.
There’s others that come with a screen (Best Budget Drawing Tablets with Screen Built-in), these double as a drawing tablet, but can also be used a digital writing pad.
In all these cases the user is looking for a way to draw & write electronically, which is why electronic notebooks (or digital notepads) are ideal.
Alternatively, touchscreen laptops also work: Best Touch Screen Laptops for Drawing
Top Digital writing pads for writing, note taking, and annotating
When writing notes, annotating, and utilizing pdf’s, a digital writing pad that has e-ink technology and is also an electronic is ideal. Below, you’ll find why we chose our top picks and the differences between each choice.
1. BOOX Note Air2: Best Digital Writing Pad (Top Overall)
The BOOX Note Air2 is a premium, portable digital notepad; built primarily for writers, creators, work professionals and students. A truly lightweight digital writing pad (at just a little over a pound.)
Despite it’s huge 10.3 inch screen (previously 7.7 inches on the Nova3 model), it is perfect for students, artists, and professionals like illustrators and designers and lets you comfortably take down notes or write while on the go.
“E-ink” technology drives this digital writing pad, allowing a unique paper-less, yet paper-like experience.
On a budget? The Gaomon S620 also works as an alternative digital writing pad.
The BOOX Note Air2 has layers, allowing artists/writers to draw with foreground and background aspects. When working with PDFs, you can use the stylus to affix your signature, write marginal notes, mark up or edit documents, annotations, or just take down notes.
Bonus: The BOOX Note Air2 allows you to connect to a Bluetooth speaker to listen to audiobooks, convert text to speech, or simply play your favorite music.. It supports audio formats WAV and MP3. IT also has an earphone jack for those that prefer a wired audio setup.
You can read, write, draw, or annotate for long stretches, even in broad daylight, without feeling the eyestrain that comes with LCD screens. The BOOX Note Air2’s battery life will also last significantly longer than devices with LCD screens since it will only draw power when your notes and drawings change.
There is also another version called the ONYX BOOX which is simply an e-reader; not to be confused with this version where you can annotate and write on the screen with a stylus.
Some users have said that their BOOX Note Air2’s battery lasted for 5 weeks when in standby mode.
For those who need expandable storage, the BOOX note can also use a Card reader paired with a large micro SD card.
The Box note is also considered a reMarkable alternative (E-ink paper device).
The BOOX Note Air2 comes with its own stylus although some users have said that their stylus pens from other devices have worked as well. Built-in WiFi and browser let you surf the internet. You can even download apps such as Scribd, Kindle Reader, Barnes and Noble, and other third-party apps.
2. LikeBook: Best Paper Tablet (NotePad with stylus pen)
Update: The MEEBOOK P78 has replace the LikeBook until LikeBooks become back in stock. MEEBOOK is similar and has handwriting support; fulfilling the same goal as the LikeBook digital writing pad.
One thing going for the LikeBook Ares is that it is one of the few digital writing pads left with a micro SD card slot for additional storage up to 128GB. Many other paper tablets have removed SD card support.
The LikeBook Ares has a Wacom layer — 24 layers of black and white contrast which give you a lot of grayscale and shadowing options for drawing.
You can draw, take notes, and then export files to your PC. It is also easy to mark up and annotate on PDF files. A WACOM stylus pen, with thousands of pressure-sensitive points, ensures that your writing/drawing strokes are accurately reflected onscreen.
If you are looking to see how these tablets work, we have a post on How Drawing Tablets Work (A Complete Guide)
Like the Nova3 and BOOX Note Air 2, the LikeBook Ares works on E-ink technology. Students and professionals can go through an entire day with the LikeBook and still feel no eyestrain at the end of the day. It also has a fairly long battery life.
The LikeBook Ares can be used to download several ereader apps including Kindle. Its text-to-speech feature is great for having notes and ebooks read aloud. Students can multitask because they can have their notes read back to them while doing other things with their hands. Handwritten notes can also be synced to the cloud or apps like Evernote with one click. An option allows sharing of notes with other devices using a QR code.
Note-taking experience is sometimes a hit or miss though. Some users have reported that handwritten notes do not always accurately convert to text. If all you want to do is capture handwritten notes, you will be okay.
Price-wise, the LikeBook Ares is so much more affordable compared to a lot of paper tablets in the same category so this will be a serious contender for those on a budget.
3. RocketBook: Best budget Digital writing pad for writers (and note taking)
A no-frills, incredibly inexpensive digital writing pad that students and writers can use over and over again is the RocketBook Core (formerly called Everlast).
RocketBook is a spiral notebook, with actual notebook pages (36 reusable, dot-grid pages in all), and comes in several cover colors.
Here’s how it works. Write or draw on the pages, made with synthetic materials, using a Pilot FriXion pen. Seven different symbols at the bottom of each page can be assigned to any of several cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, Box, OneNote, Slack, iCloud, email or other apps.
Using a RocketBook scanning app (iOS or Android), scan your notes, sketches, ideas, lists, anything, and send these to any of these services just by choosing an assigned symbol.
The default format is an image but you can always choose to save it as a PDF and even put several consecutive scans together into one document. Once done, just get a wet cloth and wipe off the notes to reuse the pages. You will probably never have to buy a stack of notebooks ever again. How is that for minimalism and saving the environment as well!
The great thing about RocketBook is that you can work with color by using Pilot FriXion colored pens. Requiring a particular brand of pens could be a downside of sorts but the pens are inexpensive so it is not a deal breaker.
4. Wacom Bamboo Folio: Best budget Digital Notebook
The Wacom Bamboo Folio carries the seal of trust and reliability of the brand in the digital notebook market. Unlike Wacom’s other product lines though, where the digital notebooks come with electronic screens, the Bamboo Folio works differently. This one lets you write on real paper!
If you are one of those who still loves writing with pen and paper, you will love the Bamboo Folio. The pen sensors of the digital notebook accurately recognize your strokes and digitally send via Bluetooth what is written on the page to your laptop, iOS or Android device using Wacom’s Inkspace app.
The writing area is quite large too and is about the size of A5 paper. Note: With a free plan, your notes are converted into image formats but to convert your handwriting to text, you will need a paid plan.
On a budget? The Gaomon S620 also works as an alternative digital writing pad.
Wacom’s also work well with Digital, online whiteboard apps (For examples, see our post on the 13 best online whiteboards for teaching, Zoom, or business).
The Folio comes with a fold-over cover. Paper is placed on top of the pad and you just write on it with the pen. The Folio can handle several pieces of paper at a time on the pad. A ‘Live’ feature can even render what you write on another device as you write.
All the magic happens from the Bluetooth-enabled pen which works like a normal pen on paper but electromagnetically tracks your writing and, through thousands of pressure sensitivity points, digitally records what you write, and sends it to your computer, smartphone, or tablet. User feedback puts the battery life of the pen at approximately 8 hours on a single charge.
The Wacom Bamboo Folio is less expensive than Wacom’s other digital notepads that come with built-in screens and its price point is very affordable for those on a budget.
5. iPad Air: Best Electronic Writing tablet (Digital writing pad)
Everything-in-one-device is probably a great way to describe the iPad Air. With a 10.9-inch screen, retina display and a 12MP camera, colors and images just pop and render accurately. The iPad Air is a popular choice across all generations as well as fields of work that require an electronic writing pad.
If you thought the iPad Air was already awesome for gaming, the multimedia experience, social media, communication, and research, there are a few more things it can do.
Pair the iPad Air with an Apple Pencil (maybe even the awesome Magic Keyboard) and convert it into a top-of-the-line electronic writing tablet. Other accessories include a iPad Hand Holders & iPad Cases with a pencil holder.
The Apple Pencil (2nd generation) transforms the iPad Air into a portable whiteboard. With Apple-Pencil compatible apps such as Microsoft One Note or Notability, one can draw graphs or rough diagrams, jot down ideas, or write notes. You can also paint in color, mark up documents, scribble marginal notes, and affix your signature to documents.
An added convenience — the Apple Pencil 2 snaps and sticks magnetically to the iPad Air and charges inductively.
For those in search of the Best iPad Air Stylus for Drawing and Note Taking, Apple Pencil isn’t the only option. (theres many alternatives)
The iPad Air already comes pre-installed with several proprietary apps including a Notes app. What’s great about the iOS ecosystem is that everything is seamless. You can edit, collaborate, and share your work without any hiccups. The App Store has thousands of other apps to choose from, including writing and drawing apps.
6. JONZOO: Best Electronic pad (with a Pen)
It’s very basic, no-frills, and does not connect to the computer. But it works! The JONZOO is a standalone electronic writing
pad that comes with a pen and an LCD screen.
Related: Best Drawing Tablets that Dont Need a Computer (Standalone)
The JONZOO may not be for professionals but it has many uses You can use the JONZOO as a family board. Remind the kids to do their homework, write your grocery list, or just make it a doodle board for the kids.
Have them practice their spelling or Math on it. Conveniently, two magnets at the back make it perfect to stick to the ref and other surfaces!
The JONZOO can replace several items in the office too. Use it instead of sticky notes or memo pads. Use it as a dry erase blackboard. Bring it around to make quick notes wherever you are, even inside your car. Teachers can use it as a clipboard or as a simple device that their students can use in class for Math exercises.
The JONZOO comes with its own pen which fits in a slot on top of the pad. Just do not expect it to be able to convert your handwritten notes to text, sync with other devices, or have the extra features you find in more expensive electronic notepads. It also runs on a replaceable coin battery, unlike more expensive devices that have a rechargeable lithium ion battery.
If you’re a writer and prefer a standard tablet, then see the 10 Best Tablets for Writers (Professional Writing)
Overall, the JONZOO is very inexpensive but it does one thing best – lets you take notes anywhere.
7. Moleskine Pen Notebook: Best Digital writing pad (moleskin notebook)
Moleskine is an Italian premium brand known for its high-quality, stylish notebooks. In step with progress, while still maintaining the user’s tactile experience with pen and paper, Moleskine has taken it a notch up with the Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse.
The Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse, while looking like your standard Moleskine, has an almost invisible grid pattern of dots embedded with technology. The Pen+ Ellipse’s camera, recognizes every stroke you make, what page you are on, and even which notebook you are using (you will need to buy more of these Moleskine notebooks over time).
Readily jot down notes or sketch even when you are not connected to the Moleskine Notes app. Once you sync the pen to the app, all your writings show up like magic.
There are a few more neat tricks with the Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse. Your written words can be translated into text by the Notes app and the transcription is quite accurate. You can also capture audio, like a teacher’s voice teaching a subject, and later map the audio to your notes.
The Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse is perfect for Moleskine fans who are looking for a way to digitize their notes but still love their Moleskine. One downside being reported by some users is the pen’s low battery life — about 4-5 hours on a single charge. If your type of work involves long hours of writing, this may be something to consider.
8. MobiScribe: Best Digital Notepad (Paperless)
Sometimes you just want a separate digital notepad exclusively for note taking, sketching, and reading ebooks. It gives you more mobility and lets you accomplish work even without having to lug a laptop around all the time.
Its price point will not break the bank but will still give you the convenience of a digital notepad.
The MobiScribe boasts a 6.8-inch Wacom screen. The Wacom brand is the market leader when it comes to digital notepads. The screen, both capacitive and touchscreen, lets you use either your finger or stylus to write on it.
The stylus pen has an eraser tip. Just reverse the pen and press the “eraser” tip to the screen to undo whatever you wrote or drew.
The MobiScribe operates on E-ink technology. Even if you use it for hours, it will not strain the eyes. Your notes are readable even under the sun. E-ink tech also means longer battery life; the MobiScribe can go up to a week on a single charge. The 8GB built-in storage can be expanded since it has a microSD slot with a capacity up to 32GB.
Note taking is easy with the MobiScribe. The built-in Notes app runs smoothly and is very responsive. You can have a limitless amount of note pages; navigation is by using the arrows on top or swiping right or left. It also comes with different backgrounds. Choose from templates such as lined pages, sheet music, graphs, dotted pages, and more, depending on what you need. The MobiScribe does not have a handwriting-to-text feature. Notes are saved as images.
What is an Electronic Writing Pad?
An electronic writing pad for a laptop is a device that you can write on to send digital lines and strokes to your laptop or on the device itself if it has a screen embedded int he device.
These are similar to a graphics tablet with no screen and often times you will see this type of device behave like the ‘remarkable’ branded tablets. The use of a electronic writing pad is that you can draw, annotate, and utilize a writing pad, but with the power of electricity resulting in digitized note taking and writing.
There are several different types of electronic writing pads and which you choose will be based on your needs. Whether it’s a graphics tablet, a drawing pad, a writing pad, or a standalone tablet with a built in screen, an electronic writing pad will suit most users nicely who work on business or art projects.
Are Digital Notebooks and Writing Pads worth it?
Yes, but only if your goal is to annotate, draw, keep track of documents, grade papers, and have an electronic device that you can use as a digital writing pad. You can also draw on different writing and note apps or transferring PDF’s and ebooks.
Digital notepads and electronic notebooks are slightly different, because you can write, sketch and create in them on a wide variety of file types. Most users can make note taking tabs to put into the notepad so that they don’t lose their work if the computer crashes. You can also sync it up with your other devices such as your computer, tablet, or smart phone to be able to access your files whenever you want.
Annotating on a digital writing pad
Simply load the document on your preferred notepad or writing device and look for the annotation icon. This will let you draw, write and annotate notes over the document you are using. This is ideal for signing pdf’s, grading papers as a teacher, or simply sketching and making edits.
How do I connect my digital writing pad to my laptop
You can connect a digital writing pad to your laptop via usb cord or bluetooth connection. If you’re not using a wireless device or a Wireless Drawing Tablet, then it’s best to simply use the usb cord. In many cases you could need a usb-c adapter on more modern devices if your digital writing pad doesn’t fit in the USB port. So it’s best to check before doing so.
Another way to connect is by using the cloud or google drive to store documents and upload so you sync and transfer between your digital writing pad and your laptop.
Can a digital writing pad convert your handwriting into text
You can convert handwriting into text depending on what app you are using and which digital writing pad you have. In most cases, this will depend on the app and if your writing pad is compatible with the app and stylus you are using.
Overall, the best digital writing pads will allow you write, sketch, create, edit, and annotate over pdf’s as well as other file types. Some have more features than others and the price point will reflect this in most cases.
You can sync your digital or electronic pad with the cloud depending on which type you decide on in order to transfer and easily access files. Good Digital writing pads can also be used for remote learning and kept to digitize notes for school or work.
Other benefits include the amount of space you save when switching to a digital writing pad from paper and handwritten notes.