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5 Best iPads for Note-Taking (Hint: Screen size matters)

5 Best iPads for Note-Taking (Hint: Screen size matters)

Best iPad for note-taking has become an essential topic for students, professionals, and individuals who want to improve their note-taking experience.

One of the most overlooked aspects here is which Note taking App for iPad you plan on using, as the type of iPad you choose mostly depends on the size and price point you have in mind.

Something else you’ll want to consider (important) is whether or not you plan on using an Apple Pencil or an inexpensive third party stylus)

In this post, we will discuss various iPad models, their compatibility with stylus pens, and the best note-taking apps available in the market.

See: Can An IPad Replace A Laptop For A College Student?

The article is for those looking for the best iPads for college, work, or general note-taking purposes.

Key Takeaways – The Best iPad for Note-taking really comes down to Size

Objectively, the iPad Pro is the most powerful, but for taking notes, you don’t exactly need an extremely strong processor and a 12.9 inch screen.

Photo of My hand next to my iPad mini to show the size of device for note taking

This is why we chose the iPad Air (10.9 inch) as the overall Best option for Note Takers.

With the iPad (Standard model) ranking second (It’s Nearly half the price as the Air).

The iPad mini is a bit small and if you’re device is primarily used for school or college, you may want the iPad Air if mobility isn’t your top priority.

Sure, the iPad mini works, but I found the iPad Air screen size was the most balanced for serious note-taking.

Paul M, Founder of

A study by Lesley M. Scibora (Phd) investigated the impact of iPads on undergraduate students’ course performance

The results indicate that the use of an iPad is not as important as note taking methods (iPad) for the most effective performance in college. 

…for this reason, see our post on How to take better notes on iPad, which provides essentials you’ll need to know for note taking on the device.

Best Overall iPad for note-taking in College

2 Best Overall iPad for note taking in College

For college students, the best overall iPad for note-taking is the iPad Air. The iPad Air combines powerful performance with a lightweight and slim form factor, allowing students to effortlessly carry it around campus. The device also benefits from its brilliant 10.9-inch display, offering ample screen real estate while maintaining portability.

See the 7 Best Stylus for iPad Air (Drawing, Writing, Notes

Another remarkable feature of the iPad Air is its compatibility with the advanced 2nd generation Apple Pencil. Students can write, draw, and create intricate content with ease, taking advantage of various applications that cater specifically to handwriting-based note-taking. This, combined with the extensive battery life, makes the iPad Air a reliable companion for college note-taking.

Also see: 13 Best Tablets for Note-Taking (For Every Budget).

The reason the Pro isn’t ranked as our best overall, is because it doesn’t have a balance price point if note-taking is your primary use case.

The iPad Air Model is nearly half the price and the standard model less than one third the price point. Since so many students are on a budget, there isn’t a well enough reason to go for this option unless budget isn’t a priority.

Best iPad for note-taking (Students and professionals)

3 Best iPad for note taking Students and professionals 1

Below are the best iPad for note-taking we tested. Let’s dive in!

1. iPad Air

4 iPad Air

The iPad Air is a top choice for both students and professionals looking for an iPad that strikes a balance between performance and price. Powered by the A14 Bionic chip, the iPad Air offers exceptional performance, smooth operation, and swift multitasking capabilities, ensuring it can handle even the most demanding tasks.

See the 26 Best Note Taking Apps for iPad (Free & Paid) – You’ll need the right app

Furthermore, the iPad Air boasts a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone technology, providing crisp visuals and accurate color representation (good size for note taking) Its slim and lightweight design adds to the portability factor, making it handy for those constantly on the move.

With its compatibility with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil and a wide range of note-taking apps like GoodNotes and Notability, the iPad Air gives users the ability to take detailed notes in a variety of styles like handwriting, typing, and even voice recording.

2. iPad (Standard model)

5 iPad Standard model

The Standard iPad is an affordable option for students and professionals who want a reliable device without breaking the bank. Despite its lower price tag, it still delivers excellent performance, courtesy of its A13 Bionic chip, which ensures smooth and efficient operation.

The 10.2-inch Retina display on the Standard iPad offers a generous screen size while maintaining the device’s portability, making it ideal for note-taking on the go. One slight downside is its compatibility with the 1st generation Apple Pencil, which lacks some of the advancements found in the 2nd generation. However, it still offers a fantastic, precise note-taking experience.

Side Note – Paperlike enhances the feeling of the apple pencil your ipad as its a screen protector tha works well for drawing and note taking

Overall, the Standard iPad provides essential note-taking capabilities without sacrificing performance, making it an ideal choice for those with budget constraints.

3. iPad Mini

6 iPad Mini

The iPad Mini combines an 8.3-inch display with the powerful A15 Bionic chip to provide a compact yet capable note-taking device. This device is ultra-portable, making it an ideal option for people constantly on the move, attending lectures or meetings.

I found one advantage of its size – it can comfortably fit into a purse or small bag – However, some users might find it challenging to write elaborately on the smaller screen, compared to the standard 10- to 12-inch tablets.

The iPad Mini is compatible with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, which allows for accurate and responsive handwriting. The Apple Pencil’s wireless charging feature ensures smooth and uninterrupted note-taking sessions. With a wide array of note-taking apps such as GoodNotes, Notability, and Evernote, the iPad Mini’s functionality can cater to various needs and preferences.

Side note: Though the iPad Mini has excellent capabilities, the smaller screen might not be suitable for everyone. Visual learners who rely on detailed diagrams or creatives working with complex designs may find larger iPads more suitable for their needs.

4. iPad Pro

7 iPad Pro

The iPad Pro, featuring sizes of 11 and 12.9 inches, is a high-performance device with premium features useful for note-taking enthusiasts. With the state-of-the-art M1 chip, users can expect impressive functionality and astoundingly fast multitasking abilities. The iPad Pro is also compatible with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil.

One advantage of the iPad Pro is its ability to utilize the ProMotion technology with a variable refresh rate up to 120 Hz, providing a smooth and fluid writing experience. However, its power-packed qualities come with a premium price tag that might not fit everyone’s budget. For users whose primary focus is note-taking, investing in an iPad Pro might not be necessary as more affordable alternatives like the iPad Air 4th generation can offer similar experiences.

Keep in mind that the iPad Pro’s performance can extend beyond note-taking, catering to multimedia and visually intensive tasks. This feature makes it a valuable option for creative professionals and those who require more computing power in their tablet.

Older iPad generations

With Apple’s known longevity, older iPad generations like the iPad 6th, 7th, and 8th generation can still prove useful for note-taking purposes. While they might not possess the latest chips or cutting-edge display technology, these devices offer stability and affordability. These older models are often compatible with the 1st generation Apple Pencil, providing a sufficient note-taking experience.

However, be aware that older iPad generations might begin to show signs of slowing down or decreased battery life. As Apple discontinues software updates for certain older models, app compatibility on these devices may become limited over time.

Best iPad for taking Handwritten notes

9 Best iPad for taking Handwritten notes

When it comes to handwritten notes, a top consideration is the preferred writing tool. The Apple Pencil’s compatibility with multiple iPad models makes it a popular choice for handwriting enthusiasts. Among these models, the iPad Air 4th generation stands out as an ideal choice for taking handwritten notes due to its balance of performance, screen size, and affordability.

Pairing the iPad Air with an Apple Pencil maximizes the device’s responsiveness and accuracy, ensuring a phenomenal handwriting experience. With the availability of diverse note-taking apps, iPad Air users can customize their note-taking experience according to their needs and preferences.

iPad Air vs Pro vs Mini for Note-Taking

10 iPad air vs Pro vs Mini for Note Taking

The iPad Air, iPad Pro, and iPad Mini cater to different needs and budgets for note-taking enthusiasts. The iPad Air is the middle-ground choice, providing a satisfying balance between performance and affordability. The iPad Pro is suitable for those seeking premium features and more computing power, along with a superior note-taking experience. On the other hand, the iPad Mini targets portability and convenience for people on-the-go.

When choosing the right iPad, consider factors such as screen size, budget, required performance, portability, and accessory compatibility. By reflecting on these factors, you can invest in an iPad that fits your note-taking requirements and enhances your overall productivity.

Should I use the Apple Pencil or will an inexpensive third party stylus suffice?

When deciding between the Apple Pencil and an inexpensive third-party stylus for taking notes on your iPad, it’s crucial to consider the features, performance, and compatibility that each option offers. The Apple Pencil, specifically designed for iPads, provides seamless integration, precise input, and a host of useful features, including pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition. This stylus delivers a natural writing experience and pairs effortlessly with various note-taking apps.

On the other hand, third-party styluses can be significantly cheaper than the Apple Pencil, sometimes retailing at less than half the price (examples include the logitech crayon or adonit note models… Despite their lower price points, many third-party styluses deliver satisfactory performance and can fully cater to basic note-taking needs. However, they may fall short when it comes to seamless integration with iPads, response time, and precision.

See: 11 Best Stylus Pens for iPhones (Drawing & Writing)

One advantage of using an Apple Pencil is the peace of mind you’ll get knowing that it is fully supported and compatible across all iPad models and apps that support stylus input. In contrast, third-party styluses may have compatibility issues with specific apps or iPad models, resulting in occasional challenges. Ultimately, your choice will depend on your budget and how much precision and integration you expect from your note-taking experience.

Are iPads the best tablet for Writing?

While iPads are widely recognized for their excellent capabilities as note-taking devices, it’s essential to compare them with other tablets on the market, such as those from Samsung or Microsoft, to determine if they are genuinely the best option for writing tasks. Keep in mind that several factors play a role in evaluating the superiority of a tablet, such as its operating system, compatibility with apps, screen size, and battery life.

iPads, with their powerful A and M-series chips, boast impressive performance, making them suitable for various writing tasks. Moreover, their seamless integration with the Apple Pencil and numerous note-taking apps in the App Store significantly contribute to their efficacy as writing devices. The availability of iCloud syncing, screen size options, and long battery life make iPads an attractive choice for many users.

Also see the 10 Best Tablets for Writers (Professional Writing)

However, other tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S series and Microsoft Surface devices, also offer notable writing capabilities. These tablets run on Android and Windows operating systems, respectively, and are compatible with a wide range of productivity apps. They also support high-quality styluses like the S Pen for Samsung and the Surface Pen for Microsoft devices, which rival the Apple Pencil in terms of performance.

The choice between an iPad and another tablet for writing will largely depend on your preferred operating system, app compatibility, and budget. It’s essential to assess your unique requirements and weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each tablet before making a final decision.

What about for note taking tablets?

Are you interested in discovering the top picks for note-taking tablets? Check out our comprehensive guide on the best tablets for note-taking, which covers a variety of options suited for various needs and budgets. For a focused exploration of excellent note-taking apps, don’t miss our post on the best note-taking apps for Samsung Galaxy, Android tablets, and iPads.

What apps can I use to take notes on iPad?

11 What apps can I use to take notes on iPad

There is a wide range of note-taking apps available for the iPad that can help you stay organized, focused, and productive. One of the most popular and widely appreciated apps is Notability, which offers a seamless experience in combining handwriting, typing, and drawing in your notes. It also syncs across your devices to make sure you always have access to your latest notes.

Another great option for iPad users is GoodNotes. With a clean and intuitive interface, GoodNotes allows you to store and organize your notes in an easily searchable format. It also has excellent collaboration features, allowing you to share your notes with others easily. One advantage of GoodNotes is the ability to import entire PDFs into the app, so you can keep all your information in one place.

Finally, Evernote is a powerful note-taking app that supports quick note capture, multimedia attachments, and a robust search function. It is highly customizable, allowing you to create and use your own templates. Side note: the free version of Evernote limits the number of devices you can sync, so if you need your notes on multiple devices, you may want to opt for their paid plans.

Also see: PaperLike vs PaperFeel screen protectors: Are they Comparable?

Android Alternatives to the iPad for note-takers

12 Android Alternatives to the iPad for note takers

While the iPad is undoubtedly popular, some exceptional Android tablets can compete with it in the note-taking department. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 and S8+ are leading choices, known for their high-resolution displays, powerful performance, and compatibility with the advanced S Pen, which comes included with the tablet.

Another Android tablet worth considering is the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab. With a built-in stand for comfortable hands-free use and an affordable price point, this tablet offers outstanding value for note-takers. It also comes with the Google Assistant Ambient Mode feature, which allows the tablet to function as a smart display when not in use.

Finally, the Huawei MatePad Pro offers an attractive design, powerful performance, and compatibility with the Huawei M-Pencil for an immersive note-taking experience. However, keep in mind that due to restrictions on Huawei devices, Google Play services may not be available on this tablet, which may affect access to some note-taking apps.

How we ranked the best iPads for note-taking

Our ranking of the best iPads for note-taking takes into consideration factors such as price, functionality, and compatibility with accessories.

We analyzed iPads through the lens of a note-taker, prioritizing factors like software capabilities, the ability to work with the Apple Pencil, and seamless integration with other apps and platforms.

We also considered user reviews and tried the different iPad models ourselves, using them in various note-taking scenarios to determine the best options for different users.

How to choose the right iPad for your use case (Buyers guide)

Choosing the right iPad for you depends on factors like budget, preferences for screen size, and storage needs. Start by setting a budget and determining the storage capacity you require. iPads offer various storage options, from 64GB up to 2TB. Keep in mind that storage capacity impacts processing speed and overall device performance.

Consider the display size and resolution, as these factors can influence your note-taking experience. A larger screen size may provide more space for drawings and diagrams, but might be slightly less portable. Also, consider the compatibility of the iPad model with accessories such as the Apple Pencil or available keyboard options.

Related: How to Fix iPhone Battery Draining Overnight

Lastly, evaluate the battery life of the specific iPad model, as this will impact the overall user experience. A longer-lasting battery can make a significant difference for note-takers who are constantly on the go and require a reliable device.

Key Accessories for note-takers using the iPad

Accessories can significantly enhance your note-taking experience on an iPad. The Apple Pencil is a game changer, offering a natural handwriting experience with its exceptional pressure sensitivity and palm rejection technology.

Opt for the first generation Apple Pencil if you’re using a 9th or 10th generation iPad, or choose the second-generation Apple Pencil for compatibility with the iPad Air, iPad Pro, and iPad mini.

Having a dedicated keyboard can help you type notes faster and more comfortably. Apple’s Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio are excellent options designed specifically for iPads. You may also want to explore third-party keyboards like the Logitech Slim Folio or the Brydge Pro+.

Finally, invest in a protective case and a screen protector to keep your iPad safe from scratches, dings, and potential damage. Look for cases with functionality beyond protection, such as adjustable stands that allow you to set up your iPad at the perfect angle for note-taking or media consumption.

What makes iPads so good for Note Takers?

1 What makes iPads so good for Note Takers

One significant advantage iPads have over other devices for note-taking is their powerful hardware and software integration, resulting in a seamless and fluid experience.

The highly responsive touchscreens found on iPads make them easy to work with, providing unparalleled precision when using a stylus like the Apple Pencil.

Side note: The Apple Pencil can detect pressure sensitivity and angle, giving a natural feel when writing or drawing great for visually focused notes.

Another compelling reason iPads excel for note-taking is the vast selection of high-quality applications that cater specifically to this purpose – From powerful organization options and search capabilities to real-time synchronization between devices, iPads deliver an exceptionally efficient workflow.

Lastly, iPads offer remarkable portability due to their slim, lightweight design. This makes them an excellent choice for students and professionals who need to carry their devices around daily, enabling quick transitions between classes or meetings.

Also see: 25+ Best Planner Apps for iPad (Free & Paid)

Bottom Line

The iPad (9th generation) and iPad Air excel in note-taking with a stylus, balancing size, portability, and functionality.

Optimal stylus pens, like the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation), elevate the note-taking experience. GoodNotes, Notability, and Evernote are top note-taking apps, each with distinct features and organizational benefits.

Handwritten notes enhance retention, focus, and creativity; typed notes on an iPad are faster, more organized, and searchable… and employing various methods, including the Cornell Method, Mapping/Mind Mapping, and Charting Method, aids in comprehending and organizing information effectively.

Ernests Embutnieks

Friday 13th of October 2023

I agree with you. iPad Mini is just too small. The technology is there, it's great for taking notes, but the screen real estate is just not enough. If you plan to take a lot of notes it's like buying sticky notes instead of a notebook.

Paul Michael

Monday 16th of October 2023

Thanks Ernests, glad to have a fellow electronics/tablet expert weigh in and give their opinion and experience.

About the author:

Photo of Paul Michael, Founder of MediaPeanut

Paul Michael

Paul Michael is a media and technology expert whose research reveals how technology and media are being used in the world today. He has expertise on computers, the internet, streaming, Roku, electronics, and education. He also enjoys graphic design & digital art. Paul has his Bachelors of Arts and Science(s) from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, NJ