If you’re anything like us at Pixelsmith, you’re a hands-on kinda person who likes to be able to work, sketch, jot notes and plan in a natural manner – but still be able to organise and store everything digitally. Until a few years ago, this wasn’t really possible, or at least not ideal. Now, however, we’ve been proverbially saved by digital/electronic notepads.
Coming in all different shapes, sizes and mechanisms, these notepads are a fairly new innovation on the tech scene that’s starting to catch on and see some interesting and innovative variations. These notepads serve all kinds of functions from direct to digital notes, sketches that you can store both on paper and digitally, and even screens that feel and bend like paper. The possibilities are simply endless.
We’ve put together this guide to our ten favourite digital notepads of the year, all with their own pros and cons and special nifty features. We’ve chosen some top picks, compared them all by size, price, and features, and reviewed each one individually with their pros and cons so you can find the best digital notebooks for you.
Best Digital Notepad for Sketches
Unsurprisingly, Wacom’s Bamboo Slate comes in on top when we’re looking at digital notepads for sketching. It’s responsive and accurate in terms of pen strokes and sketching style and is one of the perfect ways to begin your creative process by hand, and easily transfer it to the digital workspace.
Following Wacom’s long history of making great tablets, pads and various styles of digital sketching devices, the Bamboo Slate keeps this trend of quality products from Wacom going.
Our Favourite Digital Writing Pad
The RoWrite Smart Writing Pad is our top pick for a digital note-taking pad. It’s straightforward and easy to use, when paired with an Android or iOS device via Bluetooth, all your notes or sketches show up immediately in real time, where you can edit or adjust them.
This is a great way of organising and storing your writing while still being able to jot down notes by hand. In addition, when not paired the tablet stores everything you write internally so you can transfer, edit and organise it later.
Best Electronic Notepad Pen of 2019
The Moleskine Pen+ is a pretty innovative creation from one of the most common household names in ‘analog’ notepads. Featuring a design that doesn’t look all that different from the original Moleskine pens which clip onto the covers of their notebooks, the Pen+ Ellipse is a technological advancement like no other.
It has an infrared camera alongside the pen tip allowing for it to trace and track all of your notes, sketches and drawings. These can then be transferred to your device either live or when whenever you’re ready to connect. The ink tip in the pen is simple, tiny and replaceable, and the pen itself also has a comfortable triangle shape. In addition, it comes together with one of the best digital notebooks we could find.
Best Digital Notebooks Compared
Top Digital Notepad Reviews
These are our favourite digital notepads in no particular order. You’ll notice they each have a handy short list of their main attributes or focuses, as well as a pros and cons list underneath each product. This should help you get an idea of each tablet at a glance.
reMarkable Paper Tablet Review
- Always Synced
- Built to be Distraction Free
- Anti-glare easy readability
- Feels like a pen and paper
- Pen tips need to be replaced frequently
- Pen isn’t pressure sensitive
- Price doesn’t quite match up with features
The reMarkable Paper Tablet is one of the most interesting and innovative takes on a digital tablet we could find, and stuck out to us for this very reason. While it’s got a very high price point compared to all the other devices we reviewed, nothing felt quite like the paper tablet when it came to a balance between functionality and niftiness.
The display is large and sunlight-friendly, and uses CANVAS technology to produce a display somewhere between that of a Kindle and a piece of paper. It’s made for writing, reading and sketching, allowing you to import and export PDFs, eBooks, notes and doodles via WiFi capability.
It can convert handwritten notes to typed text, sync over wifi, and without a backlight or a glass screen, it’s very easy to read and use for long periods of time in various kinds of lighting and brightness. You can also share your notes via email, or annotate your PDFs by hand, saving them with your notes written on top. Of course, since we’re in the modern age, as soon as a note is saved to your Paper Tablet, it’s available via the cloud on all devices you have synced.
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- 10.3” CANVAS Display
- Global Sync
Wacom Bamboo Slate Smartpad Review
- Incredibly accurate tracking
- Good battery life
- Strong functionality in terms of cloud and export
Wacom is well known for their digital drawing tablets, both those with and without screens. They’re the leader in this field, with most professionals working with drawing tablets using Wacom products near exclusively. With the Bamboo Slate Smartpad, Wacom haven’t stopped short of their usual excellence even in their venture into this new field.
The slate itself, underneath your drawing or writing pad, is the mechanical factor here in conjunction with the pen. You simply place your pad and draw or write as you usually would, and the Slate uses electromagnetic tracking and pressure sensitivity to record your movements and super accurately reflect them on your synced devices. It’s a nice balance of working digitally, yet still with analog tools that you’re familiar and comfortable with.
The Bamboo Slate Smartpad is aimed to be a creative tool more than anything else. How you use it creatively, however, is totally up to you. The app is great for handwriting to text transcription, accessing your saved notes on the cloud, and great search functionality. In addition, you can export any of your notes to a number of file formats for different graphics and design software.
- Great Build Quality
- One of the most trusted tablet brands
RoWrite Smart Writing Pad Review
- Live view
- Great colour and style pen options
- Carry folio is well designed
- Good price point
- Paper refills have to be the exact dimensions or official RoWrite paper
- Battery life could be better
The RoWrite Smart Writing Pad is a really hot contender behind the Bamboo Slate, almost like it’s younger sibling. It serves all the same functionality, with a few slight differences, at a better price point, yet not from a titan brand.
Again, the pen uses regular ink for you to sketch and take notes as you please, but uses pressure sensitivity to digitally capture everything you do. It also comes with handwriting-to-text transcription tools, a host of pen styles, thicknesses and colours, and strangely enough, captures video of all your strokes. The reason for this feature is unclear, but we thought it could be useful if you’re creating tutorials or other video content using this tablet as a medium.
As with the Slate, the Smart Writing Pad allows you to sync to the app when you wish (until this point, all notes are stored in the app, ready to sync and edit), and also offers live viewing so you can watch what you’re writing or drawing live, in the editing app – once again a feature handy for tutors. It’s great for use in the office or at school, but even better just to have as a creative tool in your arsenal, especially if you’re someone who’s a digital content creator.
- Live tracking view on synced devices
- Great selection of pen style and shape tools
Boogie Board Writing Tablet Review
- Simple, functional
- Sleek design
- Connect to PC via USB Cable
- Contrast isn’t as strong as other Boogie Boards
- No undo for mistakes
The Boogie Board Writing Tablet is a little step back from the digital notepads we’ve already looked at in terms of its aims. It’s meant to be simple and straightforward – you take notes, you share them onto your device if you need, and you start another note.
We’d imagine it would fit best as part of a classroom, or teaching program, or for use on-site in various professions in place of a simple analog notepad. It’s got a slick black display with bright, light writing making it easy to read in any environment, and your notes can be shared via Evernote, or to your device via Bluetooth.
With a battery the lasts for up to five days, a sturdy, child-friendly build and small form factor it makes for easy transporting, allowing you to easily take it wherever you need to go. It also has handwriting recognition when saved to Evernote. It’s a simple eWriter, but a good one, and if you’re looking for something simple then this is likely the one for you.
- Simple and functional
- Great for kids
- 9.7” Display
Rocketbook Everlast Reusable Notebook Review
- Super lightweight
- No frills
- One of the cheaper digital notepads out there
- No sync options – camera scan only
- Frixion pens don’t work as well as standard pens with the Everlast
The Everlast notebook from Rocketbook is a hot take on digital writing tablets. It comes in at an incredible price point, and of course sacrifices some functionality for the price, however, Rocketbook have found great workarounds to a lot of these issues.
It uses a combination of a Frixion erasable pen, and a phone app for scanning pages. Once you’ve drawn or written your notes to completion, scan them into the app and wipe the page clean with the included cloth – pretty neat. Each page also has seven different symbols along the bottom, which you can assign to apps like Drive, Email, Evernote or Slack. A simple selection of one of these symbols instantly sends your current note to the desired destination.
You can, however, use any pens (including colour) in this notebook, making it great for the creative on the go. If you’re looking for a quick and cheap way to take notes by hand and store them digitally, then this is the one for you. It’s not terribly fancy or finicky, but very effective and useful for what it does.
- Looks like a standard ring bound notebook
- A4, A5 and Mini size options
iskn The Slate 2+ Review
- Use any pen or pencil
- Works with any paper you desire
- Doubles as a drawing tablet
- Calibration can cause issues
- Some customers felt the stylus was too sensitive
The Slate 2+ is a pretty standard take on digital notepads and falls somewhere between the Everlast and SmartPad in terms of how it works. It’s got great reviews and seems quite popular among artists, more so than those looking for the best digital paper tablet for the office or school, at least.
It’s a sturdily built tablet that works with all your own pens and pencils, not requiring any fancy digital pen to use it with. It takes paper up to 0.27” in thickness, which you clip in and align, and simply go ahead and draw on.
You can use the Bluetooth sync or USB cable on the Slate 2 to then sync it to your computer or personal device, to watch and edit your creations in real time. You can also use it standalone and sync your creations at a later stage, or use it with a stylus as a regular drawing tablet with Photoshop, Illustrator, and other similar programs.
The battery lasts for around 7 hours, and the Imagink app that it comes with offers a great selection of different artsy tools for drawing whatever you desire. It’s a great choice for those with a focus on art and design, and will easily find its place in your regular creative setup as it’s incredibly versatile, with functionality that can be tailored to your personal needs.
- Doubles as a standard drawing tablet
- Great for drawing
Moleskine Pen+ Smart Writing Set Review
- Great quality pen and paper
- Very cool and innovative tech
- Moleskine Notes app is quality
- Ncode paper can be replicated and bypassed
- Pen is just a rebranded Neo Smartpen
So, as we previously mentioned, the Moleskine Pen+ works in two parts with the pen forming one, and their smart notebook forming the other. This means you can’t effectively use either of them independently, but together the set is a quality piece of innovative electronic notepad tech.
When writing or drawing, the pen uses an infrared sensor to detect movements across the dotted Ncoded paper in the diary. When synced with the Moleskine Notes app, you can transfer all your notes and sketches to organise and edit them digitally. There are handwriting to text transcription features, colour editing options and more, all stored on the app.
Your strokes can also be paired with real-time audio, again making this a great tool to use for instructional or tutorial purposes. It’s also easy to export and share your notes as PDFs, images, vectors or text files, although it’s probably still best used as a fun creative tool and a breakaway from solely using digital or analog for these kinds of purposes.
- Size and shape of a regular Moleskine
- High price point
Newyes Robot Pad Review
- Simple, straightforward
The Robot Pad from Newyes is essentially just a digital whiteboard. It’s got one-use note functionality, meaning that it doesn’t store your notes anywhere, nor sync them, but simply is a place to write things down, then erase and repeat. In many ways, it’s like the Boogie Board only in a simpler form.
It’s super thin and weighs nearly nothing, allowing for easy carry and use on the go (ie. for shopping lists, or something for kids to draw on in a restaurant), and comes with two big magnets on the back so you can attach it to a fridge.
It’s plain and simple, with no frills, and isn’t really a work or productivity focused tool. It would be best used simply as a digital whiteboard, or as something for children to sketch on in car rides or on an airplane. You could even use it for notes at a talk or something similar, although be warned – the erase button clears everything, so don’t write anything important on it that you might forget!
- Simple memo pad
- No sync, export or save options
Rocketbook Wave Smart Notebook Review
- Great partner app
- Limited Reuse
- Pretty simple overall
The Rocketbook Wave is an interesting variation on their Everlast notebook. While not fully reusable, like the Everlast is, its mechanisms still piqued our interest and we felt it deserved a place on this list. This was not only because of the name brand, but also because it seems like some of the tech in this electronic note pad could serve interesting uses in the future.
Unlike the Everlast, it’s not fully reusable – the manufacturers say it’s got a realistic 5-20 reuses available, depending on a number of factors. It also uses a Frixion erasable pen, and similar smart note syncing functionality (complete with the app designated smart sending), and has 80 pages each with a dot grid pattern, and a QR code which tells the app the page number. Like the Everlast, there is no sync, but rather a page scanning via camera feature.
The microwave feature is the most interesting part though. To clear the notebook, simply pop it into the microwave until the pages appear blank. This heat sensitive technology isn’t particularly groundbreaking nor special, however, it’s a very interesting use of it and we’d be interested to see where Rocketbook takes it in the future.
- Not fully reusable
- Microwaveable (?)
Elfinbook Everlast Smart Notebook 2.0 Review
- Reusable up to 500 times
- Fantastic Price
- No sync functions
- Partner App needs improvement
The Elfinbook Everlast is your replacement option on a budget for the Rocketbook Everlast. It’s just about identical in how it works, and how it looks and feels, from the erasable Frixion pen to the scan-only, sync-free functionality.
Half the pages are lined, and half blank making it ideal for a bit-of-both approach to drawing and taking notes, however, it can be hard to open or turn pages due to the tight ring binding on the side. It also wipes clean with a damp cloth, although one isn’t included in the package so you’ll have to prepare your own ahead of time.
The scanning itself is pretty accurate, and while this is really nothing special, it’s still a decent quality product that works and described, and will serve its basic function. We’d personally recommend the Rocketbook product more, however, if you’re on a tight budget then this is the better choice.
- Erasable Pen
- No sync, Camera Scan only
Digital Note Pad Buyer’s Guide
After writing these reviews, we decided to put together a short guide on what to look out for when shopping for a digital notepad.
More than just an electronic notebook with a pen, you’re going to want something that not only works for you in terms of what you’re going to use it for, but it helps if the technology helps teach you to work in new ways that you might not have otherwise discovered.
Firstly, you’ll want to check if it has sync capabilities. If you’re a creative, artsy tech head like we are, you’re going to want a notepad that has a simple sync function, so you can either move your notes onto a device to edit and share, or store them on the cloud without fear of losing them.
Secondly, and quite an overlooked factor, is the pen itself. It’s important that you look at the measurements and dimensions of the included pen to make sure it’s going to be something you can use comfortably without having to really adjust to the size and shape of it (especially when you’re using a pen in a new and innovative way).
A good way to do this is to go to an art shop, find the pen or pencil most comfortable for you and write down the measurements – other than this, you could just pick one of the tablets which allow you to use your own pencil.
Lastly, always remember to check the dimensions of your tablet. It’s easy to think it looks bigger, or smaller, than it really is. This could lead to issues, either with you being disappointed by how small your digital notepad is; or buying one that’s too cumbersome to be effectively portable.
You’ve now got a nice variety of options at various price points, all with different features and extras, to choose from.
If you’re still undecided, we’d recommend either the Wacom Bamboo Slate or Rocketbook Everlast. We felt these were the two best-made and most functional digital notebooks without too many frills that you’re paying an arm and a leg for.
Please do send us over some of your creations from these nifty little devices, we’d love to see what you came up with and how you found them to use!