Even though the keyboard serves as a useful text input tool, students and business professionals know there are instances in which a handwritten note or a simple drawing best captures an idea or conveys a thought. From the lecture hall to the boardroom, tablets offer a versatile medium to record information organically.
The challenge with writing on a tablet is that many slates are designed for larger finger input rather than the precision of a pen nib. The iPad, while an excellent tablet, wouldn't be a good note-taking companion for those who prefer to write or draw, as stylus designs for capacitive touchscreens come with a blunt tip that is not accurate; it's the equivalent of having a kindergartener practice writing on college-ruled paper.
However, there are a number of tablets with specially designed pens that give you an edge in capturing handwritten notes, annotating a PDF, signing and marking documents, and drawing charts and diagrams. We've compiled a list of the top tablets for capturing handwritten notes:
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with Surface Pen
The third generation professional tablet from Microsoft breaks the mold with a large 12-inch 2160X1440 resolution display, giving the screen a 3:2 aspect ratio. The new ratio, compared to the Surface Pro 2's 16:9 dimensions, makes the Surface Pro 3 more natural to hold in portrait orientation for flipping through digital magazines and reading textbooks and PDF files. Additionally, the added surface area is great for taking notes and feels more like writing on a full sheet of paper.
Microsoft's switch to the new Surface Pen technology makes note-taking a breeze. By clicking a button on the pen, you can instantly launch Microsoft OneNote, which lets you capture drawings, sketches and notes. Supporting 256 levels of pressure, the Surface Pro 3 comes with palm rejection technology, which allows you to rest your hand on the screen while you're jotting without crushing the glass.
The downside to writing with a digital pen on a tablet is that it doesn't feel like the real thing: writing on glass is far more slippery and lacks the friction of writing on paper. This is true of all tablets, including the Surface Pro 3.
The bundled OneNote software comes with great handwriting-to-text transcription so you don't need to re-type your notes later. Snapping on the optional keyboard makes the tablet even more versatile by converting it into a powerful Ultrabook for moments when typing may be quicker or easier.
The best part about the Surface Pro 3 is that it can replace your old desktop, laptop or tablet. As an all-in-one multi-form-factor device, you don't have to worry about synchronizing your notes or transferring your files across multiple devices.
- Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 with S Pen
If you prefer Android to Windows, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is an excellent productivity tablet. Supporting Wacom's digitizer, the S Pen stylus on the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 accurately captures handwriting as well as varying brush stroke thicknesses for digital artists. Like the Surface Pro 3, intelligent palm rejection on the Note Pro 12.2 means you can rest your hand on the tablet while you're writing, simulating the experience of writing on paper.
Samsung's S Note software is a good alternative to OneNote, in that it offers a place for you to add images, store web clippings, enter in mathematical formulas and even draw diagrams.
You can record audio as you take handwritten notes and S Note can even convert your handwriting to text. OneNote users will find comparable features within S Note even though Samsung's software is relatively basic.
If you'd rather type your notes than write them by hand, you can also add a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to your Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 and type away.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 review
HP Pro Slate 12 with ultrasonic pen and physical paper
While the competitors will ask you to write on glass, HP is taking a business padfolio approach to handwriting. The HP Pro Slate 12 pairs with an analog notepad on which you'll write with an ultrasonic pen that simultaneously transcribes your doodles into digital notes on the slate.
It's a different approach that gives you the best of both digital and analog worlds. Writing on paper is certainly more comfortable and natural than having a stylus tip skid across glass, and instant transfer to the digital medium means you won't need to scan your notes later.
The Android slate is rather heavy at 1.87 pounds (850 g), and unless you're sitting at a spacious table, the padfolio form factor of having a digital tablet sit beside an old school notepad might make the Pro Slate 12 experience too expansive for some.
- Read our hands on review of the HP Pro Slate 12