What is the best digital note taker?

My iPad Pro (1st generation) is close to death. The battery is holding a charge for an hour at most, often less, and the cost of fixing it is prohibitive. I can get it done for £150 by a third party which is tempting, but part of me is loathe to spend such a sum on a device that will at some point become unusable. The fact that it is a 32GB model does not help because even with clearing out a lot of unnecessary content I only have 4GB spare.

So, if I was to consider a new device what would it be?

The iPad Air?

I have only recently started to appreciate the digital note taking abilities of the iPad, thanks to Notability and a paper-like screen protector, and have very much enjoyed just doodling ideas (watch designs mainly) and find it all strangely relaxing.

The new iPad Air is by all accounts exceptional, but at £549 (64GB) plus the need for an Apple Pencil 2 (£119) it is a big expense. Apple then pulls the trick of making me want the 256GB model because at some point 64GB will disappear quickly and so the cost goes up to £729 for the Air. Why no 128GB version? Greed on the part of Apple is my guess.

So, I would likely have to spend £848 to get an iPad Air with a decent amount of memory and the best note taking accessory. That is a lot of money, but I could expect to be using it in 4 years time.

The iPad or iPad mini?

For the standard iPad (128GB max) and an Apple Pencil 2 I would be looking at £448 which also feels high for a device which will likely not have the longevity of the Air.

The iPad mini (256GB) plus an Apple Pencil 2 would cost £668 which also feel high for a device that would not offer the screen real estate the other options give. What it would offer, however, is portability and that to me is a problem, with the iPad Air and iPad. I have never taken an iPad out of the house and do not see a point where that would happen. An iPad mini may at least get to see the sun now and again, but at £668 it likely will not get the chance.

The Boox Nova3 Color?

This device offers a lot on paper; a colour screen, pen input with excellent handwriting, the ability to read Kindle books, graphic novels, comics, Android apps and potential to use a variety of Android apps and games. The latter will of course be limited due to the e-ink system, but that is a lot of flexibility.

The size of the device may be somewhat prohibitive, but at £369 it offers a decent solution for note taking. The pen is included and 32GB could easily be more than 64GB on the iPad in terms of what can be stored.

Performance will be jarring at first and this technology is still in the early phase, but as a note taker it offers a lot.

A notebook?

My small notebook is working well currently, but I am being persuaded that digital notes could offer enough advantages to make them the way forward for me. I still have a sense that when something is written on paper it is real, it is there and it will never change, but I can do little with the words I have written.


There is no conclusion. I want a dedicated device like the Boox that I can carry anywhere, but then I see the flexibility an iPad offers and I get confused. I then think about my little notebook and the lack of stress it offers and my confusion continues to confuse itself further. Something tells me the iPad Air could win this one. Damn you Apple!

2 thoughts on “What is the best digital note taker?

  1. Ya, I’d go for the iPad Air. It’s cheaper than the Pro, but there may be a new Pro soon.

  2. The abundance of features packed into one device actually can make things more complicated. I could argue that the best note taker is like the best camera, the one you have with you.

    Sounds like you want to have something with you, so I would suggest something easy to carry and easy to use that would let you transfer notes to other devices. I don’t know if any of the smart notebooks would do it for you.

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