Which ePaper Tablet Is Best for Digital Notes?

Which ePaper Tablet Is Best for Digital Notes?
Photo: chainarong06, Shutterstock

We may never be completely rid of paper — aside from its advantages, paper will always have a “feel” that simply appeals to some folks — but we’re entering a brave new world where digital documents live harmoniously with their printed cousins. You already might keep e-books on your Kindle and print books on your shelf, or documents in the cloud and hardcopies in a folder. The future isn’t all about leaving things behind, it’s about having more choices.

Why buy an ePaper tablet?

ePaper tablets allow you to take notes freehand, store them in the cloud, and do all sorts of cool tricks that aren’t possible with traditional paper and pen. The ability to take notes on a screen with infinite “pages” and share your ideas instantly is great.

We’re still early days in the ePaper market, though, and things are changing rapidly. Where there was once just one or two devices to choose from, now there is a growing list of tablets that allow you to easily take digital notes, but many of them are primarily e-readers, meaning that the note-taking is mostly an afterthought. So, if your focus is taking notes and making digital documents by hand, which ePaper tablet is the best?

The best e-reader is the Onyx Boox Nova3 Colour

BOOX has crashed into the ePaper market in a big way, and the Nova3 Colour has just about everything you could want in a note-taking tablet. In fact, it’s so good that it’s actually hard to find — it’s sold out in a lot of places, so if you’re thinking of buying an ePaper tablet, you might want to get your order in sooner rather than later.

How much does the Onyx Boox Nova3 Colour cost?

As of last year it sold for about $US400 (converted to around A$555), but tablet prices in general have risen due to supply chain issues and rising popularity, so expect that price to be higher when they’re available again.

What makes the Nova3 so great?

  • Colour. Colour e-ink is gorgeous and extremely useful. If you ever reached for a different colour pen or pencil when taking notes or drafting documents, you’ll love the ability to bring colour into your digital notes. The screen and colour ink looks great, and it’s incredibly responsive, with no lag or glitching.
  • Android. The Nova3 is based on the Android operating system, which means you can load plenty of Android apps and use it as a standard tablet in addition to note-taking, without losing any features or note functionality. That makes it incredibly versatile.
  • Note features. The Nova3 has plenty of note-specific features that other tablets lack, including handwriting recognition, built-in microphone for speech-to-text, robust search and replace functionality, and inductive and capacitive touch — which means you can use your finger as well as the stylus.
  • It’s format agnostic. The Nova3 works with PDF files as you’d expect, but also MOBI and EPUB files and Word documents.

The Nova3 wins on versatility, but it does come at a cost. While the overall package is best-in-class, there are downsides, like relatively small screen (at just 7.8 inches), a less-than-great battery life (typically lasting about a day), and its internal storage is paltry at just 3GB. But since most people will be shoving their notes into the cloud anyway, that’s not as much of a downside as it might seem.

Your second best option is the reMarkable 2

If you’re not looking for the best overall ePaper tablet and instead want the best dedicated note-taking experience, your choice is the reMarkable 2. The first really useful ePaper notebook, the reMarkable doesn’t offer colour or the flexibility of Android apps. What it does offer is clean, distraction-free note-taking on a large 10.3-inch screen. It also offers handwriting recognition (but no microphone) and 8GB of storage (plus cloud options), though you can’t use your finger on the screen as with the Nova3. Most importantly, the act of marking up PDFs and EPUB documents (no MOBI compatibility here) is smooth as glass, and the tablet comes with a ton of templates for your documents so you can get started immediately.

How much does the reMarkable 2 cost?

It’s not cheap, currently anywhere from $549 to about $1,000, depending on the features you choose. You get a lot less functionality for that price, but if you’re hyper-focused on note-taking, the functionality is 100 per cent on point.

Your cheapest solid option is the Kobo Sage

Finally, if you’re looking for a note-taking option without the second mortgage, consider the Kobo Sage. It’s an e-Reader, not a note-taking device, but it’s compatible with the Kobo Stylus and offers a note-taking app that will get the job done. Is it the best note-taking ePaper option? Nope. But for about $409 ($409 for the tablet and $70 for the optional stylus), you get a perfectly cromulent note-taking device that is also a nifty e-reader.

Of course, the real budget choice is a $5 notebook and an old pen, but if you want to live in the future with the rest of us, an ePaper notebook is a necessity. Just be sure you choose the right one.

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