While handwriting notes can be the best way to commit a thing to memory, it usually means carrying a notebook, pen, pencil and highlighter. There is another way: Unlike other devices, E Ink tablets marry the digital handwriting and note-taking ability of a traditional tablet with the lightweight convenience of a dedicated e-reader, while offering the internal storage you’ll need in your writing tablet. The E Ink displays offer a smooth and intuitive reading and writing experience, and they favor efficient gray-scale tech for longer battery life compared with the bright LCD displays and superfast processors of Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Amazon tablets.
E ink devices aren’t going to replace an iPad, though, as they’re mostly just meant for reading and writing. You won’t be able to stream your favorite show or watch the latest TikTok video on these tablets, but they are the best E Ink tablet options for taking into the classroom without disturbing the professor or your classmates. Whether you’re looking for a top-of-the-line E Ink device with all the bells and whistles or a cheap E Ink tablet that gets the note-taking job done, you might just find what you’re looking for below.
I’ve recently spent time with the newest E Ink tablet on the market, the Amazon Kindle Scribe. Like other E Ink tablets on this list, the Kindle Scribe comes with a stylus and offers note-taking and annotation support for PDFs. Additionally, you can take handwritten notes on Kindle titles via a sticky-note application that pins your note to the text. In keeping with Amazon tradition, the Scribe won’t directly support ePub files, which means you’ll need to send them to your Kindle via Amazon’s Whispersync service for conversion. The Scribe features a 300-dpi touchscreen and starts at $340 for the 16GB model, though it also comes in 32GB and 64GB versions and is available now.
So how does the new Kindle Scribe compare to other E Ink tablets? Let’s break it down.
Other E Ink tablets we’ve tested
Onyx Boox Tab Ultra: The Tab Ultra arrived as a souped-up version of Boox’s own Note Air 2, with a whopping 128GB of storage, almost double the battery, a built-in 16-megapixel rear camera for document scanning, and an optional keyboard case for typing notes on the go. Like the Note Air 2, Tab Ultra uses Android 11 software, which means that you can easily access apps from the Google Play store. The refresh modes on the Ultra’s E Ink display can easily be changed to a Fast mode or an Ultra Fast mode, which will cause some loss of detail in the images, but are great for typing in Google Docs using the keyboard case, or for scrolling through a website on the internet (though let’s be real, this doesn’t look good on an E Ink screen).
The typing experience was a lot better than I anticipated and I was able to effectively use the keyboard to write my notes. The included keyboard was a little small for truly comfortable typing — especially for those with larger hands — but the case itself is cleverly constructed in a way that lets you switch from typing to handwriting with minimal fuss. Unfortunately, using the camera for scanning documents into PDFs is a complete mess. The OCR software doesn’t do a very good job of reading text on the image and the resulting PDFs are utterly unusable. If you need to scan a doc, you’re much better off using your phone.
Ultimately, the Ultra is just too expensive to recommend with its $600 list price, especially considering that the keyboard case costs an additional $109. You can’t use a keyboard or take pictures on the Boox’s Note Air 2, but that’s more than okay. The Note Air 2 offers many of the best functions of the Tab Ultra for hundreds of dollars less.
How we test E Ink tablets
Every E Ink tablet undergoes extensive hands-on testing. In this case, each tablet was used for one week of rehearsal in a professional theatrical production. This involved evaluating the set-up process, loading PDFs and books onto the devices, and using both the device and included stylus as a script during full six-hour days of rehearsal. Tasks included highlighting, taking notes in the margins, and creating and taking detailed notes in notebooks. We also downloaded ebooks onto the device and used it as a recreational e-reader.
Anecdotally, we considered the hardware design and features, stylus capabilities, overall ease of use, effective UI layouts, notebook settings, E Ink settings, PDF markup capabilities, e-reading settings and format compatibility, app support and performance, and the overall speed and reliability of the system.