Tablets That Let You Handwrite Notes…Digitally

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PEN PALS From left: Wacom Bamboo Slate (from $130, wacom.com), reMarkable ($599, remarkable.com), Sony Digital Paper ($600, sony.com).

PEN PALS From left: Wacom Bamboo Slate (from $130, wacom.com), reMarkable ($599, remarkable.com), Sony Digital Paper ($600, sony.com).


Photo:

F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

THIS MAY BE the age of the paperless office, but that doesn’t mean handwriting has no place. A host of new digitizing tablets let you jot notes or sketch ideas without killing trees or wrangling complex apps. And while they’re equipped to download and transfer documents, they don’t connect to email, chat or social media so you can mark up reports without reacting to notifications. These tablets likely won’t replace all your devices—you’ll still need a way to call mom or type in a spreadsheet—but they can make written work more efficient and more fun.

Wacom Bamboo Slate

Like a 21st-century carbon copy, Bamboo Slate uses its pressure-sensitive technology to create backups of handwritten notes. When you place an ordinary notebook (up to one-inch thick) atop the tablet and use its connected ink pen, marks you make on the pad are sensed by the screenless tablet and duplicated on a linked smartphone or laptop. The push of a button saves your page so you can flip to the next; you can scroll back in time to erase notes since it records your strokes like a video. Its handwriting recognition is impressively accurate, though with my sloppy penmanship I had to make a few corrections. Teachers did always say my nines look like fours. (from $130, wacom.com).

reMarkable

As someone who enjoys writing on paper pads but hates keeping pens and markers handy, or pencils sharpened, this elegant tablet is a relief. With a few taps of the stylus you can customize its thickness and pressure sensitivity, then use it to sketch on a crisp, digitally lined e-ink display. It’s refreshingly easy to link a computer or smartphone so you can add handwritten notes to pictures or PDFs (which can also be uploaded via handy USB port). Some features, including menus and zoom, can lag, and you have to change the stylus tip after a while, but writing appears in real time as fast as you can move your stylus. ($599, remarkable.com).

Sony Digital Paper

Consider this the Swiss Army knife of virtual paper tablets. Need to draft memos, highlight reports, toggle quickly between documents synced from multiple devices, take notes in the margins, or fill out PDF forms? You can do it all, though you’ll need to study the built-in tutorial to understand exactly how Sony’s unique stylus, touch screen and physical button interface mesh. This device isn’t as playful as its rivals, and it can’t translate your handwriting into type, but for a hairy job with stacks of digital documents it’d be my first choice ($600, sony.com).