- A smart notebook can make your note-taking more interactive and intuitive.
- The Moleskine Smart Writing Set is our favorite because it’s a high-quality notebook with a great pen and an easy-to-use app that syncs all your notes.
While the rise of the tablet and 2-in-1 laptops has given way to a host of super high-quality styluses, many people still prefer the feel of a traditional pen and paper note-taking system. But what if there was a way to get the convenience of digital notes with the feel of a traditional notepad? Enter the smart notebook.
There are a few great smart notebooks out there, and they allow you to write with a standard pen and paper, while still offering the ability to turn those notes into digital files that you can edit and manipulate digitally later on. They’re not super common just yet, but they’re becoming more intriguing and useful every year.
One of the first things to check when you’re shopping for a smart notebook is how it works. Some notepads require special pens or paper with tracking technology built in, while others don’t. Having to use special paper may not be a bad thing, though, and plenty of smart notebooks allow you to erase your writing, so you can reuse the same pages over and over.
You’ll also want to think about the general form-factor of the notebook. Some are larger than others, and if you’re planning on bringing the notebook to school, work, or business meetings, then you’ll want to ensure that it’s the right size for your needs.
Many smart notebooks sync up with apps on your phone, so you’ll want to choose one that has a good interface and enough cloud storage to hold digital copies of your notes.
With all these factors in mind, we’ve rounded up the best smart notebooks you can buy whether you want a reusable notebook that wipes clean when you’re done or one that connects to an app on your smartphone to give you digital copies of your notes.
Here are the best smart notebooks you can buy:
- Best smart notebook overall: Moleskine Smart Writing Set
- Best smart notebook for less than $30: Rocketbook Wave
- Best smart notepad for illustrators: Wacom Bamboo Slate
- Best smart notebook for traditionalists: Rocketbook Everlast
- Best smart notebook for business people: Wacom Bamboo Folio
Updated on 07/02/2019 by Les Shu: Updated selections, prices, links, and formatting.
Keep scrolling to read more about our top picks.
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The best smart notebook overall
The Moleskine Smart Writing Set offers excellent note tracking and allows you to easily share and save your notes as you write them.
There are a few companies that build smart notebooks, but in our experience, the best smart notepad is built by a famous notebook company called Moleskine. It’s called the Moleskine Smart Writing Set, and it includes a paper tablet, smart pen, and one pen ink refill.
The pad measures 8.50 by 5.25-inches, and looks just like a standard notebook, though the pages protrude a little from the cover. On the inside, you’ll find that the pages are dotted with a grid pattern. Unlike some other smart notebooks, you can’t use standard paper when you run out of space in this notebook.
Instead, you’ll have to buy a new Paper Tablet from Moleskine for $26.05, but it’s not too pricey and you get more accurate note-recording in the companion app with this system.
The included pen uses smart technology and an embedded infrared camera to track your movement as you write or draw on the dotted paper. Because of this, you won’t be able to switch to any other pen, but it’s well-built and easy to handle. Thankfully, the pen’s ink refills are standard, so once the ink runs out, you can replace it with these affordable refills from Zebra.
Unlike standard pens, you’ll find an LED status indicator, power button, and a small MicroUSB port for charging on it. The pen lasts five hours on a charge and stores up to 1,000 note pages at a time. In the app, you can add color and save the notes anywhere you want.
Insider Picks’ Mara Leighton tested the Smart Writing Set, and she loved it. She is also a fan of Moleskine’s Smart Planner, which syncs up with Google Calendar.
Other reviewers seem to like the Moleskine Smart Writing Set a lot, too. PCMag gave it 4.5/5 stars, while Wired gave it a rating of 7/10.
Pros: Easy to use, high-quality, decent app, beautiful notebook, good app
Cons: Must use dedicated paper, expensive
Buy the Moleskine Smart Writing Set on Amazon for $129.48 (originally $199)
The best for less than $30
The Rocketbook Wave saves your notes to the cloud and you microwave it to erase the pages when you’re done.
Rocketbook not only makes the Everlast notebook, it also makes the Rocketbook Wave. With this notebook, instead of wiping the pages with a damp towel to erase them, you’ll simply pop the book in the microwave for a few seconds.
The best part about this design is that you don’t have to go through every page and wipe it down to use it again, but you will have to erase all your pages at once, which may seem scary at first.
As you might guess, the Wave isn’t made from the same synthetic material as the Everlast, so it doesn’t erase as fully. While it is reusable, you will be able to see faint remnants of your previous notes after microwaving it. If you’re fine with that, then this might be the notebook for you.
Apart from that, the Wave works very similarly to the Everlast. Once you’re done taking your notes, you’ll pull out your phone and take a photo of the page, and it’ll scan the photo to upload the notes to your preferred cloud storage service.
Not many expert reviews are out, but PCMag gave it 4/5 stars in its tests.
Pros: Easy to use, microwave to erase is cool, inexpensive
Cons: Remnants of notes remain, not as quick and easy as some other offerings
Buy the Rocketbook Wave on Amazon for $21.08 (originally $27)
The best for illustrators
The Wacom Bamboo Slate is easy to use and comes in two sizes, making it a great option for artists and note-takers alike.
Wacom is known for its styluses, Cintiq tablets, and other high-end smart writing and art-making technology. Its most recent creations combine Wacom’s tech with analog paper notepads like the Bamboo Slate, which comes in A4 and A5 sizes. You get a regular paper notepad, a nice pen, and a pressure sensitive clipboard style holder for the notepad that tracks your pen strokes.
Setting up the Slate is super easy, too. You charge it through the MicroUSB port, install the Wacom InkSpace app on your phone or tablet, and pair the Slate to your mobile device via Bluetooth. Once you’ve got it set up, you can start writing or drawing on the paper. When you’ve finished, hit the button on the holder, and everything you wrote or drew on the paper will be saved in the app.
You can also upgrade to the InkSpace Plus app to get image-to-text recognition, so the app can turn your writing into searchable text. The app stores all your drawings and notes, provided you press the button when you’re done.
One of the best things about the Wacom Slate is that you can use any paper you want because the pen stroke tracking tech is built into the clipboard-style holder. That’s good news, especially for artists, who may prefer to use a specific type of paper for their sketches.
There are a few downsides to the Slate, of course. While its clipboard form-factor should keep paper neatly in place, if your paper moves, the device is unable to compensate for that and your drawing or notes will ultimately be unaligned.
Still, plenty of reviewers loved it, including Insider Picks Editor Malarie Gokey, who used a Wacom Slate notepad for a few months. Wired gave it an 8/10, while PCMag gave it a rating of 3.5/5.
Pros: Two sizes, a little cheaper than some options, decent app
Cons: Paper can become unaligned, writing-to-text requires subscription
Buy the A5 Wacom Bamboo Slate on Amazon for $129.16
The best for traditionalists
The Rocketbook Everlast is infinitely reusable because you can just wipe down the page after it’s served its purpose.
The Rocketbook Everlast isn’t smart in the same sense that most of the other devices in this guide are. At first glance, it just looks like a normal notebook. Looks are deceiving, though, because this notebook is infinitely reusable. Once you’re done with a page, just wipe it with a damp cloth and you can use the paper again, as long as you used a Pilot FriXion pen to do the writing.
On top of being reusable, the Everlast also offers ways to digitize your notes. You might notice that a row of symbols and a QR code are at the bottom of each page. Simply put a cross over the symbol that represents your favorite cloud storage service, open up the Rocketbook app, and your page will be scanned and automatically sent to the cloud platform you chose.
It’s smart and easy to use, but the best thing about the Rocketbook is that it feels exactly like writing on a normal pad of paper. Why? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing. The pen, while specialized, is still a normal pen, and the paper, while different than normal paper, still looks and feels like normal paper.
Pros: Looks and feels like a normal notepad, inexpensive, infinitely reusable
Cons: More work required to digitize notes
Buy the Rocketbook Everlast on Amazon for $28.49
The best for business people
The Wacom Bamboo Folio takes smart-pen stroke-tracking technology and puts it in a classy-looking folio notebook.
The Wacom Bamboo Folio works the exact same way as the Bamboo Slate we recommended earlier. You write on the normal paper when it’s attached to the clipboard-style tablet (which tracks your pen strokes) and press the button to save your writing.
What sets the Folio apart is that the notepad is built into a nice, classy folio cover. The cover holds the smart notepad and offers space for other documents you might want to carry with you. It just looks nicer for professionals who want to look sharp when they head into a meeting. The folio also protects the pages from being disturbed when you’re on the go.
Of course, the Bamboo Folio is a little more expensive than the Slate. It costs $149.95 for the smaller version or $199.95 for the larger notepad. Still, plenty reviewers love it. PCMag and Laptop Mag both gave it 3.5/5.
Pros: Well-designed, classy, easy to use, syncs with an app
Buy the small Wacom Bamboo Folio on Amazon for $147