Global TV Tech Buzz: Taking Notes On A Notebook Or Tablet?

ipads at university

Back-to-school season is upon us and many students have a decision to make: laptop or tablet?

When it comes to textbooks, Apple’s reinvented iBook store certainly makes the iPad a winner. Tablets are the future of textbooks. They’re light, easy to update, less expensive (when you compare per eBook cost vs paper), and the multimedia abilities of eBooks is a reinvention of the textbook.

When it comes to note taking, however, there is a bit of a debate. Notebooks have been popular in lecture halls for more than a decade. The click of the keys along with people scrambling to find the seats nearest the electrical outlet is nothing new. But now, you’re starting to see the tablets show up.

First advice: get things that work together. If you love Windows, wait until the new Windows 8 comes out this year, get it with your phone and computer, and tablet and make them all work. Same if you love Android, get the phone and tablet that match. If Apple’s your love, then going vertical is easy.

I’m an Apple guy, so here’s how things can work if you want to have just an iPad for back-to-school.


macallyMacally Pen Pal ($29.99)
This is for those who like to mash up the old school and the new school. It’s a touch stylus for your iPad. Depending on the note taking app, you could have handwriting recognition, be able to export as pdfs, share notes with classmates and more. The only thing about the stylus that I find difficult is the end. It’s like writing with the eraser end of a pencil. Practice lots before class starts.

ZAGG Logitech Keyboard ($79.99)
You can get many different keyboard attachments for iPad, this is a popular model. You can have your screen landscape or portrait, you can bluetooth or plug it in the connector, you can even pull it off the keyboard and scribble on it if you like. It’s flexible, and can replace your laptop in a pinch.

Targus Plug N Power ($29.99)
Power. Power. Power. This is a great adapter for a dorm room outlet that will let you charge items the old way, and the new way.

Rocketfish Microfibre Cleaning Cloths ($14.99)
Fingerprints will be your worst nightmare this semester.


The thing about the iPad is that it will let you focus. You are in one app at a time, and that’s a double edged sword. It’s tough to flip back and forth between an eBook and your notes, but if you’re writing, or in a lecture, it will keep you dialed in to the task at hand.

There are many note taking apps in the App Store, each with different specialties. You should really dig through and have a look at as many as you can, but here’s a list to get you started.

Bamboo Paper (free)

Noteshelf ($5.99)

Penultimate ($0.99)

Notability ($0.99)

Laptop or tablet? Which would I choose? I’d probably bring a MacBook Pro, my iPad, AND an iPhone. iPad for textbooks, MBP for note taking, iPhone to take photos of lecture slides, and record audio/video of the presentations.

Oh, and I’d also carry a sleek moleskine and a pen. You just never know when the batteries are going to run out.

Not very efficient, I know.



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1 Comment

  1. […] few weeks ago we talked about whether or not you can use a tablet to take notes in class, this app is great because it can sync across iOS and your MacBook, and is available in both the […]

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