Read this if you still use handwritten notebooks

Old habits die hard. If you are in the age group of 25–45 years you have grown up writing on old fashioned notebooks through school and college. Chances are you still carry around a diary/moleskin/spiral bound notebook to all your meetings. You cannot bear the thought of typing on a laptop or tablet while listening.

You probably use your computer for scheduling meetings, keeping track of to do lists and going about your daily work. You are even comfortable to sync all these things over a cloud service to make it available on your other mobile devices. It is just writing that you cannot give up on even if your handwriting looks like shit and is not decipherable to anyone except you.

The market has always offered solutions starting from Microsoft’s early attempts with Tablet PC. These have evolved slowly and today’s market offers a few options. Samsung’s note series and Microsoft’s surface tablets stand out from the crowd at the higher end of the market. They use technology that allows the stylus to communicate with the screen of the tablet. This simulates natural handwriting on the tablets.

The cheaper alternative is the capacitive stylus that has a flattened tip to simulate the size of your finger. Capacitive screens need a surface area as big as your finger to be activated. Anything less will not be recognized. So the styluses are awkward to use and is not a good replacement for your pen.

Enter the tegra note 7. It is offered by several manufacturers including Xolo in India and uses the reference platform from Nvidia. It is often promoted as a gaming tablet with a fast processor. But it really should be promoted as a tablet for handwriting as it is ideally suited for it.

The tegra note has only a capacitive stylus. But its tip is not flattened like other capacitive styluses. This is thanks to Nvidia’s technology that allows even a pointed capacitive tip to be recognized on the screen. For this, Nvidia leverages the the powerful processor instead of adding more technology in the pen and screen. Thanks to this unique feature the Xolo tegra note 7 costs only Rs. 9000 and is sometimes available for as low as Rs. 7500 on Snapdeal.

The default app ‘Write’ that is pre-installed in the tablet is not good. The app Fiinote should have been the ideal companion app for this tablet. The writing experience on the app using tegra note is the closest I have come to writing on paper with a pen. The app provides a small window at the bottom of the screen and as you keep writing in it the text gets added to the paper on the screen.

The app brings digital benefits to your handwriting as well. You can edit the text later to insert new text or delete a word and write a new one in its place. The existing handwritten text is moved right and wrapped to the next line as needed to accommodate the newly handwritten text.

You can export the written pages into onenote/evernote as images. There are a few niggles with the app. The notes are not searchable. There is no cloud syncing although a separate app can be installed to backup the notes to a cloud service. At times if there is not enough space between the words, two words are considered as one. This causes a problem during editing as both words are deleted together and it is not possible to insert a word between the two. After a certain number of words are written, the app requires the text to be confirmed before adding new text. While this is just a click of a button, it affects the continuity in writing.

These quibbles not withstanding, this is still the best app for handwriting on Android. And the tegra note makes it eminently usable.

Evernote and Onenote also support handwriting but their implementation on Android leaves much to be desired. Firstly, they provide a canvas on which you can write anywhere. While this sounds appealing, it is bad as it is difficult to write small text on a tablet. The swirls in hand written text are not reproduced exactly making it unreadable. Secondly, they do not support palm rejection. Because of this, you will leave several marks on the screen as sometimes your palm will be recognized instead of the stylus.

The tablet is not perfect for all users.

The camera at the back and front are basic and will not replace even some lower end mobile phone cameras. There screen is not scratch resistant. The back cover cannot be opened and the battery is probably not replaceable. It does not have a SIM card slot and apps like Whatsapp will not work on it. It has only 1GB of RAM. This does not affect performance today but it is bound to be limiting as apps become memory intensive with time.

On the plus side, the tablet itself is sturdy with a rubberized grip at the back. It performs without lag. The screen resolution is good although if you go by specification it has a lower resolution than the nexus 7 which costs about the same. The speaker is in the front, loud and is good for listening to music. The battery life is good and will last a day even though I keep the screen on most of the time for writing and reading.

Overall, after using it for 2 weeks I have done away with my physical notebook. So if you are still writing on a notebook, give it a try. It is the best digital option for handwriting for its price in the market today.

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