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I have been searching high and low for a device that I can use the touchscreen capabilities of OneNote without breaking the bank. I really like the Surface 4, but I am not in the financial position where I can drop $800 on the tablet and another $150 on the keyboard. Currently, I have tried taking notes on my Lenovo Flex 2 and my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, both where hamydowns that I took because I thought they'd work for taking notes, but neither can even come near to being usable. The two main problems are that it is hard to draw continuous lines, and there is no easy way to switch the writing instrument so it is easy to fall behind while the lecture is going on.

Is there something out there like the Microsoft Surface, mainly concerning the OneNote integration, that does not have such a hefty price tag? My budget is around $500, and pen + keyboard inclusion is a must. It does not have to be a Windows device (Android would be okay too), but it needs to be responsive enough that the device lag won't be a hindrance on note taking.

  • I don't fully understand the issue with the Flex 2 and Tab 3: why is it harder to draw line on them than on the Surface? And what do you mean by switching instrument? If you mean switching the current tool of OneNote, I'm affraid that it's not an hardware issue but a software one: the OneNote Android's app is like it is. If you want a OneNote app like the one installed on the surface, you'd better go for a Windows tab. But I'm unsure of what I understood so I'll wait for your comment before writing an answer. – comicurus Aug 25 '16 at 14:28
  • The Flex 2 is very awkward to write on since the touchscreen can't lie flat on a desk. This second point goes for both; when I write on the screen in OneNote using any stylus the screen seems to stop registering the input intermittently so my bad handwriting is made even worse. – Jedi_Maseter_Sam Aug 26 '16 at 15:14
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Although a bit buggy, Asus Transformer Mini T102HA is a considerable option.

I've been using this for 3-4 months, and my primary concern is the lack of apps, and the palm rejection has some issues very rarely.

However, if you're OK with using OneNote, this device can give you pretty good experience.

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If you're looking for Surface pro's here are some options. Both have 8 gb of memory and 256 gb SSD. I would stay away from the 4 gb options as they are going to page to RAM a lot (be laggy).

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 - USED ($399.99)

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The specific processor is not listed, but according to the Wikipedia page it is either the i5-4200 U or i5-4300 U variant depending on it's manufacture date.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 - Refurbished ($484.99)

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Features an i5-4300 U. You may want to consider this option as the tablet has, likely, underwent much less wear than the first option. Refurbished laptops are usually open-box returns, floor models, etc. I've never had problems with refurbished laptops. In fact I'm currently typing this answer on a MSI-GS60 ghost that still has an Activision sticker on it (first buyer, who obviously returned the laptop).


Microsoft 3mm Surface Touch Cover Magnetic Keyboard ($25.99)

It looks like none of the used or refurbished options came with a keyboard. This means you'll have to buy your own. This is the super thin keyboard that I remember seeing on these models back in the day. If you want the beefier chiclet keyboard option that your probably thinking of I've taken the liberty of scouting out one for $39.99, but is the horrendous cyan version, as well as the $49.50 a black version that doesn't assault the eyes should you choose to splurge a bit.

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I'm going to make a left-field suggestion, and suggest a Bluetooth Keyboard and your phone.

The problem I've found, with laptops are:

  • Cheap, lightweight laptops are crap, not even worth having.
  • Decent, lightweight laptops are expensive.
  • Cheap, decent laptops are heavy and a hassle to carry around.

A bluetooth keyboard, and the google documents apps on the otherhand, is cheap ($<100), light, and gets the job done.

Now, the key thing with choosing a keyboard is:

  • Does the keyboard suit your hands. (If you have large hands like me, you might want a bigger keyboard).
  • The keyboard should support propping up your phone.
  • Some keyboards are actually quite heavy, so keep that in mind.
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