When it comes to note-taking, I prefer apps that are lightweight and easy to use. I want to be able to quickly open a note, capture a thought before it disappears and then move on. Recently, I've ditched iOS Notes and have been using NotesTab from Fiplab. NotesTab is a universal app, but I've been using it primarily on the iPad because I find it easier to take notes on the slightly bigger screen of my iPad mini.
NotesTab uses a two-pane interface to display a list of your notes on the left and the contents of individual notes on the right. You can easily switch between landscape and portrait orientation and keep this same layout. You can also fullscreen an individual note if you need more space for writing.
Notes are plain text and there are no drawing or image import options. The app does allow you to add text styling like bold, underline and italics to your text. It also supports URLs so you can click on a link in a note and open a web page in mobile Safari. There are some other useful features like note timestamps, starring so you can mark notes as important and search.
NotesTab, though, is more than just a standalone iPad app. It has a companion desktop app that is available for OS X and Windows 8. I don't use Windows 8, but this could be an important feature for folks working in a mixed-platform environment.
The app really shines when it comes to syncing. Once I setup my account and entered my credentials into the iPad, iPhone and OS X app, my notes immediately appeared on all my devices. When I deleted a note, the change was pushed to the devices right away. This was so much better at syncing than iOS Notes and iCloud that it won me over in an instant.
NotesTab is available for US$0.99 in the iOS App Store. The companion desktop app, NotesTab Pro, is available for $4.99 from the Mac App Store. There is a free version of the desktop app, but it doesn't support syncing and other advanced features.