I’m writing this review on a remarkable piece of tech. What is extraordinary is that I am not typing this out at all… I’m writing it by hand on an e-ink paper tablet called the reMarkable 2.
reMarkable 2 reviewed
The reMarkable 2 is the successor to the original reMarkable paper tablet, and sports a more refined aluminium design around the same 10.3″ e-ink CANVAS display of its predecessor. It’s ludicrously thin, and l can well believe reMarkable’s claim that at just 4.7 mm this in the world’s thinnest tablet. It seems impossibly thin when you first pick it up, and weighs in at just a shade over 400g. While sleek and svelte, the reMarkable 2 still manages to feel solid and well built, and is very comfortable in the hand.
You’re left in no doubt that you’re holding a premium piece of tech.
This isn’t a tablet in the conventional sense though. Think less iPad, more a dedicated device for reading and writing that does what it’s designed to do incredibly well, but does very little else.
While an ipad or android tablet offers a bewildering smorgasbord of features, apps, connectivity and more; the reMarkable offers none of these things. It is designed to be a minimalist interface between you, your thoughts and the page. Rather than tempting you with myriad distractions, the reMarkable gets out of the way and lets you focus on what you need to do, much in the way a pen and paper does.
I jot down notes all the time as I work, on the reverse of a stack of recycled A4 printouts held together with a bulldog clip that does double-duty as a mouse mat. Making notes helps me concentrate, aids memory, sparks creative ideas and much more. It’s also messy, inefficient and disorganised. The result tends to be a desk awash with scrawl-filled paper.
The reMarkable 2 slots into that scenario seamlessly. Suddenly I have one digital space to capture unlimited notes, ideas and thoughts, flesh out concepts, develop stories, keep track of my various to-do lists and more. I can organise these notes in unlimited notebooks, in as many nested folders as I need to. I can even tag individual pages, notebooks and folders with relevant keywords to make finding what I need easy later.
In the few weeks I’ve been testing the reMarkable 2, it has managed to not only declutter my desk, but feels like it’s decluttered my head too. The folks at reMarkable have obviously put a lot of thought into creating a device that simply fades into the background and lets your mind run free, and it does that job very well.
A reMarkable Writing Experience
Writing on the reMarkable is spookily like writing on a sheet of paper. It’s not quite the same, but is similar enough that, after a minute or two, your brain just accepts it and stops trying to discern a difference. That essentially amounts to the same thing. As the marker tip moves over the textured surface of the e-Ink display, it even produces that familiar faint scratchy sound of writing on paper.
Moving around the user interface is a bit laggy (you can use your fingers to interact with the UI through menus, icons and gestures, but you’ll need a dedicated marker to write on the device). That’s a drawback with all e-ink displays. Think turning pages on a kindle and you’ll get the idea. There’s no such delay when writing on the screen with the marker though.
With a 21 microsecond response time, the e-ink appears practically the instant the marker tip touches the screen. If you really concentrate, you will see a minute delay as the ink follows your pen tip, but you have to consciously look for it. In day-to-day use I don’t notice it at all.
You can customise your input with a range of different writing tools (ballpoint, marker, pencil, paintbrush, highlighter etc.), change thicknesses, shades/colours and more.
No Marker Included
I was surprised to find the reMarkable marker isn’t included with the device as standard. Without one, the reMarkable becomes a big, cool-looking but not particularly practical e-reader. In Europe the device retails at €349. You’ll then need to add either the standard marker at €79, or the Marker Plus (used during this review) at €129 which adds a convenient (but quite pricey) eraser function. The markers don’t need charging or pairing with the reMarkable, and clip conveniently to the side of the device with magnets when not in use.
Marker tips do wear out (reMarkable estimates 3+ weeks of regular use from each tip) and are replaceable. The Marker Plus I tested came with 9 spare tips in the box, and new tips are available directly from reMarkable (€14 for 9, €39 for 25). The markers support 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity and support tilt, which gives excellent shading and sketching functionality with the pencil tool.
It’s also worth noting here that you’re not tied to buying reMarkable’s proprietary markers. Any Wacom compatible third party EMR stylus should work fine with the reMarkable 2, so you’re free to use options from Lamy, Staedtler or anyone else.
Notebooks, Templates and layers.
When you set up a new notebook on reMarkable 2 you can choose from dozens of templates. Everything from a blank page to lined notebooks to graph paper, music sheets to planners and more. There also seems to be a thriving market of third party templates available, although I haven’t tried any. A useful feature is the ability to change the templates on a page by page basis within individual notebooks.
Layers are another great feature — you can add layers to any page and work on a particular layer without affecting other layers. I haven’t used them much, but playing around with them I can think of lots of ways they might prove useful.
Reading and Marking Up documents on reMarkable
Its large e-ink display makes the reMarkable 2 an accomplished reading device. It supports the popular ePub standard and PDF files, but it won’t work with DRM protected proprietary ebook formats, so it’s not going to replace your Kindle or other dedicated e-reading device.
Where the reMarkable comes into its own is for reading and marking up PDF files. You can transfer PDFs to the device by simply dragging and dropping them into the reMarkable desktop or mobile apps. Then you can read them on the crisp e-ink display without eye strain or glare, using the marker to add highlights, margin notes and annotations as you go. The reMarkable 2 is also handy for filling in and signing PDF forms, eliminating the need to print and scan them.
One thing to bear in mind when reading on the reMarkable is that it has no built-in light, so you’ll need an alternative light source if you plan to read at night.
The reMarkable 2 connects to the internet via wifi, but with no web browser or email client, and no way to add them, that connection is simply used for downloading software updates and connecting to your reMarkable account to sync your notes with the reMarkable cloud and apps across devices. Sync works well, although it doesn’t happen in the background, so when you wake your reMarkable or open up an app you have to wait a few seconds for recent updates to appear.
Until recently features like cloud sync, integration with third party storage services like Google Drive and Dropbox and handwriting conversion required a reMarkable connect subscription costing €7.99 a month. That was a lot for many potential users to swallow.
However, in September 2022, reMarkable changed its subscription model so those essential features are now free for all users, and the cost of Connect has dropped to just €2.99 a month (after a generous 1 year free Connect trial) to give access to unlimited cloud storage (a free account will only retain synced notes you’ve accessed within the last 50 days), an extended protection plan for your reMarkable 2, access to special offers and upcoming premium features like in-app editing of notes on other devices.
It’s an important change, and potentially makes reMarkable ownership much more attractive to a wider audience.
Is the reMarkable 2 worth it?
At £349 for the tablet itself, plus €79 for the maker or €129 for the better Marker Plus, and folio covers ranging from €49 for a simple sleeve up to €159 for the premium leather book-folio, the reMarkable certainly doesn’t come cheap. In fact, combine the various elements you need and you’ll find yourself firmly in iPad pricing territory. And of course an iPad (or an equivalent Android tablet) will do so much more.
But comparing the reMarkable 2 to an iPad (as so many reviewers seem to do) is completely missing the point of the device. The fact the reMarkable doesn’t do all of the stuff a conventional tablet does is perhaps its biggest strength. There are no distractions: it simply gets out of the way, leaving you to write, doodle and explore your thoughts, wherever they may take you… and that freedom is priceless!
If you think a reMarkable 2 might be for you, the company makes trying one risk free with a generous 100 day trial period. If you decide the reMarkable isn’t for you, you can return it within that trial period for a full refund.
For more details on the device check out the reMarkable website here.
About the author
Calvin Jones is an author and online content specialist based in West Cork Ireland. Alongside his writing projects, he runs Ireland’s Wildlife, helps business clients improve their websites and reviews the latest tech gadgets here on Irish Tech News.