By Calvin Jones. This innovative and beautifully designed keyboard case brings distraction free typing to the reMarkable 2 — but what’s it like to use?
When reMarkable announced the Type Folio, I was intrigued. I’d reviewed the reMarkable 2 here on Irish Tech News a while back, and loved it for the things it did well, but just as much for the things it didn’t try to do. This was a device designed specifically to replace paper notebooks for handwritten notes, sketches and doodles, or for marking up document files with handwritten annotations — and it did those things spectacularly well.
reMarkable Type Folio reviewed
But is it a device I’d want to type on? I wasn’t so sure.
I remember when I reviewed the tablet itself other reviewers lamented the fact there was no bluetooth, which meant you couldn’t pair the reMarkable 2 with an external keyboard. I remember thinking “so what”: this is for handwriting with a stylus, not typing.
At the time that was true, and in many ways still is, but in the meantime the software experience on the reMarkable 2 has evolved. A succession of updates has improved the device’s ability to handle typed text, and to integrate it with handwritten notes and annotations in the same notebook and even on the same page. It seemed a strange direction given that entering text on the on-screen keyboard was so clunky on an e-ink display. Yes, you could sync your notes and type up text on another device then re-sync… but that still seemed a bit of a faff for most use-cases.
Then the company announced the Type Folio, and everything made sense. Sort of.
I still couldn’t quite work out why the self-appointed champions of distraction free note-taking were introducing another facet to their device. Surely the reMarkable was for jotting down ideas, fleshing them out and developing them before moving over to a more powerful and versatile device with a keyboard to produce the finished article? When I needed a keyboard, I surmised, I’d just move over to my desktop or laptop computer and use the array of powerful apps at my disposal to create whatever I needed to create… building on the thoughts and ideas so efficiently captured on the reMarkable 2.
Then the Type Folio arrived. I typed a few lines, and those initial doubts mostly evaporated. Not only is this a sublimely designed piece of tech (like the reMarkable 2 itself, which still more than holds its own design-wise more than 2 years after its launch), it also does the job it’s designed to do extremely well. It is the typing embodiment of reMarkable’s distraction free ethos.
Type Folio, and the reMarkable 2’s new text features, give you just enough, and no more. You can create headings, sub-headings, paragraph text and bullet points… add bold and italic, you can copy, cut and paste text… and that’s about it. This is no word-processing powerhouse. There’s not a spell-check in sight, and when it comes to grammar, you’re on your own.
This is essentially an electronic typewriter for e-paper, and I love its simplicity and, yes, at the risk of falling in step with the marketing hype, the fact that it’s distraction free. On my laptop, I would almost certainly have left this piece several times by now to look something up, check my email, respond to a social media notification. With the reMarkable and Type Folio there’s none of that. There’s also the added benefit of an e-ink display with absolutely no light emanating from it — so typing on the Type Folio is as easy on the eyes as it gets.
When paired with the Type Folio the reMarkable 2 becomes an exquisitely compact, yet surprisingly tactile and functional typing station, coupled with just enough software chops to get the job done. It’s pared back to a point that maximises usability and focus, and eliminates distraction. That’s a tricky balance to strike, but typing this review on the Type Folio I can’t help feeling that reMarkable has pulled it off… again.
You’re never sucked into the deep, dark productivity black hole of the interweb, as that simply isn’t available, and similarly you’re not sub-consciously thinking about formatting and layout, because you can’t do that here either. The Type Folio is simply about getting your words down on the page… and just like reMarkable, it’s refreshingly simple and effective.
That’s the review basically done. The hardware and specs of the Type Folio are, to a large degree, irrelevant. It’s all about utility and experience — and the Type Folio is a very usable device. However, it would be remiss to end the review without talking about the design — and without mentioning a few minor niggles that cropped up.
The Type Folio is a design triumph. It looks like a standard leather-style folio case… just a smidgen thicker. The reMarkable 2 clips into it magnetically, and is held fast. It operates just like a normal flip-case folio, with the keyboard hidden cleverly underneath the tablet itself. If it wasn’t for the extra weight, you wouldn’t know the keyboard was there at all.
To access the keyboard, you just lay the reMarkable in landscape mode on a flat surface, spine facing you, then lift the tablet (the Type Folio has a couple of handy low-profile lugs on the side to mark the optimal spot / offer a bit more grip) and tilt the bottom away from you to reveal a pretty much full-sized keyboard. It’s a very cool design — but also very practical, and it means your precious e-ink screen isn’t constantly coming into contact with hard plastic keys when the cover is closed, unlike keyboard covers offered by rival e-ink (and non-eink) tablets. There are two screen positions available, a steep angled default option that the tablet first snaps to which is ideal for general typing, and a lower profile, flatter position that’s great for combining typed text with pen input.
As soon as the keyboard is revealed, the reMarkable switches to landscape orientation and enters typing mode. The stylus still works, and you can mix and match typing with pen input, annotations, drawings and whatever else takes your fancy. In landscape mode, however, your typed text is restricted to a narrow strip in the middle of the screen: like a portrait page width with massive margins. It’s great for jotting annotations in those margins and works just fine — but there doesn’t seem to be any way to allow the text to fill the available screen real estate. You can pinch to zoom, so that your text is enlarged to fill the width of the screen — but that’s not quite the same thing. It would be nice to have some configurable options for text flow / page-width / margins in the settings; perhaps it’s something reMarkable could roll out in a future update.
As mentioned above, the Type Folio adds a fair bit of heft to the overall reMarkable package: when closed with the reMarkable 2 in situ, the Type Folio is about 1cm thick and with the Marker Plus magnetically attached to the side the whole package weighs in at 878g. That’s more than double the thickness and more than double the weight of the tablet on its own. It’s not unwieldy or unmanageable, but it makes the “world’s thinnest tablet” quite a bit less totable when ensconced in the Type Folio.
The UK keyboard version of the Type Folio reMarkable sent for review (which is the one most relevant to us here in Ireland) doesn’t seem to support Irish accent characters — so you’ll have to go back and add your fadas and such after the fact on another device (which is a shame). Again, support for different keyboard language options/accent characters is potentially an easy fix that could be rolled out in firmware.
Another thing to remember is that, while the Type Folio is a shiny new accessory, has a really cool design and is a joy to use, it is tied to a device in the reMarkable 2 that is getting a bit long in the tooth in tech terms. It was launched over 2 years ago, and while software updates keep it relevant (it is still one of the best e-ink note-taking devices on the market), and its sleek design means it’s ageing well alongside more contemporary rivals like the Kindle Scribe and Onyx Boox devices, the internal hardware is dated, and there’s nothing a firmware update can do to fix that.
If you already own and are happy with the reMarkable 2, but would like to add typing capability, the Type Folio is your only option. If you’re looking for your first e-ink note-taking tablet with keyboard compatibility, however, there are other options on the market worth considering. That said, the reMarkable 2 with the new Type Folio remains a very capable note-taking device, and looks and feels great — so if it does what you need, it’s still a solid option.
The Type Folio is available to order from remarkable.com and costs €199.
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