The reMarkable 2 is an e-ink tablet similar to an Amazon Kindle, only bigger and acts as a paper replacement for writing and drawing.
Created by Magnus Wanberg, the reMarkable device is in its second generation and has a solid and loyal following.
While the reMarkable 2 is far from mainstream due to cost and lack of widespread knowledge, it is an impressive piece of technology.
For me, discovering the e-ink tablet was a godsend in a time of constant screen gazing for home-working or writing for the blog, editing photos or watching TV. Instead of staring at an OLED screen, the reMarkable 2 offers technology with a paper-like experience.
As I browsed my microblog feed, a fellow Micro.blogger mentioned the device, and his post piqued my interest.
What’s this reMarkable thing?
After searching on Duck Duck Go and quick reading of the founder’s website, I was hooked.
I spent another day contemplating the paper tablet but knew in my heart of hearts I was only delaying the inevitable.
I wanted one.
On 30 November 2020, I made the purchase and was allocated a device in a future production batch.
With a few months to wait, I browsed through YouTube reviews of the reMarkable 2. What surprised me was the expansive industry that surrounds e-ink displays. I had no idea e-ink tablets, apart from Kindle, was a thing.
The Morning Coach became my go-to source for honest reviews and credit where it’s due. I admire JB Glossinger for making countless videos on a single niche topic.
Why Did I Want the reMarkable 2?
The COVID pandemic has a lot to do with my decision to buy the paper tablet. And there’s the clue – a paper tablet.
I love writing, publishing to the blog, learning photography and web development. The hobbies and a full-time job with pandemic induced home-working all mean my life involves staring at computer screens.
The reMarkable tablet offers the chance to cut down screen time and return to eye-friendly work.
Now, I accept ordinary paper could fulfil the same proposition at 1% of the cost, but where’s the fun in that? With 6GB of storage, I would expect to avoid piles of notepads lying all over the house and save a few trees at the same time.
Writing on natural paper doesn’t provide a safe back-up in the cloud, accessible via other linked devices, and as I’ll describe later, handwriting leads to a more thoughtful and creative process that a keyboard robs.
So with eye-friendly creativity in mind, how does the reMarkable 2 hold up?
Packaging and First Impressions
In slimline boxes, coloured in grey, black and off-white, the reMarkable 2 tablet comes in professional Apple-style packaging that speaks premium. But, like the tablet itself, the message is minimalism. There is a quick start guide that includes a recommendation to open a reMarkable.com account. The account is needed to set up the in-house cloud syncing service.
The Dutch-designed tablet arrived a month after the order from the manufacturing base in China without any damage courtesy of DHL.
At the time of publishing, devices are available for immediate shipping.
My first impressions of the device were very positive. The tablet is a beautiful sleek device, well made with premium materials. I’m glad I had chosen the grey polymer weave envelope case for protection. The case is a minimalist sleeve with a stylus holder and is complementary to the tablet.
Some reviewers had issues with the book folio case. This more expensive option offers less protection at the top and bottom of the device but, more importantly, relies on the stylus attaching magnetically to the device. The standard folio has a stylus holder.
With five months of ownership, I have a pretty good grasp of reMarkable’s strong points and areas of weakness.
Here’s my run down.
Strengths of the reMarkable 2
Convert to Text
Without the convert to text feature, I would not have purchased the tablet. Simple as that.
When you spend a considerable amount of time writing an article, you do not want to spend more time retyping the same material and adding another production step.
However, the reMarkable is excellent at handwriting recognition, as long as you write reasonably neatly. The process is straightforward:
- Highlight the pages you wish to convert
- Choose convert to text
The conversion is not instant, but only a short delay occurs with each page. Then you have the option to edit there and then, or as I prefer, email the material and edit in my preferred editor.
By the way, your handwritten version remains intact.
The build quality of the reMarkable 2 is nothing short of impressive.
To the touch, the tablet has a frosted glass feel with an aluminium edge. While the bezels are broader than current trends, they don’t take away from the overall aesthetic.
On the rear, a small rubber nipple in each corner ensures the device doesn’t slip.
The stylus attaches to the tablet with magnets. If you connect the stylus in the right way, the magnetic strength is sufficient to hold the tablet by the stylus without it dropping but don’t try that at home.
The general colour of the tablet is grey, no white. And while grey might seem boring, the tablet oozes premium quality and doesn’t look out of place with Kindles or Apple’s range of Macs and iPads.
With the combination of the screen’s matt surface and the stylus’ fibre tip, writing on the reMarkable2 is the closest you’ll come to the sensation of writing on paper on a technology device. The closest competitor would be, well, paper.
I love writing on the tablet. It is hundreds of notebooks all rolled into one. There are eight writing ‘tools’ to choose from, such as a ballpoint pen, pencil or fine liner, each with a different stylus to screen sensation.
The menu is simple to navigate: line width, eraser, selection tool, redo/undo, page view, share and others. The quick start guide and a few tutorials on reMarkable.com are all you will ever need.
I cannot detect any delay between my hand movement and the handwriting appearing – it’s instant, just as if it were pen to paper.
No matter how much I write, I know in the background that I will easily convert everything to text as long as I keep my handwriting relatively neat and legible. Conversion won’t work for drawings, of course.
With no screen light, the tablet is easy on the eyes, and in a Zoom-dominated world, less screen time is terrific.
Overall the experience is minimalist with “you, your tablet and your thoughts“.
Other reviewers recommend turning off Wi-Fi to help the battery last longer. reMarkable claim up to two weeks but with Wi-Fi continuously on, I don’t have any concern about the battery.
I leave Wi-Fi activated to save documents to my reMarkable cloud account quickly.
The tablet takes a long time to charge, but that could be my use of a spare 5W Apple charger (brick).
At the time of writing, we are on software version 18.104.22.168; sorry, it changed to 22.214.171.124, which brought layer merging and pen and line thickness memory for notebooks. (If you’re an artist, you can use layers to build up your drawing).
Since ownership, there have been several software updates, so it’s good to know developments are still progressing in the background.
I can testify the updates make a difference. Navigation has improved, so too has Wi-Fi connectivity.
Touch sensitivity has improved, helping you navigate with your finger instead of relying on the stylus tip.
Boot-up time and speed are more than satisfactory overall.
At the time of purchase, there were two choices for the stylus – the Marker and Marker Plus.
Both Markers snap to the reMarkable with strong magnets.
The standard Marker is grey, the Plus is black, and I spent an extra £50 (i.e. double the price) on the Plus. Not because I love black, but because there’s a built-in eraser function in the head. Your alternative is to choose erase from the menu and highlight the writing/area you wish to remove, then go back to the menu and select your pen again. Ugh.
The Marker Plus has a soft rubberised feel and a good grip. It’s light and comes with nine replacement tips and a credit-card style removal tool.
I’ve read varying accounts of longevity regarding the tips, but it all depends on how hard you press when writing.
I write with as little pressure as possible – it’s relaxing, and I’m still on my first tip with several months of ownership.
In keeping with the minimalist nature of the device, the menu system is simple to use, albeit a bit slow.
A hamburger menu provides access on a left column to Notebooks, PDFs, e-Books and Favourites, Trash and Settings.
There’s a small circle in the top left of the screen, and when touched, you can select writing tools and the eraser. A small x in the top right closes the page and triggers the uploading to the cloud.
The touch screen is relatively intuitive, and with a bit of exploring, you will soon get used to the system.
App and Cloud Support
While some criticise the absence of multi-cloud service support such as Dropbox, I have been happy with the offering from reMarkable.
Signing up for a cloud account is free and enables your reMarkable tablet’s contents to be backed up safely. A reMarkable companion app is available for macOS, iOS, Windows and Android, and lets you see your notes across devices.
But be aware, seeing your notes is all you can do. You can’t edit.
I’ve only used the reMarkable to make notes and convert writing to text. I have yet to use its PDF and eBook features.
You can easily import and export PDFs and eBooks via the desktop app. The How-To video is less than 90 seconds. With this option, you can annotate documents and export them back to your computer.
While most eBooks come with copyrighted DRM, there is a way to remove the protection using third-party software, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. I understand Amazon and others wanting to protect eBooks; however, once you pay for a book, a customer should be allowed to read it on any device. Can you imagine buying a paper book and being told where and when you can read it?
Weaknesses of the reMarkable 2
No product is perfect, of course, and the reMarkable 2 has some downsides.
Wi-Fi Connection Speed
The first thing I noticed was the Wi-Fi connection reliability. After closing a document, the tablet took a few minutes to reconnect and upload the document. I often found myself having to switch airplane mode on and off to trigger the upload.
After several software updates, the problem appears less of an issue, and I have no doubt it will continue to be improved with software updates.
The jagged line issue is the one thing that gave me a panic after I ordered the device.
Silly old me only checked online reviews after I ordered the device, and the main issue people found was the deterioration in line quality at the extreme edges of the screen.
Indeed, some reviews pointed out jagged lines, when the handwritten line appears pixelated, generally occurred all over the screen.
The issue appears to be a hit or miss affair and one I haven’t experienced too much.
Page-turning can also be a bit hit or miss. The overall responsiveness of the screen is okay, but when I want to turn pages back and forth or create a new page, the swipe isn’t recognised every time.
Maybe there’s a knack for getting it right, but I haven’t discovered it yet.
I’m not sure if this is a weakness. The storage on the device is 6GB, and while I’ve barely scratched this, I’m not sure what volume of notes and PDFs/eBooks this will hold.
For long term use, I can only imagine temporarily using PDFs/eBooks and then, when read, annotated etc., transferring them back to my main computer.
The virtual keyboard is fine for short edits and naming files, notebooks etc., but I wouldn’t use it for long-form editing.
The keyboard is slow but functional.
Like all aspects of the reMarkable 2 device, the creators had to balance every element between functionality, cost and manufacturing.
You would be forgiven for thinking the reMarkable is A4 sized, and while the device is roughly ⅔ the size of an A4 page, the writing space is virtually A5. I would have preferred an A4 writing space, but of course, not at an increased cost.
Unless you write very small, the last line on the screen along the bezel is near unusable, and the writing can be jagged.
Cost and Accessories
The whole package cost me a whopping £567.
- 1x Marker Plus: £99
- 1x reMarkable 2: £399
- 1x Folio – Polymer weave – Gray: £69
You will need to love and need the benefits to pay this amount of money, especially when an iPad can cost £200 less.
In a nutshell, you want a paper-like experience, no backlight and no connectivity to the distracting web. Otherwise, buy an iPad for writing on brightly lit glass.
The device comes with built-in templates such as lined pages, task lists, and all sorts of grids and shapes. I can’t see much use for the templates other than narrow lined or blank pages, but maybe other users will.
How I Use the reMarkable 2
One of the taglines used by the company is “Helping you think.” And that’s what the reMarkable 2 does for me. Instead of staring at a brightly lit screen, I can sit and doodle, meander, and listen to my thoughts with no temptation to return to YouTube.
I use the tablet to plan blog posts by sketching an outline. Once I’m content with the flow and overall structure of the intended article, I create a new notebook to write the post.
Because of the relatively slow navigation, I access my cloud-stored plan on the iPhone while writing the post on the reMarkable. While this detracts a little from the advantages of the reMarkable, I only take glances at the iPhone to remind me of the next part I’m about to write.
Sometimes I write on the reMarkable without a plan.
Once the draft is complete, I convert it to text, email the document and copy it to my favourite markdown editor for editing.
The reMarkabe 2 brings me back to the joy of handwriting while retaining the benefits of the digital age.
I think and write more slowly, and as a result, I’m more creative. The reMarkable helps me think through my posts carefully, whereas writing solely on a keyboard begs speed and the need to beat the clock.
You could use paper and a pen, but you have to type the entire content from scratch.
Unlike the iPhone 12 Pro Max, I have not experienced one drop of buyer’s remorse, and while there’s no doubt the tablet has features I’ll never use, I’ve no regrets.
With everything I know, would I rebuy the reMarkable 2?
But before you make a final decision, check out some of the alternatives:
Have you heard of them? I hadn’t either.