“The only tablet that feels like paper.”
Quite a claim, right? But that’s exactly what the makers behind the reMarkable 2 tell us when you reach their website.
reMarkable were kind enough to send me their latest tablet, a couple of markers, two cases, and a subscription to their ‘Connect’ service.
These are my thoughts after a couple of weeks of use (be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for the full review in a few weeks’ time).
Who is the reMarkable 2 for? And can it really be compared against the iPad mini for digital note-taking?
What is the reMarkable 2?
The simplest way to describe the reMarkable 2 is to call it a ‘Kindle you can write on’. But that’s doing it a bit of a disservice because there’s rather more to this curious device than meets the eye.
Regardless of the reMarkable’s legitimate claim for sitting within the tablet category, there are some key differences if you’re still thinking ‘iPad’. For instance, there’s no web browser on the reMarkable 2, no app store, and you can’t use it to send an email or check your diary.
This is a tablet purely designed for note-taking, document reviewing, and reading. It uses a 10.3-inch CANVAS display (think Kindle’s e-ink display) and although you can interact with the operating system via touch, you’ll need a reMarkable Marker to start writing or drawing.
It’s not cheap. The reMarkable 2 is £399 in the UK but is unusable without the Marker, therefore you’ll need to add either £79 for the standard Marker or £129 for the Marker Plus (which includes an eraser for quickly scrubbing stuff out).
So, at the least, you’ll pay £478 for a reMarkable 2, while those opting for the fancier Marker Plus will have to stump up £528. That isn’t where the costs end, though – which I’ll get to later.
Design, screen, and battery life
The reMarkable 2 is a smidgen smaller than an A4 page, which makes it a pretty decent size for general note-taking.
It feels solidly built, too, and at 0.89lbs, is weighty enough to feel like the substantial purchase it is without being a burden to carry or hold while writing.
A magnetic attachment for the Marker and USB-C charging make for quite a convenient package. And on the subject of battery life, it is undeniably impressive: two weeks of in-use time is backed up by a colossal three months of standby. That’ll do!
The reMarkable 2 uses a monochrome digital paper display with a resolution of 226 DPI. It’s sharp and pleasing on the eye but isn’t backlit – which initially took me by surprise. But, when you think about it, neither is paper, and the reMarkable’s brilliant performance in direct sunlight makes up for the need to switch a light on as your room darkens. Plus, reMarkable tells me that the addition of a backlight would make the device thicker and increase the distance between the marker tip and onscreen ink.
Note-taking and the Marker
This is what the reMarkable 2 is all about.
I’m a recent digital note-taking convert, thanks to the brilliant combination of the iPad mini 6, Apple Pencil, and a Paperlike screen protector.
One thing I’ve quickly learned is the importance of that first touch between stylus and screen, and the initial reMarkable 2 experience absolutely nails it.
This thing feels as close to paper as you’re likely to get with a tablet. There’s just enough friction and the accompanying sound made by the Marker’s tip gliding across the display makes for an addictive writing experience. Latency is rated at 21ms, which is roughly the same as the Apple Pencil and it feels plenty fast enough, despite the limitations of the display’s refresh rate.
As you’d expect, you get a wealth of pen styles to choose from (including, curiously, different colours), different paper styles, and even templates. Combined with the simple but effective file management, the team at reMarkable have gone far enough without overloading the user with options that few people will use.
The Marker is rather lovely, too. Although cheaper-feeling than the Apple Pencil, the standard Marker is far more grippy and fun to use. Upgrade to the Marker Plus, and you receive both better materials and that incredibly handy eraser on one end (we need this on the next Apple Pencil, Tim!). The Marker doesn’t need charging, either, and still benefits from tilt and pressure sensitivity for an authentic writing or drawing experience.
Just like the Apple Pencil, you’ll need to replace the Marker tip after a period of use. Thankfully, you get nine spare tips included, but it’s worth keeping in mind that reMarkable only estimates between three to seven weeks of use from each tip, depending on your writing technique. That feels short to me, but I need longer with the Marker to see if the claims are just overly cautious.
Overall, the writing experience on the reMarkable 2 is wonderful. The feel of the display, ultra legibility, and lovely touches like the rubber points on the rear of the device to stop it slipping on table surfaces make it a joy to use.
File management and sharing
This is where it gets interesting… and more expensive.
When I asked my YouTube audience what they’d like to know about the reMarkable 2, there was a common theme among the responses.
“I want to know if it’s really as bad as I’ve heard when it comes to getting what you’ve written to other places.”
“Are they still on the pay-to-use model?”
“The monthly Connect subscription kills it for me, why would they do that?”
Firstly, it’s worth confirming that you don’t need a monthly subscription to use the reMarkable 2. The tablet is fully functional without any form of ongoing payment, but there is one drawback if you don’t sign up for the Connect service.
Without the subscription, you can still sync your notes to the useful reMarkable desktop app, but they’ll only remain there for 50 days if they’re not accessed again within that timeframe. Otherwise, they’ll only be accessible on your reMarkable tablet.
Connect is available in two flavours – Connect Lite (£4.99 per month) and Connect (£7.99 per month). With the Lite subscription, you receive unlimited cloud storage, thus removing that 50-day caveat. But that’s it.
Upgrade to the full Connect experience, and you’ll also receive support for Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive, handwriting conversion, screen sharing, a send by email feature, and an extended 36-month warranty.
So, if you want the full-blown reMarkable experience, the price of the device, Marker, and first year’s subscription to Connect will set you back nearly £624.
Can you live without Connect? Absolutely. That 50-day retention period for synced notes isn’t unreasonable for someone like me who rarely refers to notes that old, but it does mean I’d be relying solely on the reMarkable 2 when it comes to retaining all of my notes (the synchronisation acts as a backup service, you see).
I can see why people are a bit peeved by this. The reMarkable 2 seems unnecessarily hampered by a business model that all but forces you into a subscription service if you want to gain peace of mind and ultimate flexibility with your notes. If the tablet hardware wasn’t priced as it is, that would be easier to stomach.
Not including unlimited syncing without the Connect subscription therefore feels like a bit of a miss and a little bit stingy.
What else can you do with the reMarkable 2?
Although the reMarkable 2 is designed specifically for note-taking, it has some other interesting use cases.
Thanks to that Kindle-like CANVAS display, it’s a brilliant reading device. Indeed, I’ve enjoyed sending PDFs across to it for reading at my leisure, and it’s worth noting that you can do the same with ePUB files (all via the reMarkable desktop app or connected file sharing service). That means, if you have a DRM-free book library, you can pop them onto the reMarkable 2 for reading and annotating.
There is, of course, some manual effort involved in turning this into an e-reader. There isn’t a book store to tap into, therefore you’ll need to copy across what you want to read, but if you’re that way inclined, it makes for a great Kindle alternative thanks to the annotation ability and larger display.
There’s also a Google Chrome extension that enables users to send simplified web articles to their reMarkable (I’m yet to test this), and the ability to share your notes on other screens via the Screen Share feature. To do this, you need the reMarkable app installed on a computer, and – yep, you guessed it – a Connect subscription.
Performance-wise, the reMarkable 2 feels very Kindle-like. There’s a delay between virtually every interaction with the screen (when using your finger) but that’s par for the course with this type of display technology. It takes some getting used to, though, and does once again hint at the tablet’s desire to be nothing more than a note-taking machine.
reMarkable 2 versus iPad mini
When I initially spoke to reMarkable about my desire to review their tablet, they were concerned about one particular direction of my testing.
I wanted to pitch it against the iPad mini 6, you see.
As reMarkable quickly pointed out, this isn’t the fairest or most legitimate of comparisons – at least on the surface. The iPad mini is a full-blown tablet that just happens to offer stylus support, whereas the reMarkable 2 is a note-taking device, through and through.
They both feature vastly different screen technology, operating systems, and internals.
But I think it’s a worthy comparison for two reasons:
- I suspect that there are a great many people out there who, just like me, love to take notes digitally; and
- the reMarkable 2 pricing places it firmly in iPad territory, like it or lump it. The iPad comparison will therefore be inevitable for most shoppers.
My iPad mini note-taking setup consists of the tablet itself, the second-generation Apple Pencil, a Paperlike screen protector, and the Notability app. Combined, the total investment is £636. Although, it should be noted that if you drop down to the brilliant 9th generation ‘normal’ iPad, you’re more likely to pay around £446 for the same setup.
The reMarkable 2 is hands-down the better note-taker out of the two. Because it should be. As great as the Paperlike screen protector is (and it is really good), it can’t match the feel of that CANVAS display.
Likewise, the reMarkable’s Markers are, in my opinion, far more pleasurable to use for long periods of time than the Apple Pencil.
The iPad obviously beats the reMarkable 2 when it comes to functionality – there’s no competition between the two. But if you’re a serious digital note-taker and have the budget (plus another device on which to do more fancy stuff), the reMarkable 2 wins this battle.
Conclusion: who is the reMarkable 2 for?
I’ve been really impressed with the reMarkable 2. The writing experience, build quality, carefully-considered features, and lovely accessories (both the Folio and Book Folio are beautifully designed and constructed) make this a superb premium note-taking device.
But that’s also the problem with it. You have to really want to get into digital note-taking if you’re going to buy the reMarkable 2. It is an expensive bit of kit, and the frustratingly ungenerous business model adds too much friction to the purchasing experience.
Keep the device price as it is, throw in the standard Marker, include unlimited syncing with the free plan, and I think reMarkable would have a far more tempting proposition for a much wider audience.
Alas, there is a market for the reMarkable 2 – even if it is somewhat narrow. I’ve spoken to a couple of users who absolutely love it, and it is indeed one of those devices that you fall in love with the more you use it. It’s just a shame that the pricing and subscription model will prevent so many people from even giving the reMarkable 2 a try.
I love adventurous tech, and that’s exactly what the reMarkable 2 feels like. I just hope that enough people buy it and invest in its success to encourage a more digestible price-point in the future.
This post includes affiliate links
I have had the Remarkable tablet for about year. I use it or work to supplement my iPad Pro. It is light, a better surface to write on, easy to see in more kinds of light and has a nice long batter life. I would love to see a backlight, ala Kindle. And, it is really time to bring the price down by about $100.
I have already left a comment regarding what I would like to see from Remarkable. Here, I will comment on what some should buy first and that is the Mini iPad. For the money, it simply does so much more. And, if you hate writing on the iPad screen, write it on paper and simply scan it in to Notes on the iPad. Remarkable is actually a luxury item and will remain so until they bring the price down by quite a bit.
[…] after a brief flirtation with the reMarkable 2, I’m back to full-time digital note-taking on the wonderful iPad mini […]