ReMarkable 2 is a paper saving writing tab we think we need, but do we really? - Hindustan Times

ReMarkable 2 is a paper saving writing tab we think we need, but do we really?

Feb 21, 2024 12:29 PM IST

This unique e-ink display tablet excels at taking handwritten notes and for creating documents, also, Cloud storage is sorted too

This is quite remarkable. Any similarity with the sentiment or reaction may be coincidental, but not out of place. This is a rare and persistently focused as a piece of technology, as you’d likely have found in the past decade. With the focus comes uniqueness. You may well be typing away merrily on a work document on the ReMarkable 2 tablet at an airport (this is where, everyone else either has just any other tablet or laptop), oblivious to curious eyes, wondering what this ultra-slim computing device you’re working on might be.

The ReMarkable 2 is an incredibly thin tablet – just 4.7mm or 0.19-inch. (ReMarkable)
The ReMarkable 2 is an incredibly thin tablet – just 4.7mm or 0.19-inch. (ReMarkable)

Divisive may be a word stronger than entirely necessary to illustrate the ReMarkable 2, but there are reasons why you should (and it does those things rather well; spoiler alert), and equally there are points you must consider carefully, before making the switch. First and foremost is that this tablet, isn’t like any tablet you may be imagining. This isn’t an Apple iPad or an Android tablet replacement. It doesn’t have apps and cannot browse the web. The sole purpose is to replace a combination of a paper notepad or your smartphone and tablet for jotting notes, scribbling thoughts or delving into deeper, focused writing tasks. It simply is, an advanced notebook, for writing. Except, without pages.

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It is the screen tech that’s most intriguing, and thereby also the single biggest dictator of a ReMarkable 2 tablet’s capabilities. The tablet’s name, ReMarkable 2, gives us a hint that it’s a second-generation device. The display, which ReMarkable calls a Canvas Display, is essentially a combination of digital paper technology and a combination of ultra-thin high-friction surface materials – it looks like an e-ink screen you may have seen on e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle, and feels like a piece of actual paper when you touch (some paperbacks tend to have this slightly coarse texture; this feels similar).

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There’s no backlighting, unlike some e-readers, which means you’ll need some amount of ambient light to be able to see what’s on this display. One of my fears about sluggish responsiveness, were allayed quickly enough – as you work on documents using the Type Folio Keyboard, words appear on a document sheet on screen, only a fraction later than a laptop or tablet screen would. That’s not a trade-off, in the larger scheme of things. If you’re jotting or scribbling with the digital pen, that’s also without delay and you’re not having to slow down for this screen to keep up. You’ll only really notice the limitations of a different tech at play when attempting to zoom in on notes – that takes a handful of seconds to render.

It is quite amazing how ReMarkable have developed this screen tech in a way that when you’re using the Marker or Marker Plus stylus (or digital pen, whatever you’d like to call it), hear carefully and the combination of the pen and the occasional grazing of your palm on the writing surface, combines to even sound like you’re writing on a paper notebook. That’s some attention to detail.

The ReMarkable 2 is an incredibly thin tablet – just 4.7mm or 0.19-inch. For a digital paper display that’s 10.3-inches. Just for perspective, a 10.9-inch screen size Apple iPad is around 7mm thick. Even with the Folio Keyboard or Book Folio attached, this is still well within the iPad’s thickness, just for a comparative illustration.

Another thing that goes in the ReMarkable 2’s favour is the clean, and quick software that awaits you and your thoughts. Press the power key and the home screen is loaded with your files as you left them, in mere seconds. Apart from documents already created, it’s quite easy to get started with new notebooks too. Handy in a meeting, or if a thought springs to mind almost unexpectedly.

But this is also where the focused (or limited, depends on your perspective) approach becomes quite apparent. First off, you can set up Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage with the ReMarkable 2, and that means quickly accessing files stored there in a desktop-esque file manager interface. However, the ReMarkable 2 only really supports the PDF or EPUB file formats. It should be fine if you intend to solely use the ReMarkable 2 as your document device (create, edit and share files, documents etc.). Or if you’re mostly working with PDF or EPUBs.

If there is use of typical document formats such as .doc, .docx or .pages in your workflow, you must use the Read on Remarkable extension for a web browser on your computing device, or the ReMarkable app on your phone, tablet, PC or Mac, to send files to the ReMarkable 2 tablet in the correct, converted format. Sending files and documents to the ReMarkable 2 is as simple as it gets. However, it was often the case that documents created on the writing tab (such as this very review) when sent as a PDF and converted to a Microsoft Word document, ends up with formatting that takes significant effort to put back in place.

While it is understandable that ReMarkable cannot use proprietary file formats, it causes some formatting and compatibility (often the case with the person receiving it; PDFs can cause agony, if you wish to edit further) friction when sending documents to and from the ReMarkable 2 tablet. At the cloud storage aspect is sorted, not just with ReMarkable’s own cloud space but also Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

Handwritten notes get converted to typed text with accuracy, with even some fairly bad handwriting. I am not exactly sure it’ll be able to decode a doctor’s prescription though! The stylus elicits the soft of feeling a typical pen does when writing on paper – it’s the friction that is key. It can handle different pressures, and on-screen in every note you’re working on, are a plethora of options for pen style, thickness and colour (limited options here -- black, grey, white, blue and red). Unlike typical stylus accessories that tend to be top heavy (because of the battery in the upper half of the chamber, as you hold it), these stylus pens are weighted equally.

Inside the ReMarkable 2 is a 3,000mAh battery, and I noticed that about two hours of typing documents drains just 1% of the battery. That’s pointing to hours and hours of writing and jotting notes, before this needs charging again.

For all the focus and almost successfully addressing a very specific need of distraction free writing, the ReMarkable 2 tablet does require you to part with a lot of money. That’s upwards of 43,999 if you choose the tablet and stylus option. The Type Folio itself costs around 19,499. The tech underliers, such as the display, have proved to be successful attempts at a digital replacement of a notebook. But this price tag will likely make a lot of potential buyers second guess.

This is when you must begin to wonder how bad your distraction problem really is. Can you get through working on a document or put your notes or presentation slides in place quickly enough without switching apps to browse social media, catch up on news or simply get the latest football scores? The answer, and your willpower, will define whether a ReMarkable 2 tablet is a must have, niche yet focused piece of tech. It doesn’t replace your laptop, phone or tablet, in entirety (or even close to it). Just a specific purpose, the weightage of which is subjective for each user. You have to make a case for it. In your workflow. In your routine. In your life.

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    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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