Friday, April 28, 2023

reMarkable 2: Loving It

I recently got a reMarkable 2 tablet, and I'm really liking it.

It's a writing tablet for note-taking. So far, I use it exclusively for hand-written notes.

It uses paperwhite technology without a backlight. Advantage: it's easy to read in bright light (high contrast). Disadvantage: you can't use it in low light. Fortunately, I'm not interested in using it in low light.

The writing experience is as close to writing on paper with a pencil as I've ever seen.

(FYI - I paid full price for mine, and this review was not solicited or compensated.)


I like to take notes with pen and paper. But sometimes there just isn't a pad of paper handy. Or too many pads of paper -- i.e. not the one I had been using earlier. I can't seem to train myself to carry the same pad with me everywhere, so I end up with little scraps of paper with notes written on them that get misplaced or buried.

I tried switching to an electronic writing tablet once before, with an iPad. But I never found a stylus that was very good, and the writing experience was poor (either too much or too little friction). I couldn't write small, and there were always problems with having my palm on the surface as I wrote. (Granted, I never tried the newer iPad with the special Apple pen. Maybe it's wonderful. But I also don't like the shiny glass surface.)

In spite of those problems, I used it a lot for quite a while before a change in my work duties required less note-taking, and I stopped.

I recently returned to taking lots of notes, but that old iPad is no more. So I was back to lots of little scraps of paper being misplaced. Then I saw an ad by astrophysicist Dr. Becky for the reMarkable writing tablet. Wow, this is so much better than before. The writing experience is excellent, and the information organization is very good.


It is pricey - as of April 2023, it is $300 for the tablet, but then you have to buy the pen for $130 and a case for $130. So $560 all told. And yes, you can save a bit here and there going with cheaper options.

And understand what you're getting: this does not have a web browser. No games. No word processor. No email. This is a writing tablet.

Sure, you can upload PDFs and mark them up - something I may end up doing from time to time - but think of it as an electronic pad of paper for $560. I'm not hurting for money, so I can spend that without pain, but is the available market for well-off people wanting a digital writing tablet really big enough to support a product like this?

(shrugs) Apparently so. For me, it's definitely worth it. Your mileage may vary.

There's also an optional add-on keyboard that I don't want, and a $3/month subscription service that I don't think I need (but I might change my mind later).

Update: I got the more expensive pen with the "eraser" function. Not worth it, at least not for my use case (writing words). Maybe if I was using it for artistic drawing, but for writing, I prefer to select and cut. I would buy the cheaper pen now.


Well, I love the organization. You create folders and notebooks. And you can create tags on notebooks and on individual pages within a notebook. Sometimes tagging systems just let you match a single tag (e.g. blogger). ReMarkable lets you "and" together multiple tags to zero in on what you want.

Update: For my usage, I've realized that the advantages of tagging are not worth the extra clicks. Now I just use the "favorites" screen.

Even without the subscription, it has cloud connectivity and desktop/phone apps. It's nice to be out and about and be able to bring up recent notes on my phone.

Another cute thing that I'll probably use sometimes is a whiteboard function. The desktop app can connect to it and show your drawing in real time. You can share it on Teams/Zoom/whatever. I give product training sometimes, and I think it will be useful. (Note that it is not a collaborative whiteboard.)

It also has some kind of handwriting-to-text conversion, but I'm not interested in that, so I don't know how good it is.

Oh, and the pen won't run out of ink, mark up my fingers, stain my shirt pocket, or be borrowed by anybody. :-)

Update: definitely get the "book" style case. See below.


The battery doesn't last as long as I had hoped. Brand new, it loses about 30% charge after a day of heavy use. I suspect that once the novelty wears off, it will last longer, but batteries also get weaker over time.

And the charge time is painfully slow. Definitely need to charge overnight.

I wish it kept time/date of last modification, ideally on a page basis, but at least on a notebook basis, but it doesn't appear to have a clock.

I find it a little hard to hold and write on while standing. I think it might be a little *too* thin. I initially bought the sleeve portfolio, but I've since ordered the book-style cover. I think it will help.

Update: the book-style case solves the "hard to use standing up" problem. Definitely worth the extra cost.

I've seen some complaints that it doesn't integrate with other note-taking systems out there, like Evernote and the like. But I never got into those. If I'm typing, I prefer a Wiki, and I just don't find myself wanting to drag in images and audio and whatever other magic Evernote has.

Some people have complained about its lack of functionality, wishing it were more of a general-purpose tablet with web browser, mail, music player, games, etc, etc. Of course, then they'll complain it doesn't have a color screen and stereo sound. Others say that the lack of those features is a strength, allowing you to focus by removing distractions.

I don't like either position. If you want a general-purpose tablet, get one. reMarkable doesn't misrepresent their product at all. And I'm not sure I buy into the whole "focus through removal of distraction" thing. If I find myself in a hard-to-focus mood and I'm using the tablet, I'll just pull out my phone and be distracted. The reason I like this writing tablet isn't so much that it is *only* a writing tablet, but rather because it is such a *good* writing tablet.




Steve Ford said...

I raised a bug report today (submitted as support ticket). Let's see how long (if ever) it takes them to fix it.

Subject: Bug in Tags page

summary: when return to Tags page, it forgets page state (which tag selected, "All/Pages/Documents", "View All").

Initial conditions: have several notebooks with various tags. For this example, let's say 3 notebooks are tagged with "work".

1. "Menu", "Tags".
2. Set "list" view to see all notebooks. Select "View All" to see all available tags.
3. Select "work" tag and select "Documents". Three notebooks are now shown.
4. Select the first notebook and modify the page that is selected as the "notebook cover" (defaults to "last page visited").
5. "x" to return to Tags page.

You should see the tag view page initially display correctly, but then the display refreshes, because the notebook cover page was modified. When it does so, all notebooks are displayed. Usually the "work" tag is also de-selected, but I've had a couple of instances where the "work" tag was still shown as selected, but all notebooks (even those without the "work" tag) were listed.

Also, it forgets the "Documents" selection, reverting to "All". Also it forgets the "view all" selection, so fewer tags are displayed.

Note that if in step 4 you do NOT modify the page and simply return to the Tags page, it properly remembers the selected tag and displays the correct notebook list. But it still forgets the "All/Pages/Documents" and "View all" settings.

* Remember the most recent settings for tag selection, "All/Pages/Documents", and "View All". Ideally it should do this when returning to the Tags page from any other page, but at least when exiting a notebook and returning to Tags.

Steve Ford said...

I got a response from reMarkable support already! They requested a short video showing the bug, which I provided.

I suspect they assume pilot error (I certainly would). Even if they acknowledge it as a bug, it might get filed in the black hole.

Steve Ford said...

I've had it for a little over a month now, and I still like it a lot. I use it most days for both work and non-work note taking. It's really handy to jot down some groceries as I think of them, and am then able to bring it up on my phone while at the store. (And it's the simplicity in jotting down that is the deal-maker here. There are a hundred grocery list apps, and they all take time to enter items, especially using the phone's keyboard that I dislike. With this tablet it is literally jotting, like pen on paper.