I have a habit of keeping everything, including my thoughts, on notes for a long time. However, after losing three of my notebooks last year when I moved to California, I started forcing myself to scan all my notes every night before sleeping. Scanning plus OCR is sufficient for saving and retrieving notes, but it is painful to roll the immense boulder up the hill like Sisyphus every night. So, I had the idea to digitalize my note-taking process.
I tried the iPad and Apple Pencil solution, but the writing experience was not quite good. The screen was too hard and slippery, and attaching a ‘paper-like cover’ on the screen made the display blurry, so I paused the plan. However, after a heavy giant book smashed me in the face while I was watching it in bed last week, I finally decided to order the ReMarkable 2 notebook.
Don’t ask me about my decision-making process… I bought it simply because The Verge gave it the highest rating (at least to me) among all the e-ink notebooks. I bought the ReMarkable 2 (USD 399), the pencil with an eraser (USD 99, and the funny thing is that I had to pay an extra 50 dollars to get the digital eraser… I miss the time when erasers were only 0.5 dollars each), and the polymer weaver folio from the official website. ReMarkable is very efficient, and I received all of my items only four days after I placed my order. They were shipped from China (of course…).
Packaging and Industrial Design
Let’s talk about the writing experience first.
The ReMarkable 2 website mentions that the writing latency is 21 ms, but from my usage experience, there is actually almost no delay. The pen strokes are very consistent with the pen, basically the same as writing on real paper. Of course, numerically, the latency is still higher than that of the Apple Pencil or Samsung’s stylus, but personally, I feel that unless you put the two devices together for comparison, you can’t really feel the difference.
Regarding the writing experience, the slightly frosted screen of ReMarkable 2 and the interaction with the pen tip are also very natural. I can simulate my writing habits with my real signature pen (I use a 0.5mm Mitsubishi water-based pen) and paper and get a very similar writing experience and results. Of course, this may also be because the tip of the pen I use is relatively thin, so my writing posture is already somewhat limited by my real pen.
However, the pressure sensitivity of ReMarkable 2 seems a bit strange. The website mentions 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, but in actual use, the force seems to have little effect on the writing results.
Overall, I am quite satisfied with the writing experience of ReMarkable 2. I can’t say that it completely replicates real writing, but at least it’s about 90% in line with my writing habits.
Now let’s talk about the user experience of the software and hardware.
The ReMarkable 2 hardware is quite weak… With only 1GB of RAM, it can actually lag when opening larger PDFs. In addition, the system’s support for reading is very, very limited, and the summary of system functions outside of writing is “can open PDF and EPUB,” nothing more. Functions like adjusting font size and line spacing are not included. ReMarkable said this is a deliberate trade-off and hopes users can focus on writing. But I am already very focused on writing, and basically just use it as a paper notebook. Sometimes, I am shocked by the system’s simplicity and slow response when I want to read something. The overall system response cannot be called “laggy,” but it is definitely far from “very smooth.”
Regarding software related to writing, ReMarkable has two functions that I really like. One is that it provides a lot of background options. You can see from my attached picture that there are various grids to meet different needs. In addition, when writing, ReMarkable has a concept of layers similar to Photoshop, which means you can annotate your notes or just separate the images and text. This function is very effective when I need to repeatedly modify and consider a certain problem.
ReMarkable has basically provided all the other functions related to writing, such as note recognition, note organization and classification, and tags. It is still a qualified notebook…
Finally, let’s talk about the screen. It is a 226DPI screen, and in my normal usage scenario, there is definitely no noticeable graininess. The screen grayscale is sufficient, and the displayed images are sharp enough. I have attached two screenshots below. Of course, this is a black-and-white screen, so I won’t talk about color accuracy. When reading, I often forget that I’m staring at an electronic screen. However, a drawback is that the screen does not support backlighting, which can be interpreted as a way of staying true to the original intention of replicating the experience of reading a physical book. But every time I think about its $399 price tag, I can’t convince myself.
I have a polymer-woven case, but the official website also offers a genuine leather option for an extra $50. However, I felt that was a bit too expensive. As for the case itself, I don’t have much to say other than it has the same level of precision in engineering design as the device, fits perfectly, and has a good hand feel. The only issue is that after using this case, the device doesn’t automatically sleep or wake up, so I have to manually press the power button each time I want to start writing. Hopefully, this issue can be fixed with a software update in the future.
I purchased the $99 pen with an eraser, but the official website also offers a white option without the eraser for $49.
Firstly, the eraser is a somewhat useless feature. It doesn’t feel natural when interacting with the screen and gives the impression that it might scratch the screen. If you’re not obsessed with having a black pen, the $49 pen without the eraser is a better choice. Additionally, the eraser function on the Remarkable 2 itself works well. You can erase by stroke, by area, or like a real eraser, only erasing the area touched by the pen.
Furthermore, the pen has a nice matte finish, feels comfortable to hold, and is a good size for my normal-sized male hand. The grip is much better than the Apple Pencil.
Finally, let me talk about the accompanying software. ReMarkable provides synchronization and management software for Mac, Windows, and mobile devices, and the platform support is quite good. In actual use, the performance is also very good. Dragging twenty or thirty PDFs at once won’t crash or be unresponsive, and the transfer speed is also very fast. I have a 1G broadband at home, and the transfer speed is estimated to be around 30m/s (upload + download). The software design also conforms to modern aesthetics.
ReMarkable also provides a clipper plugin for Chrome, which I won’t go into detail about, but it is very useful.
Finally x2, I would like to talk about the support for Chinese.
ReMarkable supports handwriting recognition for nearly 30 languages, but Chinese, both simplified and traditional, is not included. The menu language is also not available in Chinese. There is a high probability that imported Chinese EPUB and PDF files will display as various squares. It seems that ReMarkable is determined not to enter the Chinese market. Well…
- Excellent digital writing tool that provides near-perfect replication of writing on paper
- Great screen, despite not being designed primarily for reading, provides a visually pleasing experience
- Exceptional industrial design, striking a great balance between weight, size, and materials
- Non-writing functionalities are severely limited, with no third-party software support and an apparent lack of future support
- Limited storage space that cannot be expanded
- High price tag with low value proposition
- Poor support for Chinese language
In summary, the ReMarkable 2 is a device that many people would not recommend, yet many who have bought it find it to be a valuable tool. It is a device that garners attention from those who see it being used, but it also has some significant drawbacks, such as limited storage, high price, and poor support for non-writing functionalities and Chinese language.