Remarkable E-ink Writing Slate Reviews – Great Tablet, But Not Ready for Prime Time
It’s not ready yet.
A handful of reviews were posted on Friday, and they show reveal that the Remarkable still has a way to go in the software department (this could explain why it missed the official mid-August shipdate).
This writing slate measures 10.1″ by 6.9″ by 0.36″ thin, and according to official specs it weighs about 12 ounces. runs a proprietary Linux OS on a 1GHz CPU with 512MB RAM and 8GB of internal storage (there is no card slot).
It has a 10.3″ Carta E-ink display (1872 x 1404 resolution – 226 PPI). The Remarkable doesn’t have a frontlight, but it does have a capacitive touchscreen and a Wacom stylus that supports 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and 512 degrees of tilt detection.
Aside from the screen and the stylus, those specs sound like what you can find on a $100 to $200 ereader, and you can also find cheaper ereaders that are almost s good as the Remarkable (like the Onyx Boox M96, which costs $430, runs Android with a 9,7″ E-ink screen, and has both dual-touchscreens).
Is the remarkable worth the extra $170 for an ereader cum writing slate?
Based on the following reviews, I would say yes – once the software is done.
At £529 just for the tablet, with the pen sold separately, this is a seriously expensive device. It’s fantastic at what it does, and the crowdfunding campaign that got it off the ground has been a resounding success, but prioritising the writing experience above all else has forced some compromises.
With no backlight or frontlight, a Kindle is still probably your best bet if you’re mainly after an eBook reader. Digital artists that aren’t interested in working purely in greyscale will be better served by an iPad Pro or Microsoft Surface, even if their respective styli can’t match ReMarkable for convincing feel.
I was excited about the potential of the reMarkable tablet, but unfortunately, it didn’t quite meet my expectations.
That said, I still think it’s an incredible product. The instantaneous nature of the ink is truly impressive, and every person I showed it to was blown away. The prospect of being able to take handwritten notes but save them digitally — not to mention sync them to your computer — is thrilling for those who prefer notepads over notepad apps.
But in making the quickest writing and drawing experience it could, I felt like reMarkable sacrified quickness on the other end. The device’s tendency to burn-in was a real problem, as was the slowness to turn the page or navigate back to the home screen. The tablet’s user interface still needs work to make it more intuitive, and the overall design could look slightly more modern. In its current form, paying $600 for an E Ink tablet like this in 2017 still seems too steep to me.
Even the best paper notebook needs a good pen—or in this case, a good stylus, to be worth using. The reMarkable comes with a Wacom stylus that works impressively well on the e-ink display, with hardly any latency. It’s tilt and pressure sensitive for better accuracy, but the results can be shaky, so don’t count on it replacing your sketchbook just yet. Those kinks aside, palm rejection works great, and the stylus doesn’t have a battery, so no need to awkwardly plug it into the bottom of your tablet.
When you’re done jotting down ideas for your screenplay or doodling away, you can bounce over to your eBooks tab and dive into The Jungle or Crash Override. Unfortunately, you won’t get as good a reading experience as you’d find on a Kindle due to a few shortcomings.
I found that text doesn’t look as crisp (limited font options don’t help things, either) and then there’s no bookstore so getting your digital library onto the reMarkable is a hassle. If those issues don’t bother you, there are some nice perks like a larger screen and the ability to write notes into a book’s margins, which you can’t do with a Kindle.
The reMarkable’s amazing writing experience is a one-of-a-kind feature that when combined with its cloud-sync capabilities and Photoshop-esque editing, makes it a great tool for note takers and artists alike. Writing on the slate is one of the most realistic, comfortable experiences I’ve had on a tablet, rivaled only by using an actual pen and paper.
Of course, $599 may be a tough price to swallow for some, especially when the device is made just for writing, drawing and reading. For a more feature-rich tablet, consider the $649 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which supports Apple’s $99 Pencil stylus. It’s $149 more expensive, though, and writing on its glass doesn’t feel as natural. However, the iPad has Apple’s huge library of apps and games, while reMarkable has a much more limited offering. Still, the reMarkable has to be used to be truly believed, as writers and artists looking for the best marriage of digital and analogue won’t find a better option.
The drawing is great, but navigating the tablet’s interface is less so. You’ll basically have to memorize the meanings of it icon-labeled on-screen buttons. I still routinely do things like delete an entire page of notes when I meant to select the eraser (undo to the rescue), or create a new page when I mean to navigate to anther digital notebook. I also found myself wanting to touch the on-screen buttons with my finger, as not to move the stylus away from what I was writing, and, frustratingly, this does work but only about 50 percent of the time.
In terms of ereading features, the reMarkable is very basic. It supports PDF and DRM-free ePub files, but the software is still a work-in-progress so that makes it hard to review at this point. They plan on adding more features over time; I’ll update this review to reflect any changes as they get added.
At present there’s no table of contents, no dictionary, no bookmarks, no search, no active hyperlinks, no back button, no annotations list, no pinch-zooming, no finger-swipe page turning.
What it does offer is a jump to page option and you can view a list of thumbnails to move around parts of a book.
There are a couple of different ways to zoom in. It has a cropping option that works quite well, and there’s a zoom dial to zoom in and out in increments. Zooming resets with each page turn but cropping remains.
You can add notes and highlights with the stylus, of course, but there is no list to view them or way to add bookmarks so it makes it kind of a hassle to find them unless you remember the page number they were on or manually scan through thumbnail view.
The pen’s stellar performance stands in contrast to the rest of the experience, unfortunately.
The ReMarkable tablet suffers from the telltale limitations of E Ink technology: Tapping on a menu key or scroll wheel basically guarantees a delay and screen flashes while the tablet refreshes. It doesn’t come close to the responsiveness of the stylus, and it’s incredibly frustrating.
The ReMarkable tablet’s battery life is a little better than its performance, but it didn’t last as long as I’d like. After a typical 9-to-5 day of jotting down reminders, organizing my to-do list, and absent-mindedly doodling, I could count on the 3,000mAh battery dipping well below 40 percent by midweek.
ReMarkable’s engineers say they’re targeting two weeks of standby time, which seems a little optimistic. But we’ll have to take their word for it.