If that early buzz for the $600 Remarkable tablet had you wishing that you had gotten in on the early pre-orders, I have good news for you:
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.
But the big news today are the early buzz in the tech press. The Verge, Laptop, Digital Trends, Cnet (beware the annoying auto-play video) and other sites have posted stories on the Remarkable today. Several of the stories are being described as reviews, but you might want to take that with a grain of salt.
I am getting the strong impression that all of these stories are based on reporters getting to see the Remarkable at a press event. That makes them less "reviews" than coverage of a launch party.
But either way, we now know a lot more about the Remarkable than we did last week.
For starters, we can see it in action in Cnet’s video:
The Remarkable runs a proprietary version of Linux on 1GHz CPU with 512MB RAM and 6GB of internal storage (specs).
It also has Wifi and packs a 3Ah battery into 350 grams, but the more important detail here is the display (and the software to run it, of course).
This writing tablet is based on a 10.3″ E-ink screen with 1872 x 1404-pixel resolution.
One of its strong points, according to the company, is extremely low latency in the E-ink screen’s response rate. Remarkable says they spent several years getting the latency down to 55 milliseconds.
While the first-hand reports say the tablet is that fast, it’s hard to believe that Remarkable did the work given that the company boasted little hardwareno engineering talent when the tablet launched last November.
The tablet also has a multi-touch capacitive touchscreen which is also pressure-sensitive (2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, according to the specs).
That pressure sensitivity is attributed to the Remarkable’s stylus, but several of the stories say that the stylus is passive, not active. Those stories also give the impression that, aside from replaceable felt tips, the stylus is just plastic.
Nevertheless, several of the reporters who saw the Remarkable tablet were impressed.
The real standout feature to me was the feeling of writing on the tablet. The reMarkable screen isn’t made out of glass, but rather a more durable and fricative material that really does feel like writing on paper with a pen or pencil. Even the sound is a delightfully tactile scratching that mimics the experience of writing in real life. The reMarkable pen tip does wear down, however, and will need to be replaced from time to time, although the pen does cleverly conceal a spare tip hidden in the top of the pen.
Why not use an iPad Pro or Surface Pro 4 ($635.48 at Amazon.com) and a pressure-sensitive stylus instead? That’s a question that the ReMarkable tablet still needs to answer. But it looks like it nails making e-ink sketching feel real. Or, nearly real.
I’d love a Kindle that had a note-taking feature like this. But I don’t know if I’d pay up for what ReMarkable’s offering yet.
I spent some time in the Notebook app where drawing options sit along the left edge. You can hide the menu options if you just want a clean drawing or writing surface. Pen options include markers, pencil, pen, ink and all are nuanced enough to satisfy the demanding artist or note taker. There are more sophisticated tools like layers, and the ability to marquee portions of your notes or sketch and move, resize, rotate or copy them.
Obviously, none of this is, ahem, remarkable in the world of tablets, but to see it all work easily and smoothly in electronic ink is impressive
Remember that dummy prototype ereader Boeye showed off at Frankfurt Book Fair, the one with a 10.3″ E-ink screen?
That screen has now shown up in a second device.
The Remarkable purports to be the "paper tablet for people who prefer paper" but is at this time more marketing hype than a real product, and is being developed by a company which has more marketing people than engineers.
According to the marketing materials, this writing slate has a screen which is the most paper-like and quickest digital paper around, but what with no one having seen it yet we do not know that is the case.
This writing slate runs a proprietary Linux OS on a 1GHz CPU with 512MB RAM and 8GB of internal storage.
That CPU is powering a 10.3″ Carta E-ink display (1872 x 1404 resolution – 226 PPI). The Remarkable doesn’t have a frontlight, but the spec sheet does mention that there’s no glass in the display.
It also comes with a multi-point capacitive touchscreen and a custom stylus which has a special high-friction pen tip, can measure how it is being tilted, and is capable of detecting up to 2048 degrees of pressure.
I would recommend that you take those claims with about a bucket of salt, because the specs also claim "no battery, setup or pairing required", which would seem to contradict the claim that the stylus is pressure sensitive. (Also, how can the stylus detect the degree of tilt without power?)
In a way, the Remarkable reminds me of the Noteslate. Both devices are writing slates with stylus, both launched with bold claims, and neither passes the sniff test.
The Noteslate first launched close to six years ago, but has never shipped a single device and keeps getting delayed.
The Noteslate is basically vaporware at this point, while the Remarkable only exists as marketing hype which sounds funny to my expert ear.
For example, I followed up on the screen tech and was told:
Electronic Digital Paper displays consists of tens of different layers.
On the reMarkable some of these layers are based on E-Ink Carta display technology. In addition we have developed additional layers and technology, including the screen surface, to give it the paper friction.
That’s the kind of nonsense you get from a marketing guy who doesn’t know what he is talking about, and it makes me doubt that the company has a real product or the engineering talent required to bring new screen tech to market.
That suspicion is born out by the employees I found on LinkedIn. There’s a whole lot of marketing people at Remarkable, but hardly any engineers. That is not reassuring.
I would not order one of these tablets, but if you want to take the plunge you can get in on the pre-orders. The Remarkable is scheduled to ship in August 2017. It is currently selling for $379 and comes with a case and the stylus.