In this article, we’re going to look at and break down the details of the wonderful alternatives to Magnus Wanberg’s ReMarkable tablet, and analyze just what we think about them. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
Who are reMarkable and what do they do?
reMarkable is a writing tablet (not to be confused with a drawing tablet) that seeks to emulate the feeling of traditional paper. It uses an E Ink canvas and can be used for a variety of things, including note-taking, sketching, and reading books and documents.
reMarkable is the brainchild of Norwegian entrepreneur Magnus Wanberg. Who according to Magnus always loved taking a notebook with him to quickly jot down notes, and realized he wasn’t the only one.
And even in the age of the smartphone, many people still love the traditional pencil-on-paper experience.
It’s almost like our brains have adopted it as the de facto tool for thinking. It frees one up, and creates a strong connection between what’s going on in our thoughts, and the movements of our hands. Pen and paper also involve far fewer distractions than a fully-loaded iPad, if we’re being honest.
We compare the two tablets here
So in 2013, Magnus assembled a team and founded the company in early 2014, which began work on a first generation tablet that would try to emulate the experience of writing on paper as closely as possible, down to the familiar scratching sound.
The project was largely crowd funded, thanks to a campaign in 2016, and pre-orders began in 2017.
The first reMarkable, the RM100, was released in late 2017. Reception was a mixed bag, as it was criticized for its sluggish performance, lack of a backlight, and high price, despite its limited range of features.
And in late 2020, this was followed by the reMarkable 2 tablet, which features many improvements over its predecessor.
Is reMarkable made in China?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer, however, is a little more reassuring for those who like high quality merchandise.
Since their inception, reMarkable has collaborated with industry leaders. The custom paper display is supplied by Taiwanese company E Ink; the reMarkable Marker is the result of a partnership with Japanese company Wacom; the assembly is done by Chinese company Shenzhen Kaifa Technology.
Shenzhen Kaifa also manufactures products for Huawei and Samsung, so they are quite a big deal in the space. As for manufacturing consulting and quality assurance, reMarkable has partnered with Dragon Innovation.
Key and noteworthy reMarkable 2 features
So now that we have a good sense of the reMarkable tablet’s background, let’s talk about what it actually has to offer. In this case, we’ll be talking about the reMarkable 2.
Basically, a reMarkable is a thin electronic writing slate. We choose to call it a slate because it is remarkably (pun intended) thin. It’s just 0.4mm – which rivals even an iPad!
The reMarkable was made to emulate the writing experience of paper, and do away with as much clutter as possible. If you like the idea of digital paper, and want to just write and sketch, then this is the perfect product for you. If not, you might want to look elsewhere.
The design is very slim and looks great, appearing just like a piece of paper from a distance. It has a thin aluminum body and weighs just 0.89 pounds.
The older reMarkable had a rather stiff power button, but the new one has a more clickable one located on the top of the spine. At the bottom is the USB-C port, which means much faster charging.
The reMarkable 2 has a generous 10.3-inch display, with a monochrome CANVAS display. The 226 DPI resolution, while pretty good, still falls slightly short of the iPad, which has 264 DPI. But it’s a little easy to understand that.
After all, you’ll be watching videos on your iPad, while the reMarkable will only be for reading and writing.
Reading ePUBs and PDFs is a pleasant experience, and reminds us a lot of the Kindle. The letters are crisp for sure. Images, however, might not be the clearest, and the lack of backlighting can make it hard to read in certain kinds of conditions, such as a really bright light, or intense darkness.
Again, these are forgivable issues, but there is plenty of room for improvement on the manufacturer’s part here.
Considering the writing experience was largely the reMarkable team’s focus when they designed this gem, it really excels here, and we have a hard time finding anything else on the market, including the iPad, that gets even close.
The writing feels so natural that it’s easy to fool oneself into thinking one is writing on traditional paper. We had such a great time that we began to do more note-taking on this device, and threw away our notebooks for a while.
If the reMarkable seeks to replace notebooks for note-taking, we can confirm that they were successful with us.
One particularly appealing aspect of the writing experience with this tablet is that we found it so easy to focus on the task at hand when we used it to write. It’s not quite the same when you’re using a writing app on an iPad or smartphone.
Too many other options within reach increase the chances of getting carried away. The uncluttered reMarkable made it just as easy, if not easier, to focus on our writing and reading as it would have been if we’d been using a physical medium.
The feel is also great. You can even hear the familiar scratching noises that you would if you were writing on paper. That’s a huge win over the iPad, which has a glass screen. Pressing the stylus against a glass screen doesn’t quite do it for us anymore, now that we’ve had a taste of what the reMarkable 2 has to offer.
On the software side, the reMarkable has some impressive features. There are lots of templates for writing different kinds of documents. You can also write on different layers, just like you would on Photoshop.
This makes it easy to build a movie with the storyboard templates, organize your week with the Dayplanner template, and draw on graph paper.
Some templates might not be very accommodating for people with large handwritings, but that’s a small issue, and most of the templates are pretty generous on space.
Turning pages also feels like it would on a traditional notebook, as all you have to do is swipe the page over to reveal another blank page. With a regular notebook, you run out of pages, the pages tear, get lost, and your writing fades.
The reMarkable 2, on the other hand, is an infinite notebook that suffers from none of these drawbacks.
You can also store your writings in places other than your notebook. reMarkable apps are available for iOS, Android, Windows 7 and later, and MacOS. You can also convert your handwriting to digital, editable text.
We can’t speak confidently of the accuracy of this feature, but it works pretty well for us. Just jot down what you need to, convert it to text, and email it to yourself so you can edit it later. Pretty cool!
As for the writing tools, you have 6: a ballpoint, fineliner, marker, regular pencil, mechanical pencil, highlighter, and even a paintbrush. The main difference between the regular pencil and the mechanical one is tilt-recognition, as you can shade with the regular pencil by tilting the Marker on the page.
The pen and marker let you draw in gray, black, or white. The pencils only let you write and draw in black. Apart from the highlighter, you can also choose the size of the stroke for your writing from one of 3: small, medium, and large.
The reMarkable 2 has a 1.2 GHz dual-core ARM processor, which is a significant improvement in power over its predecessor. The display has a 21 millisecond latency, which is better than the 55 milliseconds of the predecessor.
On the other hand, it’s a far cry from the 9 milliseconds offered by the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and iPad Pro. Hopefully, with time, the reMarkable will offer speeds to match.
We love the battery life on this tablet. We’ve been using it for about an hour every day, and it still has over 50% juice left over at the end of the week. The company claims it can go up to 2 weeks before needing a recharge, so this is up to par with that.
It’s also a massive improvement over the first reMarkable, which only lasted up to 4 days on a single charge. This one is going for 3 times as long as that!
Well, to be honest there aren’t that many accessories to talk about here. The reMarkable is focused on minimalism, and largely succeeds.
The reMarkable itself costs $400. If you want the regular Marker stylus, that will set you back about $49. The Marker Plus, which has an eraser at the back, costs $99.
It might not sound like much to tack on $50 extra for an eraser, but it is a great convenience. The Marker Plus black where the regular one is white, weighs 19 grams, which is 27% heavier than the regular one (15 grams), and has an eraser at the back.
There is also the regular Folio, which is made of polymer weave. The reMarkable slides comfortably into it. There’s also a little space at the top to store your Marker in.
And then there is the Book Folio, which costs $30. This one has a dust jacket and attaches magnetically to the reMarkable. It makes it look like a proper notebook too!
Who are reMarkable’s competitors and competing brands?
While the reMarkable 2 has a lot going for it, it also has some major drawbacks. The biggest one is that it is insanely expensive, despite not having that many features. Imaging paying $400 for a device that you can only read, sketch, and write on.
You’ll also have to deal with its design drawbacks, such as the lack of a backlight, the latency, and the fact that its handwriting-to-text feature isn’t perfect. Naturally, the question arises whether there is a better alternative on the market.
As it turns out, there are quite a few products trying to achieve the same ends as the reMarkable.
Wacom Bamboo Folio
As you might expect, the industry leader has something to offer in this space as well. The Wacom Bamboo Folio is actually pretty great! It’s also surprisingly way cheaper than the reMarkable, at less than a third of the price.
The Bamboo Folio works in an interesting way. It’s a pad on which you place paper. Any kind of paper will work just fine. You then use the special pen to write or draw on the paper and the pad underneath will capture the strokes and beam them to your computer, tablet, or smartphone via Bluetooth.
The biggest disadvantage with the Bamboo Folio is that you can’t make any fast adjustments or even erase your work. You would have to do that directly from the smartphone or other connected device.
There’s also the little issue that this isn’t exactly what people have in mind when they say ‘going paperless’.
Start with a pen in your hand and a clean sheet of paper. Capture your thoughts and ideas. Then turn them into digital, shareable files while you write. When you're ready to turn the page, just touch a button and Bamboo Folio saves your ideas
Sony DPT DIGITAL PAPER 3rd Generation
This one is about the same size as the reMarkable, but not the same price. It’s $300 pricier at $700. It also has surprisingly fewer options than the reMarkable.
Even the sync requires that you have a USB connection installed so you can transfer files to your computer, and then you can transfer them to the cloud from there.
We love that the DPT has 16 GB of internal memory, which is twice the reMarkable 2’s 8 GB. That’s a big win. However, there are many subtle wins for the reMarkable.
For example, Sony’s EULA (end user license agreement) does not allow users to opt out of data collection, which is very worrying. In fact, Sony allows themselves to collect data from your DPT and any device connected to the DPT.
The announced battery life of 3 weeks also isn’t very accurate. With just 1 hour of work a day, the DPT lasts just over a week, according to some reviews on Amazon.
World's thinnest, lightest letter-size tablet device: as thin as 30 sheets of paper. Projected captive touchscreen allows for “pencil or pen style” writing and erasing with provided stylus.
Moleskine Smart Writing Set
This is yet another cheap alternative at just $180. It looks fancy, as it is a digital notebook with actual paper and a Moleskine pen. However, it works just like the Wacom Bamboo Folio, and suffers from the same drawbacks.
You can’t adjust or erase anything while you work. You’ll have to do that from any device you send your work to.
The Smart Writing Set Ellipse is an instant-access kit containing the Pen+ Ellipse smart pen and a Large Ruled Paper Tablet. Together with the Moleskine Notes App, these smart tools allow your handwritten notes and thoughts to travel off the page and evolve on screen in real time.
BOOX Max Lumi 13.3 ePaper
The Boox seems to correct all of the major mistakes of the reMarkable 2. It allows you to install Google Play and download any apps you like.
That’s all thanks to its Android 10 OS, which also makes it more secure and compatible with other devices than the reMarkable’s custom OS. It also has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage – 8 times what the reMarkable provides.
The drawbacks, however, are just as pronounced. One of the things the reMarkable was trying to avoid is distraction. With its ability to install all sorts of third party apps, the Boox Lumi makes it easier to get distracted. It is also three times as heavy, at 3 pounds, and 7 times thicker at 1.54 inches!
The biggest drawback, however, is that it costs a whopping $879!
Should you buy a refurbished reMarkable?
Well, think about it this way: a brand new reMarkable is already pretty much a prototype. The company is still working to build the perfect device, and there are a few misses in the process.
You have an ePUB reader and handwriting-to-text converter that often miss, the lack of a backlight, and a reading experience that, while close enough, doesn’t quite match the Kindle.
Now imagine buying a refurbished version of that! This Reddit thread is full of complaints from people who have bought refurbished reMarkable tablets. Check it out to get a sense of the kinds of problems you might face.
While you’re welcome to pick this option for the obvious savings, we strongly recommend against it.
Conclusion: Is the reMarkable tablet worth it, and is there anything better?
And with that we come to the end of our article. As you can see, the reMarkable 2 is a great tablet with ambitious aims. It achieves some spectacularly well, such as the razor-thin design, lack of distractions, and near-perfect emulation of the paper experience.
It gets partway there on some other aims, such as the handwriting-to-text feature and Marker stylus. It also spectacularly fails in some, such as the lack of a backlight and the rather high price.
There is lots of potential here. There will obviously be more iterations of the product, and we are confident the company will take market feedback seriously to improve upon it.
We think you should wait before buying one. Maybe the reMarkable 3 or whichever comes next. The reMarkable 2, in our opinion, is only great if you want to do nothing more than take notes and don’t mind forking out $400 for the ability to do so.